Restaurant review: Coi, 373 Broadway, San Francisco

Coi is the new project of Daniel Patterson and my friend Paul Costigan, located in a happening location on Broadway just east of North Beach. The name is pronounced (roughly) “kwahhh”, and I believe is an Old French word meaning “tranquil.” The restaurant certainly is that — superb and innovative food, mellow atmosphere, and friendly staff. I’d recommend visiting now before the reviews start rolling in and people “discover” Coi, because in six months it’s going to be tough to walk in the door and get a table.

Daniel Patterson is the former chef at Frisson, and Paul is coming from years of experience running Rare Wine Company in Sonoma, where I met him as a client. Paul also is an expert at jazz and blues history, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of both. His skills at creating atmosphere with the Jazz blend of structure, elegance, and yet studied casualness show in the casual yet beautiful decor, the music selections, and the wine list. Instead of aiming at the types of wine I’d typically purchased from Paul at RWC, the list is designed to present diners with wines which highlight the food but provide accessible prices. Paul is a master at explaining how the wines are selected to match the food, and if you’re wondering what to have you really should let him select a wine for your meal or course.

I went to Coi on two consecutive nights, to sample both the fixed-price dining room menu and the more relaxed (fuzzy pillow cushions!) lounge with its ala carte menu. I recommend doing both (especially if you’re local) because there are gems on both menus. In the dining room, a deconstructed ratatouille soup (with concentric rings of eggplant, red pepper, tomato) was excellent, but the highlight for us was the coriander-crusted duck breast, cooked sous vide and then finished off, with a reduction sauce. In the lounge, I strongly recommend the grilled vegetable bread salad, and the signature pork cheek stew. The latter went well with a Burgundy selected by Paul, and I finished with a Spatburgunder eiswein that was glorious — tart, sweet, with massive acidity on the palate.

Both evenings were terrific, and they’re just getting started. If you find yourself in San Francisco (or are a local), try Coi while it’s still possible to get a reservation!