Editor's note: Chef Daniel Patterson stepped aside in January 2016 being replaced by Matthew Kirkley, previously at Chicago's L20. he himself left in late 2017, despite the restaurant getting a third star when he was in charge.
Coi is the third restaurant venture of self-taught chef Daniel Patterson (he previously ran Elizabeth Daniel, and before that Babette's, both in the Bay area). Coi is in an unassuming grey building in a less than smart part of North Beach. The ground floor dining room has a low ceiling, dark grey carpet and murky lighting, though the tables themselves were large and reasonably spaced. There was surprisingly noisy music playing in the background.
There is a no à la carte menu, just a fixed tasting menu at $145 offered (though they will adjust and substitute for things that you dislike). The wine list was fairly extensive and featured wines such as Accornero Barbera Guilin at $62 for a wine that you can buy in the shops for $20, El Molino Chardonnay 2007 at $88 for a wine that retails at $57, and Sine Qua Non “The Boot” 2000 at $386 for a wine you can buy for around $205. We drank Robert Wiel Riesling Trocken 2009 at $96 for a wine that retails at $30, and du MOL Chloe Chardonnay 2007, priced at $140 for a wine that costs around $72 in the shops.
A brown rice cracker with coriander and lemon was pleasant, the lemon taste quite strong (14/20). The first dish of beet roe with rose petal ice and house-made yoghurt was overwhelmed by the strong flavour of the rose petals, utterly dominating the beetroot, which is hardly a shy and retiring flavour (12/20).
Gooey duck with diced manila clam was served with Myer lemon vinaigrette, the clam steamed with white wine, garlic, squid ink and gelatin. This was pleasant enough, the combination of flavours working much better (15/20). At this point a very good bread roll appeared, served warm and made in house (17/20).
An inverted fennel tart was next, with fennel diced and raw, infused with olive oil, wheat grass sauce with chervil, and a buckwheat tuile. The fennel was fine but the wheatgrass dominated the dish, the overall effect just too grassy (13/20).
The next dish was much better, crayfish in a broth infused with lemon grass and ginger, with padrone pepper and piquillo pep peer, along with English peas and their shoots, artichokes, and shaved baby turnips. The crayfish was tender and the broth worked really well, the flavours logical and balanced (17/20),
Asparagus cooked in their own juices were covered with a dusting of seaweed powder dusted with black soy, with an asparagus vinaigrette and lemon sabayon. The asparagus was of good quality and well cooked, though I was not sure what the seaweed powder really added to the dish (15/20). This came with a rye and whole grain slice of bread (15/20).
Spring alium soup came with charred leeks and onions, smoked olive oil, fresh chives and wild onion flowers, along with aged sheep milk cheese and toasted almonds, with a green garlic puree poured over the vegetables at the table. The soup was nicely balanced, the flavours clean (15/20).
Roasted morels from Orgeon came with buttered popcorn puree, new potatoes and basil. The morels were fine though I am not sure what the popcorn really added (15/20). Next was "earth and sea", porcine and shiitake mushrooms in dashi with steamed tofu mousselline with ginger and grated lime zest, with seaweed; this was pleasant enough (14/20).
This was followed by beef (from Prather ranch in California) with porcini, marrow and spinach, with bordelaise sauce infused with fennel and angelica root. The beef had soft texture and nice flavour, though it was odd that the mushrooms were served cold (15/20 for the beef).
Carrots were roasted over coffee beans with creme fraiche, with cilantro (coriander) and olive oil, served with oats roasted with chicory and honey; this dish did not work for me at all, the carrots clearly overcooked, the coffee note just odd (11/20).
Roasted strawberries with vanilla and sorrel cream were the first true dessert, with house-made butter milk and meringues scented with black pepper. The strawberries by themselves were OK, but the pepper meringues were a strange mix for the fruit, and I found the sorrel cream simply unpleasant (11/20).
Lemon curd ice cream was served with beet tapioca, hibiscus soda and caddied rhubarb, another ill-judged combination, with a hint of mint adding to the cacophony of clashing flavours (12/20). Muscavado cake with coffee and molasses with date puree, raw milk ice cream and shards of honeycomb tuile redeemed things somewhat, this actually being something resembling a dessert, and having some flavour balance (15/20).
Coffee (from a local company called BlueBottle) was quite good but was served with a chocolate tuile that was burnt; if this was done deliberately then I would just have to ask why anyone thinks that eating a burnt tuile is better than eating one not burnt.
The bill came to $325 (£200) a person. I was quite disappointed by this meal, with dishes that seemed oddly composed at times, and with flavours that on occasion were out of balance. There were some pleasant dishes in amongst it all, but this is not a place I would wish to return to.