Benu (update), San Francisco, 3/16/19

gates
gates

It’s been 3 years since we’ve been to Benu and I don’t know that I detected a lot of change in the interior, however they said it was completely re-done since we were there.  Classical music is in the background and completely fits the soothing peacefulness of the place.  The well spaced large bare dark wood tables are set with comfortable seats, exquisitely thin stemware and gilded flatware and chargers.  Service is friendly but totally professional, shown with their knowledge of our previous visits and orders.  You feel elegantly at home.  Everyone still has a tasting menu and the food is fantastic.  Pacing is spot on and portion controls allows you to really enjoy the meal with its amazing flavors and textures.  The spectacular visual affects (down to the presentation plates) of the food are not for show, they match the quality.  If you can, get there, you won’t be disappointed.  

from the street
kitchen from the street
entrance
entrance
entrance
entrance
IMG_7886.jpeg
interior
interior
interior
ceiling treatment
ceiling treatment
table set up
table set up
IMG_1298
Menu

 

They also know to start you – with a wet cloth to clean your hands for the first bites to come and with a glass of champagne to go with the ‘small delicacies’ section.

wet cloth to start
wet cloth to start
beginning champagne
beginning champagne
Frankie couldn't reach the champagne
Frankie couldn’t reach the champagne

 

A 1000 year old quail egg  potage was presented with ginger and cabbage juice.  The creamy base with the smooth egg and strong ginger sauce was an excellent bite.

1000 year old quail egg, potage and preserved ginger
1000 year old quail egg, potage and preserved ginger
closer
closer
turned
turned
underneath
underneath
frankie studied the lid
Frankie studied the lid

 

Marinated mussel with glass noodles and fine vegetables had a sweet aftertaste and was a stunning layered presentation.  The really tender mussel was delicious.

Mussel, glass noodle, fine vegetables
Mussel, glass noodle, fine vegetables
closer
closer
Frankie looked it over
Frankie looked it over

 

A jellyfish-wrapped shrimp with kamtae (seaweed) was lightly fried to a perfect doneness.  Another delicious treat.

jellyfish-wrapped shrimp with kamtae
jellyfish-wrapped shrimp with kamtae
closer
closer
turned
turned
wines
wines

 

Soondae (Korean blood sausage) and squid braised in its ink were in a tartlet shell.  The most delicate crisp crust ever supported the blood sausage without a hint of iron.  It was tender and wonderful.

squid and soondae tartlet
squid and soondae tartlet
turned
turned

 

A gingko nut pancake was covered with dried gingko nuts, charcoal grilled river eel and rose wine.  The really thin pancake was to be folded up and eaten like a “taco.”  It had flavors of citrus and marigold.  Another winner.

gingko nut pancake, river eel and rose wine
gingko nut pancake, river eel and rose wine
side view
side view
Frankie and the water
Frankie and the water

 

A bamboo shoot was stuffed with chicken, fungi and wasabi chestnuts.  The thinly sliced bamboo was mild and tender.  It was served warm and felt so silky it seemed to slide down your throat.  Terrific.

bamboo shoot and fungi
bamboo shoot and fungi
little closer
little closer
from the end
from the end

 

A chicken wing was stuffed with abalone and onion blossoms and wrapped in more abalone and then finished on the grill.  The sweet, sticky and smokey sauce blended perfectly with the tender meats.  This was a truly ‘wow’ dish.  They nicely brought you a wet cloth afterwards to clean up.

chicken wing stuffed with abalone, onion blossoms
chicken wing stuffed with abalone, onion blossoms
closer
closer
turned
turned
inside
inside
towel to clean up
towel to clean up

 

“Shark fin” was paired with dungeness crab, Jinhua ham, steamed egg white and black truffles.  The truffles actually had truffle flavor that completely complimented the delicate crab.  It was warm and delicious.

"shark fin" - crab, Jinhua ham, egg white, black truffle
“shark fin” – crab, Jinhua ham, egg white, black truffle
Frankie liked the dish
Frankie liked the dish
closer
closer
another angle
another angle
underneath
underneath

 

Smoked grain bread was served with honey butter.  The dense hot bread was yummy.

bread and butter presentation
bread and butter presentation
liquid
honey to pour on butter
bread
bread
piece
piece
Heewon and Frankie
Great server Hee-won Chai and Frankie

 

Lobster coral xiao bao was served with a sauce of homemade soy sauce and vinegar.  Inside the tender, thin and tasty wrapper was a rich filling and for once the wrapper did not break prematurely and the delicious juices stayed inside until they were in your mouth.  I’d love to find ones as good as these at a dim sum restaurant.  They were delicious and a yum x3.

