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Benu vs. Coi vs. ???

a
AnonymousWaitress Nov 1, 2010 01:41 PM

Trying to decide between Benu vs. Coi for a trip, will be staying in SF with no car and not interested in a long cab ride outside the city. We really want something unique that we cannot get in Phoenix, where we do not feel rushed (celebrating boyfriend's birthday but don't need white tablecloths and candlelight).

Are tasting menus required at Benu and Coi or can one person do a la carte and one person do the tasting? Should we consider TDR at the Ritz, La Folie? Benu and Coi seem to have the most adventurous/innovative menus however. Maybe someone can explain the differences a little to me? I've gathered that Coi is a little fish/veg heavy which worries me.

Thanks for the help!! Love the SF board, so much more extensive than Phoenix!!

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La Folie
2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

  1. Paul H Nov 1, 2010 02:11 PM

    Tasting menus are required at Coi, unless you eat in the lounge.

    Tasting menus are not required at Benu, but the entire table must make the same choice, tasting menu or a la carte.

    Both Coi and Benu reflect the current trend toward vegetable dishes and away from classic restaurant meat proteins, Coi very much so and Benu a little less so.

    Both Coi and Benu will be unlike anything you can get in Phoenix. I'm not sure this will help much, but Coi has taken California cuisine and applied modern technique. Benu is applying modern technique to Asian tastes (not necessarily Asian dishes).

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    Benu
    22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    1. j
      johnq Nov 1, 2010 02:18 PM

      Coi leans more towards seafood than Benu, but you can get meat entrees either place. Benu is a bit more adventurous than Coi, in the sense that you're more likely to find something that you've never had before (possibly because it didn't previously exist). The decor at Benu is somewhat abstract, and some people find it cold, and the service there tends to be somewhat slow. Whether you consider that a positive (relaxed, European dining) or irritating (where's my food?) depends on your own taste. Coi is more traditional/elegant in terms of decor, and the service tends to be somewhat faster than Benu, though I wouldn't by any means call it rushed.

      Getting further nto the details of the menus at either place is somewhat pointless, since they change on a regular basis. Both places have sample menus on their web sites.

      It probably makes sense to pick whichever one has better reservation times for you and go with that. Or flip a coin. I mean that literally. People on this board spend an immense amount of time discussing minor differences between excellent restaurants. That's fun, in the same way it's sometimes fun to argue about sports, but it tends to exaggerate differences between restaurants that don't amount to much in the real world.

      You'll get excellent food at either place. Trying to figure out which one is likely to be a tiny bit better may not matter much, since those differences will probably be outweighed on any given night by how the chef is that night, who you get as a server, and how you and your companions are feeling.

      So unless you have specific likes and dislikes beyond a vague concern about vegetables and fish, you're not going to go wrong at either place. Pick one, enjoy it, and try the other one the next time you're here.

      As far as tasting menus go, they're not required at either place. However, you should give the tasting menu serious thought, since it normally represents a range of what the chef is doing, and gives you an insight into the restaurant that you wouldn't normally get from a single entree. Particularly valuable if you're only going once. I normally avoid combining tasting menu and a la carte, simply because the number of courses is inevitably different, which I tend to find awkward (e.g., one person eating while the other is between courses). But you can certainly do that if you're so inclined.

      TDR at the Ritz is, in my opinion, closer to Benu in terms of food adventurousness, but combined with a very formal decor and service. Some people find the formality off-putting, others find it romantic. The food at La Folie is excellent, but somewhat more traditional and has probably the most traditionally romantic setting of the four. I don't know anything about the Phoenix dining scene, but my guess is you're more likely to have the equivalent of a La Folie than the other three.

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      La Folie
      2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

      Benu
      22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      3 Replies
      1. re: johnq
        j
        johnq Nov 1, 2010 02:36 PM

        Paul H posted before my post got in. He's correct that Coi does not have a la carte dining in the main room, but only in the lounge. I've eaten in both, but if you're looking for a romantic dinner you're obviously better off in the main dining room.

        His post is the first I've heard that Benu doesn't allow tasting menus and a la carte at the same table. I've been there a couple of times, with a couple of different servers, and no one has ever mentioned that, even after one person at the table had ordered the tasting menu and the other was still thinking. However, I must admit that I've never actually tried the experiment, so if he has I'll bow to his experience.

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        Benu
        22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        1. re: johnq
          a
          AnonymousWaitress Nov 1, 2010 03:18 PM

          Thanks, great advice from both of you so quick!! I wish I could be more specific with likes/dislikes but really we eat and enjoy anything. I don't like heavy/overly rich dishes but both restaurants appear to be lighter eating.

          Although food is of utmost importance we do like somewhere comfortable where servers are not forced to be so formal we can't strike up a conversation with them and act casual - we are a younger couple and although SF does not seem to have this vibe there are still places which are either too stiff or unfortunately can be snooty or dismissive to diners in their 20's.

          Any other restaurants that are similar to Benu and Coi that I should be considering? Coi is already booking up over 2 months out on OpenTable so I need to decide pretty quick.

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          Benu
          22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

          1. re: AnonymousWaitress
            a
            artemis Nov 1, 2010 03:26 PM

            Even at the more formal Dining Room at the Ritz, the service was still warm and friendly, though extremely professional. My SO and I are diners in our 20s, and TDR two years ago was our first foray into tasting menu cuisine. The staff could not have been more gracious, patient, and kind. We had a spectacular time.

            Snooty is the absolute last word I would use to describe any nice restaurant I've been to SF before or since. Smart Bay Area restaurants know better than to be snooty or dismissive to people in their 20s because around here, you really never know if that 20-something is a dot com multimillionaire.

            I was recently stuck in LA for several weeks for work - now THERE'S a place with constantly snooty service.

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