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We HATED Coi!

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In sharp contrast to "We LOVED Coi!"...

We were NOT impressed with Coi. I had wanted to visit this restaurant for some time, and I had hoped that this restaurant would offer an exciting and fresh approach to food not often available in the Bay Area. I must admit, with some sadness, that it fell quite flat.

Our reservation for four was on Friday, May 25, 2007, at 8:45PM. Due to some residual Critical Mass mayhem we called and alerted the restaurant that we would be a little bit late (thankfully we were able to avert most of the mess at the last minute!). A star goes to the hostess for being quite polite each time I interacted with her.

The space is every bit as claustrophobic as people have reported in the past. The windowless dining room is washed in neutrals, and is rather brightly illuminated. My dining companions, including my boyfriend, felt as though it was too bright: I noted that, while yes, it was bright, the room would have felt like a cave otherwise. Point duly noted. We also took note that this small dining room never filled – there were a number of unused tables during our stint.

The service started out fairly friendly and professional; however, as the evening went on (we arrived at 9, and left the restaurant at 11:30), the service became increasingly curt and sloppy. This was clearly a case of staff wanting to go home. If a restaurant insists on offering late seatings, diners cannot be made to feel as though they’re an inconvenience and that they’re “keeping” the staff from going home. We weren’t even offered coffee or any type of after-dinner drink (though two people then asked for coffee, which was brought out begrudgingly).

As for the food, I had:

PINK GRAPEFRUIT ginger, tarragon, black pepper

SCALLOP AND CALIFORNIA OSETRA CAVIAR 'RAVIOLO'
sea urchin, chive

ZUCKERMAN'S ASPARAGUS meyer lemon sabayon,
mcevoy olive oil

CARAMELIZED ENDIVE TART herbs, black olive vinaigrette

WARM MARIN SUN FARMS PIG'S HEAD breadcrumbs,
young cabbage, radish

YUBA 'PAPARDELLE' baby fava beans and leaves, harissa

TRUFFLED RICOTTA PUDDING english peas, spring onions

MARIN SUN FARMS RIBEYE yuzu kosho, fresh cippollini onion confit, sage

AGED GUFFANTI PECORINO LUCANO pink pearl apple, rooibos

The desserts were not as represented by an earlier online menu. We received a molten chocolate cake with ice cream, and then a dulce de leche milkshake shot and sugar cookie.

This is where I will be most harsh. Given that Daniel Patterson went on a bit of a tirade claiming that SF chefs (and, frankly, US chefs in general) were not offering exciting menus, I was expecting him to wow us with new techniques and flavors. If using foams (and in SEVERE excess) and cooking one item sous-vide is revolutionary, I apparently set my expectations too high.

I frankly only enjoyed ONE savory dish – the ribeye. While it was in no way inventive, the flavors at least worked and it was well prepared. I noted that often the individual components of dishes were either good on their own and just didn’t mesh well when combined with others, or – more often – lacked much flavor at all and were more decoration than substance. Tisk!

The pink grapefruit dish frankly bordered on vile – the foam was so incredibly laced with essence that it covered any trace of grapefruit flavor. The essential oil I was supposed to rub on my wrists prior to tasting had evaporated almost completely before being brought to the table. Trendy, but no substance. For what it’s worth, there’s no way I could have continued to “smell” the oil while consuming my course; that is, unless I held one wrist in front of my nose while I ate using the other hand.

I was frankly offended by the asparagus dish. ONE stalk of asparagus?! This dish wasn’t even remotely exciting – and, thank you, Daniel… but I can steam asparagus at home. The yuba ‘papardelle’ was incredibly bland. Mind you, this COULD have been an exciting dish if it was executed well. *sigh*

I will give credit to the pastry chef. While the desserts weren’t necessarily exciting, they DID taste good. Given the disappointing savory courses, dessert was practically revered.
We brought a bottle of Peter Michael Chardonnay with us, and ordered an August West Pinot from the rather pricey wine list. Corkage was waived because of the purchase.

