Cross: Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
Lounge Tue-Sat 5:30pm-12am
Menu $75 or $105
Lounge Menu $6-$19
12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO No,
I am not going to mention "THE ARTICLE"—there's
a lot more to talk about than Patterson's New York Times
piece, and besides, he has written many other interesting missives
since then, on topics like yuba,
or about not
following recipes to the letter. One thing we will talk about
is how to say ~COI~: it's pronounced "kwa,"
which has even stirred up some controversy on its own. As I was
told by the man himself, it's an archaic French word for calm,
or tranquil, but some native-speakers have
declared otherwise. Well, at least you know how to say it now,
and no, it's not related to KOI
in NYC, LA, and Bangkok.
is no stranger to controversy, along with emphatic discussions and
observations about his culinary approach and execution. Yeah, you
walk a different path when you aren't quite like the others
(you know, "The Road Not Taken," and all that jazz)—and
certainly set yourself up for comments, not all of them complimentary.
you also may end up creating your own little fan club, and I'm
definitely a fan of this chef.
out a great deal (I know, moi?!) and I have always appreciated how
his food gives my taste buds a good shaking, sometimes makes me
go "huh!" and definitely fires up my curiosity. And
in my book, curiosity is really an immense part of what life is
all about—it's how you make discoveries, and it's
largely why I love to eat out. So if you've been at all curious
about this place, I say follow the impulse. You can learn all about
litsea cubeba, argan oil, and what huckleberry and black olive taste
tiny enclave of a restaurant is oddly located in a stretch of seedy
Broadway, not far from Déjà vu Showgirls and other
girlie action bump-and-grind joints, so Coi definitely qualifies
as "destination dining." Don't worry about the
dreaded North Beach dearth of parking—valet is only $8. The
thoughtful and stylish hostess, Ipe, will warmly greet you (that's
a nice switch, no attitude!)—you just might need to sip some
Iron Horse bubbly in the lounge for a few moments before your table
is ready. (Or not.)
you're not headed for the dining room tonight, and are lingering
in the casual lounge instead? You'll note an array of organic
modern touches, like hand-sanded walnut tables, grass-cloth wallpaper,
banquette seating and comfortable high-backed chairs upholstered
with a plush boucle fabric, and fluffy Flokati pillows Patterson's
girlfriend made for the room.
in the lounge one evening, trying out the a la carte menu that features
affordable and more "approachable" rustic dishes, like
a curried carrot soup ($6) with a sprinkling of mint chiffonade
on top. It packed a deep sweet carrot flavor that got my palate
thinking of sweet potato for a moment. Lip-smacking good. The soup
was presented in a pleasingly textured ceramic bowl—all of
the ensuing ceramic pieces that make an appearance give the overall
experience a nice earthy touch. There was also a hearty asparagus-bread
salad ($9) with chopped egg and a piquant dousing of McEvoy olive
oil (Patterson's a fan)—I wanted to take it on a picnic
with me. Since the menu is seasonal, now a tomato bread salad is
enjoyed communing with the Niman Ranch pork cheek stew ($15), steaming
meaty goodness that arrived in a version of an oversized chawan
mushi bowl, ta da! Bright peas, savory carrot, a dollop of Yukon
gold potatoes—a custom dish for our chilly SF evenings. There
was also a roasted Hoffman chicken on there for $18, and udon for
$14. Kids, the lounge prices are the same as places like NOPA—all
I can say is check it out. It's an easy place to meet up with
a friend for some tasty eats after work when you don't have
a reservation anywhere.
the dining room. The first thing that will strike you is how intimate
it is. It's unlike any dining room in the city, really—it's
a small and dim room, with no windows. Some have likened it to a
tomb or a padded cell, but I think that's a little dramatic.
I find it subdued but slick. I feel like it's a U.N. conference
room by way of Kyoto, bouncing between 1964 and 2030, with some
lighting above the high-backed banquettes casting a glow that feels
slightly Kubrickian. On the walls there are also MRIs of fruit,
like corn and melon—quirky chilly cool.
palette is subdued (remember the name of the restaurant)—in
fact, there is no real "color" except the bouquet of
flowers in the back, or the bright mossy green branches in the recessed
"diorama" (one evening, a diner exiting the room wondered
aloud where the lizard was). The thick boucle fabric from the lounge
is repeated with the banquettes and chairs, but this time in a naturalistic
bark-like pattern. (You can check out some
pics here.) Funnily enough, the designer, Scott Kester, designed
Patterson's previous location, the chic supperclub frisson.
Yes, very different animals.
room isn't stuffy, but it's not a bouncy hotspot either.
