There are six Michelin Three-Star restaurants in the Bay Area with three – Saison, Benu, and Quince – in San Francisco. Needless to say, reservation at these restaurants can be difficult. We were lucky to actually manage one at Benu last evening with only a five-week in-advance booking (neither Saison and Quince had availability thus making the decision easy).
Benu offers prix-fixe Asian-inspired cuisine and its offerings exceeded all of our expectations. It was truly an extraordinary evening of creative culinary delights.
We also did the (shared) beverage pairings and enjoyed sake, Riesling, Grüner, beer, Madeira, Pinot Noir, and Côte-Rôtie throughout the evening but for the life of me, I can’t remember what was served with what!
The evening started with “small delicacies” and there were many of them! Each was single-bite size yet Benu managed to introduce so many fabulous and complementary flavors within that one bite – we felt like a symphony was playing on our palates with each course!
First delicacy was a chicken “jelly,” mountain caviar
It was followed by tuna “marrow” but none of us took a picture! 😉
Third delicacy was ankimo (monk fish liver), crispy bulgur wheat, ikura (salmon roe)
Fourth delicacy was dumpling with pork belly topped with an oyster
Fifth delicacy was Korean blood sausage wrapped in ika (squid) “sushi” (didn’t know blood sausage could taste this good!)
Sixth delicacy was abalone and crispy abalone “liver”
Last (seventh) delicacy was egg white custard, truffle, faux shark fin
Whole-grain bread fresh from the oven served with tangerine-infused honey butter was followed – finally – by the first of our menu items! Wasn’t sure I was hungry at all by this time… but we did persevere! 🙂
Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger – it wasn’t quite 1,000 years but the egg did take six weeks to make
Foie gras xiao long bao with house made soy sauce
Uni (sea urchin) marinated in fermented crab sauce served with green onion Koshi Hikari short-grain rice
Crispy frog’s leg, lettuce, vegetable sweet and sour (I skipped this due to my issue with frogs… don’t ask!)
Steamed bass, fish maw, black moss
Smoked quail (we were told that Benu works with a farm that has been raising these quails for the past 40 years, breeding them for a larger size, and picking the docile ones for their sweeter meats … )
Served along with spring bamboo shoot
Warm mantou (Chinese steamed bun) with truffle cream
Sea of Okhotsk sea cucumber (I never liked sea cucumber until tonight!) stuffed with lobster
Beef rib steak with assorted condiments – kimchi radishes, marinated fern with shaved cashew (sure wouldn’t want to be that sous chef shaving those wee cashews, one at a time?), and soy bean paste (the leftover from its house made soy sauce that takes 9-12 weeks – in the little celadon jar)
Leafy crudités for dipping in the soy bean paste
Consommé, shiitake mushroom, vegetables
Omija (five-flavor berry – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), olive oil
Fuji apple, bellflower root, acorn and chocolate (another miss on the photography!) rounded out our scrumptious dinner!
I recommend putting a Benu dinner on your bucket list – it IS that good!