The total for four was approaching $800. We did not leave anything in addition to the included 18% gratuity. I usually feel that this mandatory gratuity concept has the potential to negatively impact what servers can make – I’ve noted on many occasions that, even with excellent service, some people don’t feel the need to leave anything extra. In Coi’s case, the servers lucked out.

Maybe there’s a reason Daniel Patterson has had so little luck maintaining restaurants in SF. *scoff* I, for one, will not be going back to Coi.

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  1. ha, it's interesting to hear such oppsite views. But I do respect other people could've had a difference experience than we did. In fact I'm about to write a review of Providence in LA that will go contrary to most rave reviews, but I digress.

    So what restaurant in SF that you've dined recently that you felt was good? I'm curious to see what you felt was a good meal.

    7 Replies
    1. re: OnceUponABite

      I'm glad that you're open-minded and are receptive to differences in opinion. Sometimes polar reviews are taken personally - even when they clearly aren't meant that way. So, first off, thank you.

      Food is so incredibly subjective, and I have had plenty of occasions where I have just tipped my head in that RCA dog commercial way and said to myself, "You've got to be kidding me??" Then again, not everyone shares my raves either!

      This weekend was a bit of a culinary splurge - Coi on Friday, Alexander's Steakhouse (in Cupertino) on Saturday, and Range last night. I plan on writing reviews on the latter two later today. As a preview, I will say that we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Range; this was in sharp contrast to my boyfriend's first visit, whereas he was incredibly let down. I'd be willing to add it to my shortlist of repeat mid-range restaurants, which also includes A16, Myth, Salt House, Zuni, and Delfina (some of which are fiercely debated). I have had mixed fine dining results in the Bay Area, though my recent trip to Cyrus has set the bar for upper-end dining.

      Honestly, I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Coi. Thanks again for being a good sport!

      1. re: jrhsfcm

        I'd like to see your review of Alexander's as I went there for the first time 2 weeks ago and had a great time.

        1. re: jrhsfcm

          Not at all, I agree taste is really subjective, not to mention things like service is really different from night to night.

          I did see you top five tasting menu of the bay area post, and with exception to Cyrus, I've been to your other four. After reading your post about Cyrus, I'm eager to try it. I think my husband and I are just not fans of Ron Siegel. We ate at his place at Charls Nob Hill, then later Masa's, and finally at The Dining Room and we weren't entirely pleased any of the three times. But I like your other three picks :)

          1. re: OnceUponABite

            You're both exactly right. Anyone who reads both of your reviews (ie, LOVED and HATED Coi) can tell that you both feel strongly about your experiences and I defy anyone to determine that one of your experiences was more or less valid than the other.

            This is a great example of how restaurants can vary night to night, or even within the same night (though I would very curious to try to really sort that out). We've had great experiences at places that others didn't like (Jardiniere springs to mind) and awful experiences at restaurants that appear to be almost universally loved (Bouchon is an example for us). As Once points out, service especially can vary night to night and at different times of the night. One of the key things a restaurant can do to really make sure things go well is to provide consistent service. As I read through jrhsfcm's review I kept thinking about how different the whole night could have been for them if the service had been good. Being able to interact with the server may have allowed the diners to make their feelings about some of the dishes known, perhaps the kitchen could have adjusted what was going on...who knows.

            As a cook, I also know that some nights, I just don't have "it." Figuring out what to do on such nights can be a real challenge. At the prices some places like Coi charge, you can't just not have "it" for a night. In a restaurant with a bit larger a kitchen there are more options, perhaps other people can shift places on the line, etc. But in a place like Coi, at the level they're attempting to work a very minor shift in the food and a different server can easily change the entire experience drastically.

