Postcard From Tom

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.

Whether you're looking for a place to taste a trend, unwind over a cocktail or share a spread of snacks, a new crop of food destinations in San Francisco can assist you.

COI (373 Broadway, 415-393-9000)

Pow! Daniel Patterson grabs us by the collar at first bite with a gift of minced radish, ginger, green apple, celery and mint nestled in the bowl of a bent spoon. The contemporary California flavors that follow (tuna-tomato tartare with a caper-raisin sorbet, guinea hen roasted with Indian spices) can be just as engaging. Dressed in shades of bark and coffee, the 30-seat Coi is a cocoon of organic comfort in North Beach; insiders know to say "kwah," after an old French word for tranquil -- which Coi is. Four-course menu $75.

RYE (688 Geary St., 415-786-7803 )

Located in the "Tendernob" -- where the seedy Tenderloin meets the stylish Nob Hill -- Rye represents a new breed of hipster lounges in the city. Wrought from brick walls and concrete floors, the upstart manages to look elegant despite its pool table and gated street-side patio, a.k.a. "the cage." Slake your thirst with something classic, like a Sazerac or (rye) Manhattan, or something more modern: "The Flash" unites gin with crushed kiwi and cucumber, while the lime-brightened house gimlet is also fragrant with fresh basil. All cocktails $9.

TERZO (3011 Steiner St., 415-441-3200)

The clean lines and muted colors of this intimate tapas destination in Cow Hollow allow patrons to focus solely on what lands on the table. Hand-cut noodles tossed with butter and black truffles, and biting arugula arranged with pancetta-wrapped figs, are quiet pleasures; chili-spiked chicken threaded with bread and onions, and zippy Calabrese sausage atop soft polenta, prove more robust. Small plates $7-$12.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company