Enjoy the floor-to-ceiling vines and handspun pottery while cleaning off your hands from consuming the curry crab.
Eating out has always been an experience best punctuated with fantastic company inside a space that elicits conversation. The best meals of my life have rarely been about the food; they’ve all oscillated around the perennial idea that quality time spent with cherished ones exists as the zenith of our humanity.
We’re a social species, after all. Our language and peculiarities and mannerisms all, more or less, developed as a by-product of our caloric consumption.
In San Francisco, restaurants are synonymous with the city’s heartbeat — its soul and state of being. And when the Covid-19 pandemic all but snuffed out in-person dining, San Francisco’s restaurants, like its residents, adapted to new norms and adopted the contemporary realities around them.
Now over three years removed from when shelter-in-place ordinances were first enacted, San Francisco is in its comeback era (albeit with a few caveats), with new eateries and watering holes opening up in neighborhoods once dimmed by pandemic-hobbled foot traffic.
Copra, the new Cal-Indian fusion eatery at 1700 Fillmore Street, exists a multi-dimensional symbolism on the present state of San Francisco: Communal, opulent, world-class, and a bit cumbersome to grasp (literally and metaphorically).
The brainchild of Chef/Owner Srijith “Sri” Gopinathan and restaurateur Ayesha Thapar, Copra, quietly debuted in San Francisco’s Fillmore District on February 18th to great fanfare. The menus and decor exist as an intersectionality between California and Indian influences.
The restaurant, which takes its name from the dried coconut ingredient that’s common throughout the region, exudes escapism. It’s both a tree house and urban jungle; a tiered eatery and contemplation space; a nest for bipeds and a bastion for regional cuisine.
Copra, itself, is a love letter to the coastal cuisines of India’s southern states — revealed with the black cod pollichathu, wrapped in oxidized banana leaf.
The nods to California cuisine exude through the use of seasonal produce and farm-raised mammalian meats; patrons can pair Copra’s chargrilled bone marrow dish, which is served alongside homemade pita bread (parotta), with a “torn salad” that pedestals the beloved Millennial fatty fruit: avocados.
Curry dishes populate both the “little” and “large” dish sections in the menu, where the latter is meant to be shared with you and a guest and the former options are more geared toward, say, a solo outing for an early dinner.
For myself, I ordered the Konkan crab curry — a specialty of Southern India made with caramelized dried coconut, tamarind, and shallots. The dish also comes with egg appam; it’s a thin crepe-like morsel made from fermented rice batter that Gopinathan told the Eater he hasn’t come across in the Bay Area before.
Cracking into the crustacean’s malleable exterior proved to be an exercise in restraint and stain mitigation. Sat on a low-slung bench, one that slid at the slightest bode-weight nudge, I quickly dirtied three napkins; the dark-brown curry caused the white linen to mar an off-putting shade of wet mud. My hands slipped frequently while holding the crab cracker and were perfumed with bloomed spices.
Nevertheless, whatever meat I did manage to pry from the self-shelled crustacean proved excellent, its sweet meat highlighted by the curry that had found its way off on the gelatinous protein.
Drinks, too, were had that were ideated with the help of West Bev Consulting; its long list of clients includes Bay Area favorites like The Madrona, Cassava, and now Copray. The final morsel to come our table’s way was dessert cake so lactic, vanilla-forward, and sumptuous that it still lingers with me writing this review weeks after my initial visit.
Come to Coprah for the promise of a gorgeous ambiance, unapologetic use of spice, and to experience fusion cuisine. Just make sure you’re not wearing a white top or pants.
Copra (1700 Fillmore Street) is open for dinner service from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; Saturday and Sunday, from and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; check out the eatery’s Instagram page for a sneak peek at order-able morsels; visit coprarestaurant.com for contact information and reservation requests.
Feature image: Courtesy of Copra