Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

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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

A few scattered moments …

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Life in Centro Historico.

A clockwork of traffic crossing opposite Bellas Artes – the traffic lights are like dams and when they burst at their seams, a turbulent river of people make across the road.

Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the flyers) in Chapultapec park, opposite Museum of Anthropology – one playing the flute. An incredible ceremonial performance.

A walk down La Condesa neighborhood.

Tianguis Condesa (Tuesday Condesa Market) on Calle Pachuca.

A lazy afternoon watching bubbles

Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 4:08 am

In search of grasshopper salt

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We knew we would be able to source good Mezcal (e.g. Amaras Espadin) in California. But we were also certain that there would be no easy access to grasshopper salt. We were lucky to be living right opposite, Tlapaleria Gastronomica in Roma neighborhood, that sold artisanal food products made in Mexico. And what respectable gourmet shop in Mexico City won’t have grasshopper salt amongst its wares!

Tlapaleria Gastronomica, a gastronomic hardware show in Roma, right next door to El Parnita.

Various varieties of Mexican chili in oil.

More combinations of various chillies.

Finally, chapulin (grasshopper) salt.

Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 1:53 am

View of a rooftop

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Following murals are from rooftop of Museo Del Juguete Antiguo. This was a bit of a pleasant surprise, no one had really mentioned that the local artists had adopted the rooftop. We just noticed someone walking up, above the topmost floor of the museum, followed them and found the collection.

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Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 1:34 am

Dulceria de Celaya in Mexico City

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Dulceria de Celaya, founded in 1874, is a traditional sweet shop in Centro Historico district.

Fried and glistening with syrup.

Various sweetened fruits. Reminded me of “Petha” from Agra, the translucent sweet candy made from a variety of white pumpkin. The pumpkin is soaked in chemical lime before cooking in syrup. Sounds strange when described but tastes like Pâte de fruit.


Almond milk and coconut concoction and guava Pâte de fruit.

Almond and coconut pâte de fruit, in a sugar cooked lime.

Written by locomotoring

April 11, 2016 at 6:17 am

Best steak at Mercado de Medellin

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Los Canarios at Mercado de Medellin was a recommendation from New York Times from “36 Hours in Mexico City”. Since 1968, Los Canarios has been serving grilled meats, like sliced filet mignon at price of a plate of taco!

Medellin is a vibrant colorful non-touristy marketplace with a neighborhood vibe.

Tasty black beans.

Steak with cactus and onions.

Trio of stunning salsas.

Backdrop of sizzling meats and chopping action.

Written by locomotoring

April 11, 2016 at 5:41 am

El Cardenal in Centro Histórico

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Be prepared for a 40-60 min wait or even longer. It would have been wonderful to try out all their dishes to find a few personal favorites. In our sampling, the mole sauce turned out to be stunning.

Fresh Oxacan cheese sauteed in butter, wrapped in zucchini blossoms, onions and strips of green chili and baked in banana leaves. Served with tacos. The fresh cheese is lightly salted, crumbly and not unlike taste of Indian paneer. Zucchini blossoms do not have a strong taste but they add prettiness to the dish. Served with an excellent green salsa and fresh made corn tortilla. Overall, a refreshing start of the meal. We had sufficient leftover that we brought back and had for breakfast the next day.

A stunning mole sauce with chicken leg. Mole had several varieties of chili, chocolate, spices, and peanuts. Chicken was cooked separately and mole was ladled on top.

Fall off the bone beef shank cooked in traditional spices. This was tasty but not unusual like the mole. Perhaps my own familiarity with south Asian spices made this particular dish less unusual. Again there was sufficient leftover that we brought back and had as part of breakfast tacos!

Written by locomotoring

January 3, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized