A certain lovely lady had mentioned to Chef that it was our anniversary, and managed to make it an even more special evening for us.
As you enter this unobtrusive space in North Beach, you walk through a sexy lounge with lots of wood and raw materials. It's impossible NOT to feel a few inches taller as you walk through the gorgeous space. The lounge is where you will find both the 4-course tasting menu and the a la carte menu.
Just beyond the lounge is a doorway that opens into the softest, prettiest, most intimate dining room I've seen in San Francisco. Grasscloth wallpaper, natural paper diffusing the overhead light, muted tones of taupe and green. As C put it, "this feels a million miles away from downtown San Francisco".
The dining room accomodates 30 diners, and the kitchen doesn't expect many turns. Additionally, we were told that Chef wants to keep a couple of walk-in tables available every night, that he really does want COI to be accessible and a "neighborhood" restaurant.
I wasn't feel the best on Thursday, but one look at the tasting menu told me that I was going to suck it up and make it work. As we were chatting and taking in the space, we were brought two glasses of champagne, a gift from the house, and a lovely touch indeed.
The amuse was everything it should be - an intensely flavored "pate" of brunoised vegetables to be eaten in one bite.
First dish on the menu was Pink Grapefruit, ginger, tarragon, black pepper. Next to the salad itself was a small dab of essential oils - we were instructed to dab some on our wrists and inhale deeply before eating. This will be COI's signature fragrance, and it is intoxicating.
California Osetra, sauteed bone marrow, beet gelee was a luscious disk of crisp-fried marrow with really wonderful caviar. Clean, and not the least bit muddy.
My favorite dish of the night was Sea Scallop sashimi, meyer lemon, avocado, radish, McEvoy olive oil, sel gris. Really exquisite - the kind of dish you expect at a superlative sushi bar. Raw scallops are really incredibly delicious. Seriously.
Asparagus salad, sauce Ravigote was the traditional pairing, with Chef Daniel's special little twist.
Next course was one I asked for a sub on -- English Pea Soup, ricotta sorbet, mint. C's was delicious, but a bit rich on my palate. My sub was Roasted Monkfish, yuzu kosho, chinese broccoli, and I was glad for it. While the monkfish was meaty and rich, the brightness of the accompanying flavors kept things fairly light.
I adored the Sweetbread Ravioli, morels, favas, as did C, for whom sweetbreads are not a favorite. The ravioli was plump and tender, almost like a really perfect chinese dumpling, in fact.
Sauteed Black Bass, braised lettuce, pork belly, litsea cubeba. I love this trend of serving fish with pork belly. It's a whole new kind of surf and turf, richer and more unctuous (in the good sense) than the traditional version.
OK. This was my next favorite dish -- Bellweather Farm Baby Lamb, artichokes, spring onion, lavender. There were three preparations of lamb. The lamb belly was, well, incredible. Take pork belly, give it more flavor. Yea. The lamb leg was equally incredible, cooked rare, deliciously flavorful. But here's the thing - lamb kidney. I might have killed for another bite of this rare, toothsome but tender jewl of deliciousness.
Fortunately, we're now on to dessert. My sincerest apologies for not recalling the cheeses of the evening, but I clearly remember that they were just different enough from a typical cheese plate to keep me from falling into a coma.
The Rhubarb Ginger Frappe was flavorful enough to wake me up, and get the palate buzzing again. YAY for Rhubarb!
And, finally, a Warm bittersweet chocolate tart, tamarind gelee, yogurt. This dessert was served with two kinds of creamy, slightly liquified yogurt -- lime yogurt and smoked yogurt. I put my whole FACE in the small carafe of smoked yogurt, and I can still taste the sublimeness of it now. St. Benoit, are you listening? PLEASE bring me this smoked yogurt. And tamarind pate de fruit? Are you kidding?
After dinner, Chef came out to chat for a few minutes -- charming, affable guy. Having fun with the new place, and it shows. He's hired a great staff, but -- and take this with a grain of salt -- they could loosen up a wee bit. C and I like joking around with and chatting up the FOH, but this crew seemed a bit "too" professional for us to feel comfortable doing so.
We hope to see COI do incredibly well, and chef Patterson to have a loooong tenure here.
San Francisco, CA