Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coi (San Francisco)

January 2013

373 Broadway, between Montgomery and Sansome Streets, San Francisco, USA
Tel: +1 415 393 9000

Daniel Patterson is a self-trained chef who, unlike most other big name chefs in highly feted restaurants, doesn't have in his CV stints in other famous dining establishments. Despite his lack of culinary 'pedigree', his two Michelin starred restaurant in the San Francisco Financial District is well regarded for its modern and innovative Californian cuisine with an emphasis on regional produce. The restaurant has a rather small dining room which had tables reasonably well spaced yet retained its intimate feeling. There was only one menu for the evening, which was a 11 course tasting menu (there was no a la carte menu on offer). Curiously, it had quite a limited wine list and as a result, we opted for the wine pairing option.

Amuse bouche was a very addictive plate of crackers with a flavourful avocado dip.

Earth and sea - geoduck, tofu coagulated in seawater, kale and oxalis: A subtly put together dish, with the taste of the briny clam barely noticeable, hence allowing the clean flavours of the tofu to come to the fore.

Paired with 2001 Les Sablonnettes, 'Le Petit Blanc' Chenin Blanc, Loire, France.

Beets marinated with native spices - wild herbs, meyer lemon: Another very interesting dish, with the very strong flavours of the beet perfectly matched with the accompanying glass of cider.

Paired with Eric Bordelet, 'Tendre' Sidre Doux, Normandy, France.

Inverted fromage blanc tart - fennel, wheatgrass: One of our favourite dishes of the night. The bitter taste of the wheatgrass was well balanced by the milkiness and slight curdish flavour of the cheese and the sweetness of the wholewheat biscuit.

Paired with 2001 Scribe, 'Ode to Emil No. 11', Sonoma, California, USA.

Dungeness crab / beef tendon soup: Another very sophisticated dish, the soup, filled with generous chunks of sweet dungeness crab, was surprisingly delicate. It was very well paired with a glass of sweet Riesling.

Paired with 2011 Brooks, 'Sweet P' Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon, USA.

New olive oil - brassicas, charred onion broth: Despite what it looked, this dish was all about the olive oil from McAvoy Ranch, which distinctive flavour cut through the savoury onion broth. The vegetables were merely accompaniments in this wonderful course which tempted us to lick our plates clean.

2011 Domaine du Tariquet, Cotes de Gascogne, France.

Young carrots roasted in hay - radish, pecorino: The least impressive dish of the night, this was a showcase of fresh root vegetables common in the region in the winter. We thought a similar carrot dish at SPQR a few days before was much better.

Paired with 1996 Lopez de Heredia, 'Vina Tondonia' Reserva, Rioja, Spain.

Monterey Bay abalone - grains, fresh seaweeds, turnip: The large chunks of abalone were quite deliciously matched with the squid ink and grains. 

Paired with 2010 Rosesse, Feipu Dei Massaretti, Ligurie di Ponente (Riviera), Italy.

Grass-fed veal - chicories, caper berry, seville orange: The veal was perfectly poached in olive oil then grilled, giving it a smoky flavour yet retaining its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. We thought the seville orange made the sauce a bit too tart though.

Paired with 2009 Mas Doix 'Salanques', Priorat, Spain.

Frozen lime marshmallow - coal toasted meringue: This was a very interesting and fantastic dessert. The burnt marshmallow sat on a base of lime sorbet which combined both sweetness and tartness very well. This was accompanied by a sparkling moscato from one of our favourite Italian winemakers, La Spinetta.

Paired with 2011 La Spinetta, 'Bricco Quaglia' Moscato d'Asti, Italy.

Oro Blanco - buttermilk-ginger sorbet, epazote: The local grapefruit was topped with a milky sorbet with a strong ginger and herb taste. Very unique and refreshing dessert.

Paired with 2007 Eugen Muller, 'Forster Meriengarten' Riesling, Kabinett, Pfalz, Germany.

Spice cake - dates, sesame: Our favourite dessert for the night, this was quite extraordinary. The cake was made with 40 different spices and was soft and spongy yet full of flavours.

Paired with Baladin, 'Nora' Spiced Ale, Piedmont, Italy.

Petit four was a very simple yet elegant chocolate filled with cold syrup.

Impressions: The food at Coi that night was quite extraordinary. Chef Daniel Patterson is a master of subtlety and his pairing of different flavours (mostly herb or vegetable based) was pulled off expertly. However, we felt that aside from the food, the restaurant itself came across as quite cold. When we entered the restaurant, there wasn't anyone there to greet us and we had to wait a while to get someone's attention. The service, though professional and warmed up over the evening, was quite impersonal and we didn't get the friendly and sincere attention which had seemed to us to be a trademark characteristic of San Francisco dining. But overall, the quality of the cuisine won us over. 

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