lobster coral xiao long bao, homemade soy sauce and vinegar
lobster coral xiao long bao, homemade soy sauce and vinegar
closer
closer

 

White sturgeon caviar with hand-pressed sesame oil was served with sesame leaf and daikon.  At the same time there were bowls with sea urchin marinated in fermented crab sauce with thinly sliced celtuce, razor clam jeotgal and Koshihikari rice.    The caviar was very good.  The crab sauce perfectly set off the flavor of the sea urchin.   The razor clams in chili and sesame oil were delicate and great.  The wonderful bowl of short grain rice was perfect to aborb every last bit in each delicious bowl of food.

caviar with hand pressed sesame oil, sesame leaf and daikon
caviar with hand pressed sesame oil, sesame leaf and daikon
caviar
caviar
turned
turned
sea urchin marinated in fermented crab sauce
sea urchin marinated in fermented crab sauce
turned
turned
turned
turned
razor clam jeogal
razor clam jeogal
rice
rice
Friendly server Sarah and Frankie
Friendly server Sarah and Frankie

 

Barbecued quail was first presented whole and then taken back to the kitchen to cut and plate.  The half bird was served with white asparagus and mustard pickle as well as an XO condiment.  A bit of truffle cream was worked into a jus for the slightly pink, totally moist bird, that was delectable.  The asparagus was on the tart side and the XO condiment, made from dried shrimp, overshadowed the bird but they were good on their own.  A lovely steamed bun also came out and was perfect with the bird and the truffle/quail jus.

presentation of quail
presentation of quail
barbecued quail, white asparagus and mustard pickle
barbecued quail, white asparagus and mustard pickle
Frankie offered to help
Frankie offered to help
leg
leg
breast
breast
XO condiment
XO condiment
white asparagus and mustard pickle
white asparagus and mustard pickle
bun and truffle sauce
bun and truffle sauce
bun
bun
turned
turned
inside
inside
sauce
sauce

 

A veal short rib was presented with bowls of chrysanthemum-scallion salad, kohlrabi kkakdugi (kimchi),  pear kimchi (with napa cabbage) and tomato meju (with soy sauce) and lettuces.   The veal rib was grilled on charcoal and seasoned with pine nuts, sesame seed and another seed.  It was so tender the meat just fell off the bones and was totally rich and luscious.  The many types of lettuces presented included mustard frill and dandelions, that I got down from a huge list.  I admit I skipped most of the lettuces because I didn’t want to dilute the amazing flavor of the meat and condiments.  It was a great combination of flavors.

Veal short rib. chrysanthemum-scallion salad, kohlrabi kkakdugi, pear kimchi, tomato meju and lettuces
Veal short rib. chrysanthemum-scallion salad, kohlrabi kkakdugi, pear kimchi, tomato meju and lettuces
short rib meat
short rib meat
tomato meju
tomato meju
pear kimchi
pear kimchi
kohlrabi kkakdugi
kohlrabi kkakdugi
chrysanthemum-scallion salad
chrysanthemum-scallion salad
lettuces
lettuces
rib meat
rib meat
closer
closer

 

The palate cleanser was omija and olive oil sorbet.   Omija flavor is from the magnolia berry and only found on a few vines.  The name means 5 flavor berry and is supposed to evoke tastes of salt, pungency, sweet, sour and bitter.  It was cool and smooth and a beautiful color that was well highlighted in the serving bowl.  It was good.

omija and olive oil
omija and olive oil
Frankie posed with some art
Frankie posed with some art

 

Milk pudding had a sauce of caramel with a bit of sea salt and smoked peat.  It was a totally smooth pudding with a divine caramel that was rich and velvety on the the tongue.  An exquisite dish.

milk pudding
milk pudding
closer
closer
inside
inside
thick caramel
thick caramel

 

Next were some gingko cookies and rice cakes stuffed with dried persimmons and pinenuts.  Both nice.

ginko cookies and
gingko cookies and rice cakes stuffed with dried persimmons
Frankie wanted some
Frankie wanted some
inside
inside

 

Toasted marshmallows were a ribbon like piece that tasted just like marshmallows roasted over a fire (except they weren’t burnt like mine usually are). Quite good.

toasted marshmallow
toasted marshmallow
closer
closer
Frankie looked for the campfire
Frankie looked for the campfire

 

Lastly was a mint infustion rice tea that was a fine way to finish an outstanding meal.

soup
soup
kitchen action
kitchen action
through the outside window
through the front window as we leave
Chef and Frankie
Chef Corey Lee and Frankie

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