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Coi in San Francisco - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 94.
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Daniel Patterson (b. 1969) is an East Coast boy who started working in kitchens in Massachusetts when he was 14 years old. In 1989 he dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco. For no particular reason, he says in his 2013 book "Coi" and it took him many years to learn to love the people and the place. In rural Sonoma, where he moved in 1991, he grew his knowledge of nature and produce and started to find his own cooking style. His first restaurant Babette's had to close in 1999 after five years when the lease expired. Patterson returned to San Francisco to open restaurant Elisabeth Daniel in 2000 (closed 2003). After a stint at restaurant Frisson (now defunct), he developed the idea for the North Beach restaurant that opened in 2006 and was given the name Coi. It received its first Michelin star in 2007 (2008 guide) and the second star followed the year after. Since then, this intrepid chef has formed the Daniel Patterson Group, which has interests in restaurants Alta, Aster, Plum, Haven and Coi - obviously.  He is not only an acclaimed chef but also a well-respected food writer who has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times and Lucky Peach among others.

Coi is open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. It serves a single tasting menu which is priced at $ 195 (excluding 20% service charge and tax). In 2014 Coi adopted Alinea's ticketing system to solve the no-show problem. I had dinner at Coi with my husband on Thursday 3 April 2015. *I was recognised.

The meal started with three appetisers. First to arrive were some puffed brown rice crackers, sprinkled with sprouts, and served with a pure and grassy avocado dip. This was followed by a refreshing blood orange "sno-cone", flavoured with pink peppercorns and black lime. A lovely combination with nice fruity pink peppercorn flavours in the aftertaste. Finally there was a superb dish of smoked egg yolk (the egg yolk is gently poached in smoked oil for 2 hours), complemented by a spoonful of Californian sturgeon caviar and some crème fraîche garnished with fresh chives. The yolk had a perfect gooey texture with light but distinct smoky flavours. A yolk with a runny texture would have overpowered the caviar. 



First course of the tasting menu was an elegantly presented dish of pickled cucumber covered with chopped raw geoduck (a large West Coast clam), garnished with salad burnet and spring flowers. Great fresh sea flavours and a mild sweetness from the fleshy geoduck which married well with the freshness of the cucumber.

Second course was a gorgeous chilled pea soup with Meyer lemon fruit, a fluffy buttermilk foam, nasturtium flowers, and some fresh whole peas for extra texture. The pea soup had a wonderful velvety texture and lovely intense earthy-sweet flavours, and the nasturtium flowers seasoned the soup beautifully. Lovely smoothness and sharpness from the buttermilk cream and the lemon added a nice fruity tang against the sweetness of the peas.

Next up was tender roasted artichoke stuffed with a soft mixture of Comté, fava leaves (leaves from the fava bean plant) and bread crumbs, covered with a thin veil of lardo, and served with a drizzle of Arbequina olive oil. Underneath the artichoke was an allium puree strongly flavoured with vinegar. Loved the artichoke and the delicious filling was really light and full of flavour. The puree was quite acrid on its own, but did combine well with the sweetness of the artichoke.

Less convincing was the fourth course. Poached Virginia oyster served with a wheatgrass sauce and green asparagus. Beautiful plump and juicy oyster and terrific asparagus. However, even though there was only a small puddle, the wheatgrass sauce was really powerful with strong anise-like flavours, and was taking over the delicate oyster.

The meal continued with "Earth and Sea". Steamed tofu mousseline (with a set custard-like texture) was served with seaweeds, yuba (soft soy milk skin), grated lime zest and a clear mushroom dashi. A very pleasing combination with lovely textures and I particularly liked the mushroom dashi with its nice touch of acidity.

Sixth and main course was an outstanding dish of charcoal grilled, aged duck, simply served with a crunchy salad of sprouted wheatberries, radish, and young redwood fir tips. Expertly cooked duck, moist, succulent, and the intensity of flavour was exceptional. Spooned around the duck was a sublime duck jus flavoured with redwood oil and champagne vinegar. A duck dish with real character.

Time for dessert. First up were two lovely savoury-sweet black sesame mochi with an elegant strawberry, kumquat and shiso filling. Shortly after they were followed by a dessert of creamy and smooth frozen whipped rhubarb, coated with thin slices of crunchy rhubarb and garnished with fresh herbs. A fantastic dessert with wonderful clean flavours, great textures and the herbs added a lovely touch of sourness and freshness. 

Last and ninth course was "Coconut cake". Inside a thin and crisp dark chocolate dome were four layers: crushed cacao nibs mixed with sugar, coconut and butter, with a sticky caramel-like texture (at the bottom), followed by a layer of moist coconut cake, a green and starchy pandan paste and finally a light chocolate mousse. A imaginative and skillful dessert with balanced sweet flavours and the chocolate mousse gave it a nice, luxurious finish.

(courtesy of Nick Muncy, pastry chef at Coi)

The food at Coi is highly seasonal and tonight's carefully crafted and visually attractive dishes showcased some of the best California has to offer. Coi means 'silent' but Daniel Patterson's concise cuisine is anything but silent. Yes, there's a minimalistic approach on the plate, but that's certainly not the case in the kitchen, were often complex techniques are employed to create dishes with interesting flavours and textures. Tonight's menu was well-designed and the service was attentive and professional. I liked the individualistic and expressive nature of the dishes, and it's this nature that has made Coi a noteworthy fixture on the San Francisco dining scene for many years now.

Posted 13-06-2015


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