Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

Benu in San Francisco

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San Franciscans are smitten by Benu. Multiple Michelin stars decorate Benu’s crown. When we went to Restaurant Sant Pau a few years ago, Carme Ruscadella said good things about Benu. So we decided to make this the celebration spot for the 25th year of our partnership. It turned out to be a 20 course meal with 23 independent plates – almost one for every year!

Cold starter – chicken jelly (at the bottom) with lime peels in whipped cream layer served with pine-y mountain caviar (cypress pods braised in pork broth)

Cold starter – tuna marrow with tangerine dashi and aged tangerine peel

Room temperature starter – Monkfish liver flan (slightly bitter), marinated trout roe, crunchy puffed buckwheat

Warm starter – Oyster & pork belly with spicy kimchi in a crispy skin, eaten in a single bite

Warm starter – Squid with shiso leaf wrapped around Korean blood sausage

Charcoal grilled abalone with seaweed, meat-y abalone with a roasted chestnut like flavor

Crunchy faux shark fin, in a savory broth with chewy-crab, truffles, and egg white

1000 year old egg with parsnip potage

Sea urchin marinated in fermented crab sauce served with a short grained rice

Crispy frog’s leg, lettuce, sweet and sour sauce

Steamed bass, in a fish maw broth with black moss

Fresh tofu skin, shitake, yellow chive

Barbecued Quail, first brought whole to the table for display and then served up sliced, plump and juicy

Spring bamboo shoots, mild version of the canned shoots, slightly crunchy

Sea of Okhotsk (marginal sea at the western edge of Pacific Ocean surrounded by Russia & Japan) sea cucumber stuffed with lobster, the sea cucumber has a tendon like texture

Beef rib steak w/ gochujang and other assorted condiments

Teeny-weeny (really, they are just born) turnip pickle

Fern kimchi with cashew powder

Beef broth with shiitake mushrooms and vegetables

Omija and olive oil, sour, fruity, peppery sorbet

Acorn and chocolate, almost like a dense chocolate ice cream with candied coco nibs

Malted rice with shaved ice, pine nuts, candied peel, pink lady apples

Minty-crispy strip

There were a few favorites – the fresh bamboo shoots were our first and perhaps the highlight of our meal, the malted rice with shaved ice, the tiny tiny new turnips, and the cypress caviar. Then there were many well executed dishes – the beef steak was melt in your mouth, juicy and plump barbecued quail, fresh tofu skin wrapped shiitake logs, monkfish liver, steamed bass, fried frog legs, and the charcoal grilled abalone. The meal reminded us a bit of Jai Yun – particularly with respect to the meal cadence and number of dishes. A dish was served almost every 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, romantic it was not. When one goes to a Michelin starred restaurant, particularly a 3 starred one, there is an expectation of being swept off one’s feet. Benu food is clever without being passionate. The decor is cold. The service was mixed. It is unfair to expect old school service like Tour d’Argent, but lackadaisical is unacceptable. Perhaps we made the mistake of not combining the meal with alcohol – some wine might have made us feel warm and fuzzy.

Written by locomotoring

March 27, 2017 at 3:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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