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CultureFood & DrinkGood Taste: Sri Gopinathan’s Copra alights on Fillmore

Good Taste: Sri Gopinathan’s Copra alights on Fillmore

One of San Francisco’s most elegant chefs shares South Indian-inspired dishes from the mothers in his life.

A weekly menu for eating well in the Bay Area, Good Taste is here to serve! Today, we share the details from an invited visit to a new restaurant by one of San Francisco’s most elegant chefs.

Copra (1700 Fillmore Street, SF) debuted on February 18 by chef Srijith “Sri” Gopinathan and Ayesha Thapar, who is also his partner in owning the Palo Alto restaurant Ettan. They kindly invited me in to have brunch, and I arrived on a recent Sunday to a very full and lively house, with most tables in the 140-seat restaurant full of Indian families and friend groups having celebrations.

The space, previously home to Dosa, was transformed by the firms Schoos Design and Studio Mood, which also designed Ettan, and I can’t recall the last time I had a San Francisco restaurant take my breath away like Copra did when I saw it. It’s bright and beachy to match Gopinathan’s menu, which, I was informed in advance, is inspired by the Indian coastal cooking of Kerala, where he was born, and Tamil Nadu, where he was raised. Like Ettan, there’s also a reverence for the beautiful coastal produce of California; they describe the cuisine as Cal-Indian.

Copra’s dining room.Photo by Chad Santo Tomas

Gopinathan is one of San Francisco’s most decorated fine dining chefs. He and his kitchen team have that wealth of trained knowledge to draw from, but they also use recipes from their mothers and mother-in-laws at Copra, which may explain some of the love and warmth we felt on the plate at brunch.

We tried deeply flavorful savory dishes that are also available at dinner, such as the chef’s favorite Shrimp Vennai roast and a varuval spice-crusted hamachi collar (that oft-overlooked yet wonderfully meaty cut of the fish), accompanied by a non-alcoholic drink called Salty City with coconut yogurt, cucumber, salt, black garlic, and lemon.

Copra Toast. Photo by Tamara Palmer

A bruléed cardamom Copra Toast that is almost like a custard soufflé is a huge brunch-only draw, as far as I’m concerned  — the latter should rightfully become one of the city’s most sought-after meal finishers. Copra is already proving to be a positive culinary presence on Fillmore Street.

If I’m mentally making future plans to go to a restaurant and spend my own money while I’m already at said restaurant getting food for free, I think that says something about how much I’m enjoying it. I’ve still never had the pleasure of meeting Gopinathan, but he’s long been one of my favorite chefs in San Francisco, having been fortunate to try his imaginative and elegant creations when he was a chef for 15 years at Campton Place, where he earned two Michelin stars.

Shrimp Vennai. Photo by Patricia Chang

I often recommended that restaurant to diners looking to mark special occasions, and I’ll now do the same for Copra, especially since it is more affordable than Campton Place! (Incidentally, Campton Place is closing this week for renovations, with plans to reopen in June.)

Tamara is the publisher of California Eating and the founder of the new online Music Book Club.

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