373 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133
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Coi

Neighborhoods: Financial District
Cuisine: Gluten Free, Catering, Vegetarian

Coi is a Gluten Free, Catering, and Vegetarian restaurant where most Menuism users came for a romantic date, paid more than $50, and tipped more than 18%.

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Gayot
Rating:
17 / 20
Price:
$$$$$
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chicanery photo

chicanery

 San Francisco, CA
 

Avant-garde enough for you?

My night at Coi (pronounced Kwa) began by getting dropped off on the side of the road next to Showgirls. As if I was going to work. Then I had to cross the street and made it look like I was going to Centerfolds. But really, I was going to Coi, which is so cutting edge that Daniel Patterson and the restauranteers decided that the best location for a expensive, classy meal was next door to Centerfolds. Thus the night began.

I liked the meal, overall. The tables are closer together than I would have preferred, but because of the quiet atmosphere, hearing your date is not an issue. The wait staff speaks to you in hushed whispers, which was particularly impressive in light of my friend having an absurd amount of fun (we had a lot of wine) throwing out comments like “He likes to snuggle in my crotch” just as the waitress strolled by to fill our water glasses. But they were professional through and through.

We did the nine course tasting, and tart seemed to be the unifying theme. Tart not in a bad way, but definitely surprising what you can make tart and have it still taste good. I was underwhelmed by the fois gras preparation, but absolutely floored by the bone marrow. The yuba papardelle (basically, it was tofu skin noodles in a coconut curry) was VERY underwhelming. The texture of the noodles was just wrong.

I kept trying to figure out a way to snag the spoons that the amuse bouche comes out on — they’re so ridiculously cool, and impossible to describe.

Overall, like all the restaurants who try to push the envelope (WD-50 comes to mind), it’s really hit or miss. More often, hitting than missing, but maybe after the edges are softened with time, Coi will reach its potential.

Pink grapefruit salad

The dish was served alongside a drop of perfumed essence featuring the same flavors as the salad, and we were told to dab a bit of it on our eating wrist to get the aroma while we tasted the flavors. And the salad was topped with foam. I hate foam.

Sauteed Bone Marrow toped with osetra caviar

Favorite dish of the night. Absolutely extraordinary. The bone marrow had the perfect crisp, the beet gelee added a great balancing flavor.

tommers photo

tommers

 Mountain View, CA
 

Unprecedented culinary experience

If you are looking for an 11-course meal consisting of the best dishes you’ve ever had, look elsewhere. For a hefty price, Coi provides an 11-course meal of the some of the best dishes you’ve never had. Almost nothing on this menu felt familiar and everything that I loved was tremendous because it reminded me of almost no other dish I’ve tasted. While this avant-garde culinary art doesn’t meet its lofty goals with every dish, most of the dishes were very memorable and totally made up for the dishes that didn’t succeed.

The experience is designed around the full tasting menu. To miss out on this meticulously ordered experience by going with the 4-course a la carte option is to miss out on the whole reason to go to Coi. Each dish is very small (and often served in pointlessly large ceramic dishes that dwarf the food) and contains a world of flavor condensed into a small package.

I loved my experience here, though if you have trepidation about spending over $300 for dinner for two and aren’t looking branch out your tasting experiences too far, the other ultra-fancy restaurants in the city (Michael Mina, Gary Danko, etc) might be safer bets. But if you are interested in food that is like no other, not just food that is better than others, Coi provides this in spades.

The service was very impressive. The wait staff was affable and familiar without being too casual and very helpful in helping us navigate a menu filled with entirely unfamiliar options and ingredients. It has a quite interior with very comfortable seats, even if the chairs have a strangely austere grey fabric.

A few dishes had flavors that required some acclimation, and with portions this small you don’t get the opportunity to acclimate your palate, but most new flavors tasted terrific on first bite. And two dishes in the middle were pretty disappointing, but a few dishes that don’t work is a small price to pay for all the successful risks amidst the rest. And if you are interested in food for thought, almost every dish serves as perfect think piece.

Bent Spoon Marshmallow – with avocado and kumquat (4 stars)

What a way to start. These potent little suckers introduce you to how much Coi can do with so little. The marshmallows are about the size of a thimble and come with two bent spoons with avocado and kumquat. The marshmallows are enrobed in a tart and herbaceous spice mix that makes eat small bite (all two of them) a powerful experience.

