Benu, San Francisco, 3/10/16

Exterior
Exterior

We were last here in 2011 and I believe this medium sized place has gotten even better.  Corey Lee has further refined his product and was justifiably awarded his third Michelin star in Oct. 2014.  Excellent service warms the otherwise stark room to make the diners visit seem special. Little things like remembering when we were last there and preferences also personalize your experience. They serve only a tasting menu and offer beverage pairings if you desire. We opted to order our own bottles of white and red to mix and match as needed. It was an excellent dinner and one that I look forward to having again in the future.  Put this place on your to-do list if you can!  

Entry
Entry
kitchen
kitchen
Ceiling treatment
Ceiling treatment
interior
interior
Interior
Interior
Table set up
Table set up
menu
menu
Frankie thouth the heavy brass chargers were set out for her
Frankie thouth the heavy brass chargers were set out for her

 

Everyone starts with a series of ‘small delicacies’ that go way beyond the usual amuse bouche. All were delicious but several were truly extraordinary.  The beginning caviar was totally delicious, accented with crunchy bits of onion and a creamy layer underneath. The tuna marrow was a bit tart, probably due to the 5 year old tangerine but accented with something like soy sauce and beef stock to form a gelatinous fluid with a divinely intense taste. The hen egg had a bit of something reminiscent of barbecue sauce underneath that lent a very savoriness to that bite. The asparagus was wonderful, the uni left a  marvelous aftertaste, the abalone was delicious, the ‘hay thing’ incredibly tasty, the mushroom/lamb was very good, the oyster incredible and the eel taco fun to eat.  In retrospect I really couldn’t single any of them – it was all just the most wonderful set of tastes and textures and images.

wine
wine
White sturgeon caviar with porridge and chicken cream
White sturgeon caviar with porridge and chicken cream
tuna marrow with aged tangerine
tuna marrow with aged tangerine
unlaid hen egg with bacon
unlaid hen egg with bacon
grilled asparagus in XO sauce
grilled asparagus in XO sauce
Sea urchin in tofu wrapper
Sea urchin in tofu wrapper
as served
as served
abalone
abalone
Frankie got a drink off the condensation of the beaker
Frankie got a drink off the condensation of the water beaker
"hay thing"
“hay thing”
Mushroom and lamb
Mushroom and lamb
Oyster
Oyster
eel taco
eel taco
another view
another view

 

Then when you thought it couldn’t get better they brought out the warm thick slices of bread with marvelous butter and honey. I could have finished the meal there!

Frankie watched over the honey for the butter
Frankie watched over the honey for the butter
warm bread and butter with honey
warm bread and butter with honey
bread with honey butter
bread with honey butter

 

Finally the meal starts with a quail egg and ginger that was truly lovely. The richness of the dish made you savor every bite.

next course, sauce added
next course, sauce added
Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger
Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger

 

Next were soup dumplings, always a favorite of mine at dim sum and these didn’t disappoint. They had a perfect texture to the wrapper with a wonderful morsel inside and a fun dipping sauce – another winner.

Lobster coral xiao long bao
Lobster coral xiao long bao

 

The shrimp noodles were very nice with a range of textures and tastes to delight your palate.

Shrimp roe noodles, lettuce, roasted hen jus
Shrimp roe noodles, lettuce, roasted hen jus
red wine
red wine
Frankie finished off the butter
Frankie finished off the butter

 

The bamboo shoot was something new for me – to have a big chunk of it as the main event- and it was quite nice. It was served with a truffle bun that was too doughy for my husband but I devoured it when spread with the strongly flavored truffle butter. I’m not sure why they were served together but I really liked them both.

bamboo shoot, spring garlic, frmented pepper, black truffle bun
bamboo shoot, spring garlic, frmented pepper, black truffle bun
bamboo shoot, spring garlic, fermented pepper
bamboo shoot, spring garlic, fermented pepper
black truffle bun and truffle butter
black truffle bun and truffle butter
Frankie inhaled the truffle aroma
Frankie inhaled the truffle aroma

 

Next was the quail which was quite nice.

quail, celtuce, lily bulb, wood ear
quail, celtuce, lily bulb, wood ear
Frankie explored in the bathroom
Frankie explored in the bathroom

 

The beef was perfectly tender and covered with a highly reduced sauce. It was lovely.

beef braised in pear, black trumpet, mustard, charred scallion
beef braised in pear, black trumpet, mustard, charred scallion

 

The faux shark fin reminded me of crabmeat with overtones of chicken for a fun effect.

serving dish for next course
serving dish for next course
"Shark fin", crab, Jinjua ham, egg white
“Shark fin”, crab, Jinjua ham, egg white
Frankie approved
Frankie approved

 

tea options
tea options
to drink
to drink
Frankie wondered where her bowl was?
Frankie wondered where her bowl was

 

The sesame leaf ice cream was served with a candied kumquat that added a nice taste and texture contrast. Sesame leaf is like mint more than sesame seed in taste and the leaves were mixed with sugar and flour to make the crumbles that were underneath the ice cream. Wonderful!

sesame leaf ice cream
sesame leaf ice cream

 

Finally was the apricot and almond meringue and the presentation was enough to blow you away. The many tiny peaks of meringue piped onto each dish was enough to make me tired and not want to eat it but just look at it. But inside was a bunch of fun tastes that were worthy of the stunning exterior.

from above
from above
dried apricot, osmanthus, almond
dried apricot, osmanthus, almond
inside
inside
Frankie said yum!
Frankie said yum!

 

The dried persimmons that were some of the final sweets were what you see swinging above the entry way. Apparently birds, etc. don’t bother them and so they are hung there until properly aged – here I thought it was just decorations. Last but not least was a dark chocolate truffle mousse and I can’t really remember much about it but I’m sure it totally consumed.

Apple, dried persimmon and walnut
Apple, dried persimmon and walnut
dark chocolate and truffle mousse
dark chocolate and truffle mousse
Lisa, our wonderful waitress
Lisa, our wonderful waitress
kitchen
kitchen
kitchen
kitchen
drying persimmons
drying persimmons
Frankie danced to their LP's playing
Frankie danced to their LP’s playing

 

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