You're here to focus on the food, and your dining partner(s),
and not be craning your neck around to see who's who. The
downtempo music was well chosen and not all "breathy beach
house" like a million other places in town—I liked the
elevated volume as well, it wasn't just all backdrop beats.
definitely into all the tactile elements: the fabrics, the pottery,
the elegant Spiegelau stemware, and the satisfying flatware that
feels justly sized. Even when my friend and I were sharing bites,
I liked the surprise touch of the unglazed underside of some of
the elegant pique tablecloth will be the landing strip for an amuse
served in an oversized modern silver spoon—this particular
night was a smooth corn custard with saffron, chive, piment d'Espelette,
and McEvoy olive oil. I was thrilled with this mouthful of ingredients
that pulled from Marcia's list of greatest hits.
I should back up here: the dining room has two tasting menus, either
the $75 four-course menu, or the $105 tasting menu of 11 (or so)
dishes. Full disclosure here: although I opted for the four-course
menu, I have a friend in the kitchen who kindly sent out some extras
from the tasting menu, so I am actually reporting on some dishes
from both sides of the menu. (I know, sucks to be me.) And vegetarians,
you can happily indulge in the four-course menu—Patterson
does wonderful things with vegetables.
writers have discussed the pink grapefruit dish, a perky cloud of
silky mousse obscuring little segments of grapefruit and torn tarragon
at the bottom, dialed up with black pepper, ginger, and cognac.
But the talking point is the small swatch of essential oil that
arrives next to the mousse—you're instructed to dab
it on your wrist, which is designed to heighten and mirror all the
flavors in the dish. Remember, chef co-wrote a book called "Aroma:
The Magic of Essential Oils in Foods and Fragrance," so
this Sephora interlude shouldn't be toooo surprising.
were the overall highlights for me: a coin of sautéed bone
marrow topped with osetra caviar (hellllllo new favorite luxury!)
and accompanied with a curtsey of beet gelée (my sole kvetch
is the silverware it was served with—why no mother-of-pearl
spoon? I didn't want to eat it all in one bite.); the smooth
ratatouille soup that almost looks like yin and yang with the two
soups of eggplant and squash butting up against each other (you
have to see this, let alone taste it); a tuna tomato tartare made
with Early Girl tomatoes that were the essence of summer—it
was a fresh spin on this otherwise ubiquitous dish (plus, I'm
a slave to harissa, and the caper-raisin sorbet is downright inspired);
and the yuba "pappardelle" with chanterelles, coconut
milk, and kefir lime that was a texture hootenanny for me—I
wanted to bring the bowl to my lips to drink from it like a chalice.
I noted about so many of these dishes is, for the most part, Patterson
likes the smooth, the soft, the silky. There is also the long, lingering
finish many of them contain. It's like this gentle whisper
on the tongue that slowly, eventually, quietly fades to black. I
was calling them flavor sunsets. (And no, I was not tripping on
anything. Just high on vadouvan, perhaps.)
combinations didn't totally thrill me, like the acidic bitterness
of the radicchio that rudely interrupted the sumptuousness of the
ocean trout. There were also some textures that didn't do
it for me, like the thick chalkiness of the bittersweet chocolate
tart that totally coated my mouth, with lime yogurt that offered
no respite; or the rubbery suckling pig with an impenetrable seared
crust—I have a feeling the kitchen must have flubbed it because
I have a friend who adored this dish. My dining partner was challenged
by the rhubarb and lavender frappe—she said she felt like
she was drinking a bubble bath, and decided in that little number
Patterson was trying too hard to make a tongue a nose. (Hilarious.
I just had to share her observation with you.)
for me, while a rhubarb and lavender shake is not something I want
to experience every morning with breakfast, I appreciate the playfulness
of flavors Patterson puts forth in his dishes, while still exhibiting
such visionary intellectualism about his food. I consider it "measured
fun"—his combinations and presentations excite me because
he truly perceives flavor on another level. His cooking feels so
earnest to me. It helps that he knows what the hell he's doing,
but his understanding and presentation of flavor exists on such
a simultaneously deep yet ethereal level—I mean, really, who
else out there is gonna give you flavor sunsets?
things to note: an 18% service charge is automatically added, and
shared by the entire staff. Don't fret over this—the
service is kind, efficient, and present. Also, your choice of water
will be offered to you at the beginning of the meal, no charge.
Classy. So there you go, another thing you don't have to worry
about. As for vino, I placed myself in the very capable hands of
Oscar Val Verde (formerly at Hayes and Vine, and the opening sommelier
at Bacar, Campton Place) for some fantastic pairings—especially
since the dishes have so many elements going on. The 2000 Drappier
Brut (Reims) was a superb place to start, and he also brought out
some Rieslings that paired delightfully. Cheers. Lastly, there is
a private room that seats six-eight people for those who want an