Valencia Orange – with green olive sorbet (5 stars)

This dish kept me very excited about the meal to come. The litsea scented foam that surrounded the green olive sorbet was delicate and strong at once. Like many of their best dishes, its flavor came in waves and was a treat on its own. The olive sorbet potently packed all the flavor of what I assume are grand olives into a creamy little package.

California Osetra Caviar – slow-cooked farm egg yolk, crème fraiche, chives (5 stars)

The caviar was another winner, though I found its accompaniments more exciting than the caviar itself. The egg yolk was beaten to a soft succulent texture that made each bite of fatty luxury. While the idea of crème fraiche and chives might seem too similar to a potato chip dip, this combination offered much more. It was too bad the gritty bowls made it hard to get every last drop of it with my spoon. Gazpacho Parfait – ella bella early girl tomatoes, cumin, mint

Gazpacho Parfait (3 stars)
The gazpacho parfait was really enjoyable in the context of the meal, though out of context you might think it’s just the freshest salsa you’ve ever tasted. It comes in a parfait glass filled one third of the way and shows off the tomatoes well, though they are a little overwhelmed by the onion.

Full Bellied Heirloom Potatoes – with olive oil (1 star)

For anyone who comes here for the four course meal, I pray you don’t make the mistake of ordering this dish. While it really did nothing for me, I would have laughed then cried if this were a significant part of the meal, instead of just one of fifteen dishes. Its four soft disks of yellow potatoes that taste like, well, potatoes (I’m sure they were grown in the garden of kings, or something) with an earthy olive oil. And a small side of radicchio fennel salad with some olive oil and lemon (or red wine vinegar) on it as a dressing. Yep, that’s it. If you get the tasting menu you just paid $5 per 1" potato disk. Maybe connoisseurs of olive oil will tell me I missed the boat, but a dish like this seems almost like a little joke.

Corn-Brioche Custard – huitlachoche foam (3 stars)

I really expected to love this dish having recently discovered how much flavor some great chefs can extract from corn. But this one was merely just pleasant, like many corn chowders are pleasant. It was slightly sweet but not an unexpected flavor and the large kernels of corn tasted like just that. The custard wasn’t too sweet but it wasn’t too interesting either. The foam was somewhat interesting on its own, but got lost in the flavor of the custard and wasn’t enough to make the dish.

Yuba ‘Papardelle’ – English peas, fava leaves, basil (4 stars)

This dish of soy skin noodles was one that I acquired a taste for halfway through. My first thought was the pungent fermented broth reminded me of those cup o’ noodle flavor packets. A harsh and unwarranted comparison, but I think my mouth just needed a little time to adjust. Afterwards, I really enjoyed the flavor of the broth and appreciated how it was like few things I’d ever tasted. It reminded me of the fermented tea leaves that make Burma Superstar’s tea leaf salad such a hit and just required an open mind.

Aji and Japanese Turnip – with roman fermented anchovy sauce (2 stars)

This dish reminded me of the review that said Coi is way too salty. The aji is a mackerel like fish pan-seared with an enjoyably chewy flesh. But the sauce was hard to swallow, literally. The anchovy flavor was overwhelming. I guess like mussels or mustard, this could be an acquired taste that when done perfectly enraptures anchovy lovers and turns off foes of these fish, but being in the latter category, I wish I hadn’t gotten this dish. It came with a side of turnips that were somewhat like the potatoes and a small mix of cilantro and some green.

Poached And Seared Guinea Hen – vadouvan, fresh and shelling beans (4 stars)

The guinea hen on this dish was extremely tasty. It was two cylinders of soft slightly fatty meat infused with a savory broth. I really enjoyed each bite of this hen. The beans in broth were a little less interesting and I was less excited about getting every last morsel their broth.

Fizzy Casaba Melon Soda (4 stars)

This fizzy little glass of heaven was a wonderful little treat to start our six mini-courses of dessert. It was slightly creamy, slightly fizzy, and filled with a sweet and tangy flavor of melon. While it’s hard to capture what made this so wonderful, it was one of the tastiest drinks I’ve ever had.

Poached Fig – with lavender honey and cheese (4 stars)
While not the complex culinary concoction that defines most of Coi’s dishes, this small plate of delicious figs infused with honey accompanied by cheese was a very nice addition to the meal. It basically consisted of the three items mentioned, but of the highest quality and freshness. The large fig was wet and gooey and the was just slightly sharp.