            1. re: ccbweb

              The OP complained about a course of ONE asparagus. In fairness to COI, the menu does say "Zuckerman's asparagus"...probably his only one. I was taken aback at the course choice of a "Slow cooked farm egg" or a rib eye steak. Wow...a Hobson's choice, at that. I'm reminded of my only dinner at the Algonquin Hotel about 50 years ago. One of my meal-mates was a judge from Texas who was obviously a BBQ fan. On the menu was a shirred egg. Not being familiar with this cooking method (I would be surprised if any Texan had ever eated a shirred egg), he asked the waiter, who explained the technique. He asked, "just one egg for all that money?"...waiter said "yes, sir, one delicious egg". My friend shook his head and said, "You must have a mighty proud chicken in that kitchen". That proud chicken has crossed to road to San Francisco.

              1. re: OldTimer

                This remindes me of years ago when describing a meal to one of my co-worker, who just came from Kansas. We described how fantastic this one ravoli was, one glorious foi gras ravoli. He was astounded at how someone would pay good money for one ravoli.

                But I'm happy to say, after a few years in the Bay Area, our friend finally understood the concept of how one ravoli sometimes is all you need! :)

          2. re: jrhsfcm

            Hey, I was at Range on Sunday night, eating by myself at the bar. Did you see me? :)

            I haven't had time to write up a proper review, but I agree that Range is a nice mid-range restaurant. I especially like how they introduced me to "aprium" (used in that night's salad and in the dessert). But I felt the menu was limited. Also, I don't get the whole decor. Are they trying to be retro or not? I expected to see all kind of parts of a range but there were weird things like a refrigerator that says "blood bank" in the bar and a sign in the hallway that says "watch repairs." Doesn't really affect the cooking, but totally threw off the ambiance for me. Wondered if you felt the same?

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Unfortunately, I HATED Coi also. My boyfriend and I are from the East Coast and took a trip to San Fran and wine country for my birthday last week. We had plans to go to Coi on my actual birthday, June 5th. We confirmed the reservation earlier in the day and Paul, the sommelier, even wished me Happy Birthday on the phone. We arrived at 8:45 for an 8:45 reservation. We weren't sat until a little after 9:30 p.m. I worked in the restaurant business for over 7 years and I understand that with a 30 seat restaurant it can be difficult to turn tables over, but 45 minutes is too long to wait! I'm certainly not a proponent of asking people with an early reservation to leave a table, but when this has obviously happened before the restaurant should think about instituting a new policy like having two seatings a night. The staff let us know what the issue was, which we appreciated, but they didn't seem to eager to do anything about it.

            By 9:25 we were pretty irritated and called another restaurant to see if we could get a reservation there, but decided to eat at Coi when we were told the table was ready. And we weren't the only table that had that problem. When we arrived, there was another couple in the bar area. They said something to the hostess a few minutes before we were both sat.

            The food was less than stellar, in fact some of it was a little too strange, even for my taste and I've eaten at many restaurants with the same concept as Coi, like Minibar in DC and Alinea in Chicago and LOVED both of those restaurants. I admit, it may have been because of the late seating that things got off on the wrong foot, but the restaurant never seemed to recover.

            The menu I had was very similar to the one above and I agree with a lot of the comments. The Grapefruit dish was bitter and way to strong for a first dish. I had to wonder if the chef made this taste particularly bad for a reason, so that the taste sensations would only go up from there. A cornmeal griddle cake was served, which was outstanding, but that was the only dish I would say I wanted more of. I thought the Yuba "Pappardelle" was tasteless, but the fava beans added a nice consistency to the soggy "noodles". My boyfriend loved the Marin Sun Farms Pig's Head and I thought the Poached Ocean Trout was ok. Desserts came out in the wrong order, which wasn't a big deal, except that the wine pairings were then off.

            I wouldn't recommend this restaurant to anyone who tells me they are headed to San Fran. I thought the service was haughty and didn't like the food enough. The restaurant has been open long enough that they should have been able to work most of the kinks out by now, but they obviously haven't.