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Best new restaurant in America - Copra in San Francisco

Srijith Gopinathan led San Francisco’s Campton Place to become the first Indian restaurant in America to receive two Michelin stars. Then he walked away. Gopinathan, like many chefs, opted to eschew tasting menus to cook a less manicured style of food, and was motivated to show more Americans dishes inspired by South India. At Copra—which means “dried coconut,” present throughout the menu—he draws on ingredients and techniques from the coastal state of Kerala, where he was born, the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, where he grew up, and across the Palk Strait to the island nation of Sri Lanka.

For many diners, the dishes may not look familiar by name—even Gopinathan’s business partner Ayesha Thapar, who hails from North India, saw terms she didn’t recognize when first seeing the menu—but the flavors are undeniable. Caviar service comes with kallappam, a fermented rice and coconut pancake, while the shrimp vennai roast is a plate of tail-on shrimp marinated in spicy chutney, roasted in brown butter, and finished with a squeeze of lime. But the real stunner is the black-cod pollichathu, where the flaky, shallot-crusted fish is seared before finishing cooking wrapped inside a banana leaf and served with moilee broth (a coconut curry) and red matta rice. Gopinathan may one day return to a tasting menu–driven restaurant that guns for multiple Michelin stars, but we’re fortunate he’s put that particular ambition on pause to create a dining experience that’s simultaneously exciting and comforting.

How to Get Into Copra

You’d think with such a massive space, it’d be easier to get into Copra, the two-story, 138-seat restaurant on Fillmore, but since opening earlier this year, it’s already been named the best new restaurant in America and quickly become a hot ticket where you’ll want to set a Notify.

Opened by acclaimed chef Srijith “Sri” Gopinathan and Ayesha Thapar in the old Dosa space, the food focuses on regional Indian coastal cuisine. If you haven’t been able to land a table, fret not; we sat down with Dana Katzakian, the restaurant’s Chief Operating Officer. Katzakian has lived and worked in San Francisco her whole career, including a stint at Campton Place years ago, where she first met Sri.

She’s here to help us help you get a Resy. Right this way.

How many seats are there at Copra?

We have 138 seats available to reserve, including our tables on the mezzanine level. For walk-ins, we also have a six-top available, as well as 16 seats at the bar.

When do reservations drop on Resy?

30 days out at 9 a.m.

How quickly do seats get booked out?

Pretty immediately!

Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins? 

For walk-ins, we have a six-top and 16 bar seats where we serve our full dinner menu.

What time would you recommend stopping by to snag one of the walk-in seats? 

At 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. and after 8 p.m. is best.

During peak time, what is the typical wait time for a walk-in? 

If you’re looking to sit at the bar or the six-top, I would expect to wait about an hour. If you want to wander Japantown during that time, we will text or call you when we have seats for you.

When are your busiest nights?

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are the busiest times.

How many covers do you do on your busiest night?

Our highest cover count so far was 225.

How long is your Notify list on average?

We usually have about 65 tables on the notification list.

If someone were to set a Notify for Copra on Resy, is there a certain day or time they’d be most likely to get a reservation?

5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., or 9 p.m. give the best chances of finding a table. The notification list by Resy is one of the best additions to reservation software — cancellations definitely happen, and if you are flexible, it gives you a great opportunity to get in and dine.

Of all the places to sit in the restaurant, what do you think is the best seat in the house?

It’s so hard to actually choose one best seat — it depends what mood you are in. I usually prefer one of the bar seats that looks down the length of the bar and offers a view of the whole restaurant, but the greenhouse tables looking out into the dining room are cozy and transport you to another time and place. And the mezzanine tables are intimate and chic, offering yet another dining atmosphere. I honestly can’t choose just one.

It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene for us?

Smiles all around. Warm lights. There is a wait at the door for walk-ins, the bar and dining room are full, the music is making you dance a bit in your chair, cocktails are shaking, lights are just dim enough, and the aromas are intoxicating.

Speaking of music, what kind is played inside the restaurant?

High energy pop and hip-hop — just the right amount of lively.

For someone going to Copra for the first time, what should they order?

Copra menu must-haves include our cocktail From the Ground Up, the oysters, the chutney palette, the shrimp vennai roast and the varula spice-crusted hamachi collar (with a glass of Dolores Cabrera Blanco Listan), the chargrilled bone marrow, and the plantation duck leg (with a glass of the Clotaire Michel old vine Gamay). Don’t miss the “God’s Own” Coconut Variation for dessert with a Ramacham Manhattan!

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