Chilled Strawberry-Watermelon Soup – rose geranium, long pepper ice cream (5+ stars)

My god. My lordy lordy lord. There are few things I have put in my mouth that have filled it with this much excitement. This soup is like biting into the world’s most perfect strawberry for someone who’s gone their entire life without eating fruit. It’s like going to a symphony when you’ve only listened to music on a portable radio. This is probably what gaining colored sight would be like to the color-blind. The “broth” was bursting with fruity flavor in a way that in no way approached too sweet, yet somehow seemed almost sweeter than anything I’ve ever eaten. The long pepper ice cream was a stunning mix of sweet vanilla and spicy long pepper. We exclaimed our joy audibly after every bite.

Olive Oil Milkshake – with Caramelized Cookie, cocoa nibs (5 stars)

I’ve been on a big ice cream kick recently, making all too many visits to Mitchell’s and Bi-Rite and they have expanded my view of how great ice cream can be. But having this after the black pepper takes my appreciation of ice cream to the next level. The base is like a stunning cookies and cream, but unlike the heirloom potatoes, just the addition of terrific olive adds so much to this dish. The savory oil adds great character to the ice cream and the first bites which contained more oil were the most enjoyable.

Warm Chocolate Cake – with avocado ganache, lemon grass coconut foam (4 stars)

The avocado ganache was a wonderful mix of the fatty flavor avocado with cocoa butter. I’ve tried making a similar dessert with evaporated milk and avocado, but I could not pull off the balance that makes this ganache so tasty while mine was a rich and sweet treacle of fat. The chocolate sponge cake had a great soft texture, but could have benefited from the richer more chocolaty flavor of denser chocolate cakes. The cocoa nibs improved the flavor, but the whole cake could benefit from tasting more like the bites dense in nibs. The creamy foamy lemongrass sauce was great on its own and perfectly combined with the chocolate and avocado.

Plum Pate de Fruit – with mini pistachio cakes (4 stars)

With our bill we each got a small pate de fruit and a mini cake. Despite their size and simplicity, they managed to still be knockouts. The pate de fruit was like other ones I’ve had, except it was dipped in a highly acidic sauce that almost made me feel like it had better on it. Definitely better than any pate de fruit I’ve had. The almost cookies were also knockouts. They had a fresh huckleberry center and a taste that managed to transcend their status as a simple cookie.

Yuba 'Papardelle'

This dish of soy skin noodles was one that I acquired a taste for halfway through. My first thought was the pungent fermented broth reminded me of those cup o’ noodle flavor packets. A harsh and unwarranted comparison, but I think my mouth just needed a little time to adjust. Afterwards, I really enjoyed the flavor of the broth and appreciated how it was like few things I’d ever tasted. It reminded me of the fermented tea leaves that make Burma Superstar’s tea leaf salad such a hit and just required an open mind.

Olive Oil Milkshake

I’ve been on a big ice cream kick recently, making all too many visits to Mitchell’s and Bi-Rite and they have expanded my view of how great ice cream can be. But having this after the black pepper takes my appreciation of ice cream to the next level. The base is like a stunning cookies and cream, but unlike the heirloom potatoes, just the addition of terrific olive adds so much to this dish. The savory oil adds great character to the ice cream and the first bites which contained more oil were the most enjoyable.

Poached And Seared Guinea Hen

The guinea hen on this dish was extremely tasty. It was two cylinders of soft slightly fatty meat infused with a savory broth. I really enjoyed each bite of this hen. The beans in broth were a little less interesting and I was less excited about getting every last morsel their broth.

Warm Chocolate Cake

The avocado ganache was a wonderful mix of the fatty flavor avocado with cocoa butter. I’ve tried making a similar dessert with evaporated milk and avocado, but I could not pull off the balance that makes this ganache so tasty while mine was a rich and sweet treacle of fat. The chocolate sponge cake had a great soft texture, but could have benefited from the richer more chocolaty flavor of denser chocolate cakes. The cocoa nibs improved the flavor, but the whole cake could benefit from tasting more like the bites dense in nibs. The creamy foamy lemongrass sauce was great on its own and perfectly combined with the chocolate and avocado.

Fizzy Casaba Melon Soda

This fizzy little glass of heaven was a wonderful little treat to start our six mini-courses of dessert. It was slightly creamy, slightly fizzy, and filled with a sweet and tangy flavor of melon. While it’s hard to capture what made this so wonderful, it was one of the tastiest drinks I’ve ever had.

