This weekend, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both looked West. For their "Save or Splurge" travel destination, the Times landed in San Francisco, alternating between $6, brick-sized "super" El Farolito burritos (speaking of: has anyone had their chile relleno burrito? sounds both sick and deilcious) and Daniel Patterson's light-as-a-feather, refined $125 tasting menu at Coi (the kind of dinner that I imagine a manly man might need to cap off at midnight with one of those $6 burritos).
The WSJ also did their own SF restaurant comparison, but rather than going high/low they did what Raymond Sokolov called "Comfortable or Creative," comparing Gary Danko to Coi—a comparison I would say is really apples to oranges. But Sokolov definitely has a way with words. After my last post stating that reviewers need to be writers, I guess I asked for it. You betcha.
I'll let him speak for himself.
• "Could I have picked other equally compelling restaurants in this food-proud city? Of course, and I hope to do just that before too long on another trip to a city I have always loved. And did I like what I ate? You betcha. But if genius is in the details, then the devil, proverbially, is in there, too, lurking among them."
• On why they should be compared: "Different as they are, Gary Danko and Coi each occupy unostentatious locations in the north of the city, an easy walk apart but separated by worlds of intent and achievement."
• On one of Danko's big draws: It offers "… no challenges to palatal sanity … But if you are up for a fine meal in which each course includes a substantial piece of protein with a complimentary garnish, Gary Danko is your man."
• On Dano's signature pigeon: "My life partner’s squab (Moroccan-spiced with chermoula and orange-cumin carrots) was not only an intelligent nod to the cuisines of Fez and Rabat but also a bird big enough to scare you if you’d come upon it live in a North Beach alley."
• On the wild ride at Coi: " … after a palate-thrilling little herbal throwaway of pink grapefruit, ginger, tarragon and black pepper, the kitchen went into horticultural overdrive with a hypersalad of new harvest potatoes, cucumber, borage, sea beans and ice plant flowers"
• On the French language: "There is another French word that sounds exactly the same as Coi: Quoi, as in “What?” From time to time at Coi, I heard a voice in my head asking, “Quoi?” This voice grew deadeningly loud when the bill came with a mandatory 18% tip (I must have missed the caveat on the menu).
In regard to the mandatory tip, I'm curious to hear what people think. My personal opinion is that while no one likes to be told what to do in this free country, a fine-dining restaurant is all about service and the tip should be included, just as it is at restaurants like Chez Panisse. Apparently, Sokolov is headed to some other Bay Area fine dining establishments though, including Manresa and Ubuntu, so stay tuned.
Who will be given the palatal sanity stamp of approval next? Note to chefs: Toss the hypersalad.