★ COI, San Francisco

My last post on San Francisco, as usual, we ended our trip with a meal at one of the Michelin Starred Restaurants. There were several 2-star restaurants in San Francisco, we did some internet search and had a hard time choosing between which one to go visit before finally deciding on COI. COI was also ranked as #75 in San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant 2011.

COI  serves an eleven course prix-fixe menu (US$165), sounds like a lot of dishes? But most reviews wrote that they were in bite-sized meal, which ended up just filling enough for a small eater. COI’s menu changes regularly, hence even when with a BYO policy, we couldn’t plan which was the best wine to bring. We brought one of the lighter red wines which we got from our Napa Valley visit.

We weren’t presented with the menu after we were seated, but the server did however enquired about our dietary preferences; hence it was like having a Chef’s Surprise menu.

Our dinner begun with starters- California Bowl (black and brown rice crackers with lime and avocado puree) and Mandarin Sour (mandarin ice, frozen meringues, angostura bitters), which was crushed ice with mandarin oranges. I was never a fan of sourness…so the strong citrus taste was an awakening dish that not only made me squinted (>_<) but also cleared and awakened my palate to taste the other dishes for the rest of the evening.

  • Oyster (wild greens, asian pear, finger lime) – a light and refreshing dish.
  • Beet / Goat’s Milk (dill and walnut pesto, rye tuille) – not everyone can accept goat cheese cos of their distinctive flavour, but I find it acceptable and pretty nice, the beet was paper thin & crispy.
  • Dungeness Crab (sheep sorrel, chickweed, buttered crab broth) – fresh crab meat, light broth. At this point, I started to observe that the food at COI was slightly salty for my taste.
  • Brassica / New Olive Oil (dandelion, charred onion broth) – comprises of mainly broccoli and cauliflower, drizzled with olive oil.
  • Salsify (black trumpet mushrooms, lichen vinaigrette) – can’t recall the taste except its pretty salty.
  • Monterey bay abalone grilled on the plancha (artichoke, black olive, wild fennel)  – my fav dish at COI, innovative way of preparing abalone. It had a smoky taste from the grill complemented by olive oil.

  • Beef (raw almond and wheatgrass, grains, seeds) – this was suppose to be Lamb but we changed it to beef. The beef was cooked to the right tenderness but I was slightly disappointed that most of the dishes were slightly over-salted…
  • ‘Partita’ (sunchoke, quince, sunflower seeds) – kinda forgettable…
  • Citron (frozen lime marshmallow, gin candies) – Just by hearing the name of the dish, I was prepared to squint my eyes again eating the sliced lemons…(>_<)… but I enjoyed the gin candies! The sweet candy was filled with gin in the centre. Nice! Can they mass produce this and sell them in the mart? =)
  • Chocolate / Chicory (chicory, olive oil, malted milk foam) – rich chocolate, a nice dessert for chocolate-lover like me~
  • Honey Almond – a sweet ending…Thankfully the last 2 dishes were sweet desserts which could serve to minimally balance out the overall saltiness of the whole menu…

The serving pace was pretty efficient, we finished our dinner within 2.5 hours. The server presented us with a copy of the menu at the end of the dinner along with the bill. When we received the bill, we were notified that there was an additional 18.5% tip automatically added inside. I am not sure what is the norm in San Francisco area and whether this was a reasonable tip? In any case, the service staff there were polite, courteous and professional but I just couldn’t feel their passion.

Oh, the server asked if we needed transport back to our accommodation but we had parked our car at a parking garage nearby which we later found out that it costed more than the valet services at COI… So if you are driving there, opt for valet parking…

Overall it was a nice dining experience, although probably not exactly memorable nor impressive enough in terms of creativity of dishes, resulting in lack of surprise elements…

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