Plum Pate de Fruit

With our bill we each got a small pate de fruit and a mini cake. Despite their size and simplicity, they managed to still be knockouts. The pate de fruit was like other ones I’ve had, except it was dipped in a highly acidic sauce that almost made me feel like it had better on it. Definitely better than any pate de fruit I’ve had. The almost cookies were also knockouts. They had a fresh huckleberry center and a taste that managed to transcend their status as a simple cookie.

Poached Fig and Cheese

While not the complex culinary concoction that defines most of Coi’s dishes, this small plate of delicious figs infused with honey accompanied by cheese was a very nice addition to the meal. It basically consisted of the three items mentioned, but of the highest quality and freshness. The large fig was wet and gooey and the was just slightly sharp.

Aji and Japanese Turnip

This dish reminded me of the review that said Coi is way too salty. The aji is a mackerel like fish pan-seared with an enjoyably chewy flesh. But the sauce was hard to swallow, literally. The anchovy flavor was overwhelming. I guess like mussels or mustard, this could be an acquired taste that when done perfectly enraptures anchovy lovers and turns off foes of these fish, but being in the latter category, I wish I hadn’t gotten this dish. It came with a side of turnips that were somewhat like the potatoes and a small mix of cilantro and some green.

Bent Spoon Marshmallow

What a way to start. These potent little suckers introduce you to how much Coi can do with so little. The marshmallows are about the size of a thimble and come with two bent spoons with avocado and kumquat. The marshmallows are enrobed in a tart and herbaceous spice mix that makes eat small bite (all two of them) a powerful experience.

Valencia Orange

This dish kept me very excited about the meal to come. The litsea scented foam that surrounded the green olive sorbet was delicate and strong at once. Like many of their best dishes, its flavor came in waves and was a treat on its own. The olive sorbet potently packed all the flavor of what I assume are grand olives into a creamy little package.

California Osetra Caviar

The caviar was another winner, though I found its accompaniments more exciting than the caviar itself. The egg yolk was beaten to a soft succulent texture that made each bite of fatty luxury. While the idea of crème fraiche and chives might seem too similar to a potato chip dip, this combination offered much more. It was too bad the gritty bowls made it hard to get every last drop of it with my spoon. Gazpacho Parfait – ella bella early girl tomatoes, cumin, mint

Gazpacho Parfait

The gazpacho parfait was really enjoyable in the context of the meal, though out of context you might think it’s just the freshest salsa you’ve ever tasted. It comes in a parfait glass filled one third of the way and shows off the tomatoes well, though they are a little overwhelmed by the onion.

Chilled Strawberry-Watermelon Soup

My god. My lordy lordy lord. There are few things I have put in my mouth that have filled it with this much excitement. This soup is like biting into the world’s most perfect strawberry for someone who’s gone their entire life without eating fruit. It’s like going to a symphony when you’ve only listened to music on a portable radio. This is probably what gaining colored sight would be like to the color-blind. The “broth” was bursting with fruity flavor in a way that in no way approached too sweet, yet somehow seemed almost sweeter than anything I’ve ever eaten. The long pepper ice cream was a stunning mix of sweet vanilla and spicy long pepper. We exclaimed our joy audibly after every bite.

Full Bellied Heirloom Potatoes

For anyone who comes here for the four course meal, I pray you don’t make the mistake of ordering this dish. While it really did nothing for me, I would have laughed then cried if this were a significant part of the meal, instead of just one of fifteen dishes. Its four soft disks of yellow potatoes that taste like, well, potatoes (I’m sure they were grown in the garden of kings, or something) with an earthy olive oil. And a small side of radicchio fennel salad with some olive oil and lemon (or red wine vinegar) on it as a dressing. Yep, that’s it. If you get the tasting menu you just paid $5 per 1" potato disk. Maybe connoisseurs of olive oil will tell me I missed the boat, but a dish like this seems almost like a little joke.

Corn-Brioche Custard

I really expected to love this dish having recently discovered how much flavor some great chefs can extract from corn. But this one was merely just pleasant, like many corn chowders are pleasant. It was slightly sweet but not an unexpected flavor and the large kernels of corn tasted like just that. The custard wasn’t too sweet but it wasn’t too interesting either. The foam was somewhat interesting on its own, but got lost in the flavor of the custard and wasn’t enough to make the dish.

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Coi is located near the cities of Hayes Valley, Mission District, , Chinatown, and Haight Ashbury.
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