Chef Corey Lee, who used to be the head chef of French Laundry by Thomas Keller, opened his first restaurant, Benu in August,2010. Benu has received 3 Michelin stars since then.
To be honest, on this trip of 2016 to SF, I wasn’t planning to visit Benu because I just visited French Laundry in Napa Valley on the previous week. I thought visiting two of 3 Michelin-starred restaurants within a week was little too excessive. Nevertheless, with a very strong recommendation by Alice, CEO of Red Blossom Tea Company, she helped me get a table in such a short notice.
Every dish in the tasting menu is a reflection of what Corey Lee’s life has been. If someone asks what cuisine that Benu serves, I would say “American.” Born in Korea, moved to the States in age of 5, he has created American food where all different cuisines- Korean, French, Japanese, French, Chinese. Mexican and many more- coexist. Their difference does not collide each other, rather they bring a beautiful harmony together.
The fact that Benu serves its exclusive tea from Red Blossom Tea Company made me even more excited.
As the first tea pot, I got Vintage pu’erh, 1985. This pu’erh from Yunnan is exclusive to Benu from Red Blossom Tea Company. You cannot buy this tea anywhere but at Benu.
The tasting menu starts with many many of small delicacies. At the end of these small delicacies, I was almost full.
pu’erh, Vintage 1985
the first small delicacy- White Sturgeon Caviar with Winter Melon Porridge and Gold Flakes
one of my favorites : thinly sliced black truffle on top of steamed taro. The mouth melting!
Charcoal Grilled Abalone
small banchans with kimchi
Monkfish liver in seaweed (left) – oyster and pork belly in kimchi (middle) – Mushroom with horseradish (right)
Unagi taco (left)/ bread with ginger infused honey (right)
End of small delicacies
Kwangjuyo dinnerwares (benu collection)
The famous thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger
Chilled Noodles, Celtuce, Shrimp Roe, Tripe, Lovage
I ordered another tea, Aged Orchid, Oolong
lobster coral xiao long bao
Grilled butterfish, shiitake, kohlrabi, charred scallion (left) / Soybean, fermented pepper, black truffle bun (right)
Black Truffle Baozi (steamed bun) with truffle cream
smoked quail, nasturtium, lam kok olive
shark fin soup, crab, Jinhua ham, egg white
Finally, Dessert time !
Dried apricot, osmanthus, almond with dessert wine, Calera (left) / sesame leaf ice cream with a cup of Kombucha
Love this tea cup
This dessert looks like a snow hedgehog!
It was absolutely amazing.
Almond cake covered with lightly creamy meringue and inside is dried apricot, icecream and sponge cake. The smells of lightly touched osmanthus just brings all the flavors together! With a glass of nice gold dessert wine, Calera, 2013, I could not ask for more. This dessert wine tastes almost the same with this almond cake. Chef Lee has reinterpreted this dessert wine into a true dessert foam.
Homemade dried persimmon with walnut was a special treat from Chef Lee. Dried persimmon with walnut is always classic tea snack. In front of the main entrance, there are many persimmons hanging to be dried. In the states, it is not so easy to find the one that tastes like home, but this one does.
I am really glad that I’ve tried Benu in my San Francisco’s trip!
The joyful experience of Benu was even more amplified when they served me with the exclusive puerh, vintage 1985 from Red Blossom Tea Company. I could not have digested without this cup of vintage puerh. As a passionate tea lover, I must say the tea & dish pairing at Benu was very satisfying.
Although the ambiance was a bit casual compared to other 3 starred michelin restaurants, every dish was very unique and creative. No wonder why David Chang, owner chef of momofuku restaurants in NY, said Corey Lee is one of the best chefs on earth.
- Location : 22 Hawthorne Street San Francisco CA 94105
- Phone : +1.415.685.4860
- Price : The tasting menu is currently $248 per person with an additional 20% charge.
- Hours : Tuesday – Saturday
- 6:00pm to 9:00pm