Last Night at Coco500 (Katrina Benefit)
We dined out for the Share Our Strength Katrina rebuilding benefit last night at Coco500.
We chose this restaurant over the many dozens in SF participating because they were donating a whopping 50% of all their sales to the fund.
They were serving a special prix-fixe New Orleans-inspired menu.
We had a choice of appetizers, entrée & dessert, with gumbo served to everyone for what would typically be the pasta course. As best as I recall, here's what we had...
Amuse: Fried catfish with house-made tartar sauce (that sauce was fantastic!)
- Red bean cake with shrimp, roasted pepper (?) & a citrus sauce
- Heirloom Tomato salad with fried Okra (okra "nuggets" were almost like croutons)
Gumbo (crab, chicken & andouille sausage over rice)
- Blackened sea bass with sauteed greens (spinach), hush puppies & remoulade
- (Also served: quail with broccoli gratin & ?, but we both got the fish)
- King Cake (sadly, sans baby) with fresh berry compote
- Bananas Foster (served en flambe tableside)
It turns out Chef Keller trained with Susan Spicer (of Bayona), so she really knew her stuff. It really showed in the textures and flavors - most notably the perfectly-balanced gumbo. Gumbo, for those of us who aren't experts, is a little tough to get right because you have such strong flavors at war with each other--not to mention the art-form that is perfectly-browned roux...
Service was a little slow, and our waiter was clearly unhappy that we didn't order wine. They had a tempting $35 pairing, but it was a "school night" so we declined. Our waiter all but disappeared after we confirmed our beverage non-choice, which made it very difficult to get a cocktail later (a tasty Coco500). I mean our guy had a guaranteed $150 check, so I'm not quite sure what his problem was. Not one seat in the house was empty, and there was a crowd at the door, which I assume isn't normal for a Tuesday night. This could have accounted for the slow pacing in the kitchen, however, these were but minor annoyances in an otherwise wonderful evening.
Overall, the food was excellent and it felt great to help lend some support to the cause.
It was a 4-course menu + amuse, so for $75 pp. it was a good value.
I posted a heads-up about the dine-out, but our moderators must have nixed it as spam--even if it was restaurant-focused & for a great cause.
Regardless, I highly recommend Coco500 - if not for their philanthropy, then for those terrific green beans and truffled flatbread on the everyday menu.
A big thank you to everyone who responded to my amuse query. Sounds like a delightful tradition that I may have had the pleasure of experiencing at John Ash & Co in Santa Rosa. Before we had ordered our waiter brought us each 3 tiny ramekins filled with something delightful, I don't remember what it's been years.
And I'm all in favor of free food.
Coincidently, the front page of the NY Times food section had an article about amuse-bouches today: “Tiny Come-ons, Plain and Fancy – The Amuse-Bouche is welcomed at home”. It is about people who serve an amuse when they have people over for dinner and the article had recipes (from top chefs) for goat-cheese-stuffed anchovies, corn soup, kimche gazpacho, and bigeye tuna. The recipes sound much too ambitious for me for a small bite!
Yes, though diced very small, it lent it's "body" (or "slimy-ness") in just the right amount to the mix.
Re: "Amuse" - Amuse Bouche: literally means "amuse the mouth". It's sort of a pre-appetizer, usually served in one-bite portions, often given with the compliments of the chef. I'm not sure if everyone got it, but I work in the business, so it may have been an added bonus. As a rule, amuses are not posted on the menu, and they are never charged for.