SF: Benu (Aug. 2013)
Executive Chef: Corey Lee
Date: August 17, 2013
I’m so glad it was my mom’s birthday late in the summer and we were able to try Benu! It was really nice of her to take the family out and I ended up loving the meal. I’ve never been to The French Laundry before, but knew of Chef Corey Lee by reputation from all the praise he received during his time as the Chef de Cuisine at the Laundry. Seems all the praise well-merited.
So delicious. It has all the creamy, earthiness of preserved quail egg, but with an additional spicy sweetness from the ginger and an extra lightness from the foam and potage! I would’ve guessed it was an oyster if I hadn’t already looked at the menu.
Ah, the real oyster. What stood out for me in this dish was the crispy kimchi. You have the richness of the oyster and pork belly creating this heaven in your mouth but the crunchy and tangy kimchi crisp just cuts through any richness and balances it out wonderfully. The contrast in texture adds even more extra intrigue and I found myself asking for more.
This bread is amazing. It has all the flavors of a wheaty earthy healthy bread, but such a wonderful warm fluffiness to the inside while maintaining a crispy baguette-ish exterior. The honey butter was an extra delight.
This dish was super southeast asian. It was salty, tangy, and ever so slightly sweet, with an overwhelming fishiness that I’ve come to love. But, there’s a surprise. Inside this flavor bomb is potato salad! The creamy mellowness of the potato really balanced out the extreme flavors of the anchovies and was an exciting revelation.
The textures of this dish was very interesting, but I wasn’t a big fan of the flavors. Nothing really stood out, but the crunchy buckwheat puffs and salmon roe were just fun to eat and feel them burst asunder as you masticate.
This dish had a very interesting concept, although I wish it was a bit less greasy. The eel was wrapped inside the Feuille de Brick, which I asked the waitress about but got a complicated answer that I can’t recall. It’s basically a housemade special wrapping material that’s tasty but the deep frying left it a bit greasier than I liked, especially since eel is already an oily fish.
A solid palate cleanser to freshen the taste buds. The bright sour green apple was a great late summer choice.
To me, this was the most brilliant of all the dishes. There was a cracker made with squid ink, (and I think had squid infused into it?) bits of squid on top, and jalapeno and herbs. I thought it was going to be stir fried dish from the sound of it, but this dish was just so innovative. The cracker was full of seafood flavor, and the bits of squid on top were extremely tender – not chewy like bad squid can be. The bright herbs and spicy peppers brought together this fishy dish and brightened it up a lot. Every bight was just very exciting.
A bit of a downer compared to the previous course, but solid. The flavors in this dish were much more subtle, and I wonder if the experience would be better served by switching the order of this course and its precursor.
This dish is much hyped, but for good reason. It is frickin delicious. The texture of the dumpling is perfect, and the insides are divine. There is a very intensely lobster but light broth inside, and the lobster meat inside was just steeped with fresh gingery salty flavors.
I didn’t get what the lentil miso was or how it worked with the dish…this one had me scratching my head a bit. I’m guessing it’s some sort of play on headcheese, which costs like a buck at the local vietnamese sandwich shop, so….yeah idk. Didn’t really elevate or enhance the traditional flavors of the headcheese.
This dish had a well cooked fish but I thought the haiga rice, scallions, and crispy mushroom were much more interesting. They added this crispy oily but herbal flavor to the dish that really complemented the fish well.
My teeth involuntarily stopped chewing after the very first bite as I had to pause and my lips peeled into a grin. I thought I had died. This quail was juicy and tender like none other I’ve had before…as if pork belly and filet mignon had a baby. The salty sweet sauce was further addicting and I literally licked my plate clean. No shame, it was crazy good.
Course 13: Beef Braised in Pear Juice and Charcoal-Grilled Lily Bulb, Sunflower, Fermented Pepper
Beef and pear just screams Korean to me and I love the combination. The beef was really tender, although to be honest my mind was still obsessing over the tastegasm that was the quail dish.
Jinhua ham is supposed to be really famous but I didn’t care too much for this transition to dessert.
This sherbert is one of the best desserts I’ve had. It was so light but yet creamy, refreshing and sweet with the slightest bit of tang, and just everything you’d want to end a meal with.
The insides of the truffle revealed a sweet caramelly cognac inside. There’s even good leaf, which made for exquisite (but wasteful) presentation. The dish was rich, but not too much, and I again had to devour every last bite.
The chocolates were all amazing. Most everything about Benu is amazing. If you have a chance to go, I highly recommend it.