#18 Cotogna: The Prixe Fixe

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The Place:

We’ve noticed what we think is a growing trend in the restaurant industry, where an upscale restaurant will open a “sister” or “brother” location nearby.  Usually the new location is a bit more relaxed and casual (and cheaper).  It allows the owners or teams to extend their skills to a venue that’s more accessible to the general public.  We love this idea as it’s a win win for everyone.  The restauranteurs are able to reach more people and try new things without worrying about changing the expectations or possible reviews of their primary location.  The customers are able to experience the quality of the organization, but without having to break the bank or wait months for a reservation.  Cotogna, located near Jackson Square, is the little brother of the 2 Michelin star Quince, which sits right next door.  Quince is the epitome of an upscale restaurant, and very deserving of it’s two stars.  Offering only tasting menus, prices start at over $100 per person, and that’s not including wine.  Now while that is great and all, we may not be having too many meals there.  Cotogna on the other hand, offers a reasonably priced menu, wonderful ambiance, and a growing reputation for fantastic food.

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The Dish:

One of the best parts of Cotogna, whose menu is based on rustic Italian dishes, is it’s Prixe Fixe (fixed price) menu.  The menu changes, but it always consists of three courses, for $28.  Now some people may have had bad experiences with prixe fixe menus in the past.  We know we have.  Often they are small portions or unimaginative food.  We had heard great things about it, plus, it was on the list, so we were confident it wasn’t going to be a letdown.  The current menu consisted of an escarole salad with Dirty Girl Farm radishes and bagna cauda dressing, mezzi rigatoni with sausage and ricotta, and butterscotch budino with moscovado custard and sea salt.  Just to make sure we experienced as much as we could, we also ordered their house cured bacon, chile and broccoli pizza, and an artichoke ravioli.

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Disbelief is always a great feeling to have at a restaurant.  You stare at your food thinking, “how the hell do they get that flavor in there!?”.  That’s basically the way we felt through our whole meal, even repeating it out loud multiple times.  It’s one of the beauties of good Italian food, it looks so simple but tastes so amazing.  The salad was crunchy, salty, yet refreshing.  We’d never had chilled bagna cauda (usually it’s served hot, as a fondue, or a sauce), but man it kicks ass as a salad dressing.  The rigatoni was bursting with flavors of rich and acidic tomato, spicy sausage, and creamy ricotta.  The butterscotch budino was boozy,  and the sweetness was balanced out by the salt.  The pizza was fantastic as well, as the bacon didn’t overpower, but worked with the other flavors.  The only stumble was the ravioli, and that was only due to it being a bit undercooked, not because of a lack of flavor.

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The Verdict:

We think we may have already tipped our hand on this one, but we thought Cotogna was fantastic.  We didn’t even mention the drinks either.  Not only were the cocktails fantastic, but their wine list only has Italian wines all priced at $40 per bottle (a very good price point for a quality SF restaurant).  We had a great bottle of Nebbiolo that really capped off the entire meal.  If you want good food, great service, and everything else that makes a meal wonderful (and who doesn’t?), Cotogna is a great place to get it.  We will be back.

Dig In,

A & K

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