According to SF Chron critic Michael’ Bauer’s latest update review, he’s decided not to give Coi a spot on his Top 100 List this year, despite allowing it to keep four stars from the Chronicle.
Admittedly, it’s been a complicated year for Coi in terms of awards and accolades: It was awarded three Michelin stars after the executive chef who earned them, Matthew Kirkley, had already moved on to compete in the Bocuse D’or culinary competition. Following his departure, chef Erik Anderson took control of the kitchen, launching his very first menu in January. Following the shakeup, it remains to be seen whether Michelin will keep Coi’s three-star rating for 2019, though it will certainly come under consideration
The difference between an update and a fresh review is murky, when the restaurant remains but it’s menu has completely changed. In this case, rather than give the new chef and menu its own review, Bauer chose to issue an update instead, which he also used as his explainer for “Why the restaurant Coi won’t be on this year’s Top 100 Restaurants list.”
To start, it appears that the critic is displeased by Anderson’s departure from chef/owner Daniel Patterson’s modern and rustic techniques like cooking carrots in hay, and foraging seaweed. (In comparison, Bauer was duly pleased by Kirkley’s seafood menu “that bore little resemblance to the previous offerings,” but still included ingredients like sea water harvested from the coast of Santa Cruz.)
Meanwhile, Bauer says Anderson’s style is yet another step away from the cuisine with which Patterson launched the 12-year-old restaurant, one that Bauer feels is still working to “define and refine.” Yet, from the menu, it seems clear that Anderson’s style is defined: Rich sauces, French techniques, game birds, and a vintage duck press the chef uses table side.
Is it Anderson’s job to “meld his style with Patterson’s and incorporate the lighter nuances of California?” A dish of “shaved geoduck marinated in seaweed and shallots with caramelized duck cream, translucent clam jelly, olive oil and a cap of mustard and radish flowers” seems to include some of the bounty of California.
Certainly Patterson hired a chef who he felt would bring something new, different, and just as skilled to the table as Kirkley had, whether or not it was intended to get in line with his past menus. Patterson has given his flagship restaurant the opportunity for an update through a differing viewpoint than his own, which is refreshing in its own right. It seems reasonable to expect not just evolution, but revolution to hit the menu at some point, whether that is embodied in Anderson’s embrace of old school French technique, or reimagined use of the same California ingredients favored by every chef in town.
Repeated references to similar dishes served at neighboring three-Michelin-starred Quince, and to Kirkley’s quick assimilation into Coi’s kitchen paint an interesting picture of Bauer’s mindset when “updating” this restaurant. It is neither Quince, nor Patterson’s menu up for review.
Luckily for Coi, Bauer found the service improved under a new general manager and sommelier, and the desserts as good as ever under talented pastry chef Riley Redfern, who’d also worked with Kirkley.
Four stars for Coi, but it won’t make the Top 100. Perhaps Pizzaiolo will?
Update, 4/21: At some point after the original publication of Bauer’s review, the SF Chronicle downgraded the number of stars awarded from four to three; no explanation or indication of a correction was given.