Food is a Luxury @ Benu, San Francisco

I made my way to Benu a few days after they were awarded the first three-star Michelin in San Francisco along with Saison. Bravo, Benu and to Chef Corey Lee's team! It's a big deal, especially when for the past couple of years only The French Laundry and The Meadowood both up in the wine country have been the only restaurants that were able to attain the highest Michelin distinction, the elusive three-star, in the Bay Area.

Rightfully so, it is rare to find a prix-fix dining experience that makes a big splash at the very end of the meal and consistently strives to make every dish better than the one before. Dining at Benu is like attending a piano recital. With its subdued contemporary Japanese influenced interiors, I was not intimidated by the environment sans the loud group in the private dining hall. Akin to staccato notes, the entire meal was well-orchestrated with ample breathing space in between. My dining buddies and I were also amused with the small serving platters that a non-restauranteur can find only if hunting for Asian trinkets.
Oyster with kimchi on top of what could be my grandma's Chinese wooden stool but miniature.
I went through the melodic recital of seafood, including the lobster coral xaio long bao, jellyfish-wrapped shrimp, scallop with jujube or Chinese dates, and oyster with kimchi, while stopping in between for the flavorful truffled steamed bun. The best was saved for the last climatic chord in the form of a fresh and dried yuba, almonds and white chocolate. My seatmates- one who is a chef and the other a food blogger- muffled several oohs and aahs just like what you'd expect at a recital finale. It might not win the 'best in presentation' award but it is one of the most unique desserts I've tasted. Ever.  
The mind blowing finale. Fresh and dried yuba, almond and white chocolate.
Benu is excellent for those looking for an Asian flair to their fine-dining experience. The menu is dominated with seafood and some meats, but they customized for vegetarian diners. Must come for the yuba dessert! 

Peeled persimmons hang outside the waiting area. At first I thought they were small pumpkins.

Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage and ginger. Reminded me of the century eggs for appetizer during Chinese banquets that I usually don't want to share with other guests in the round table :P
From the pine- risotto inspired
Haven't had gingko nuts in ages.
Freshly baked bread.
Butter with honey (?). I'm wondering how they molded the butter into this shape.
Anchovy, lily bulb, peanuts. Crunch and salty combined.

The much awaited smoked eel (cos I love eel!) with pumpkin, crosnes and sunflower. The eel was a bit tough for me since I'm used to eating unagi at sushi restaurants.
Benu used to have a popular foie gras xiao long bao, but since it is now ban in the Bay, lobster will have to suffice.
Jelly-fish wrapped shrimp, caviar and horseradish. This is the Asian version of this red prawn from Barcelona's Lasarte.
Wild bamboo fungi, eggplant and gai choy

Butterfish delicately prepared with cucumber, sesame and charred scallions

Interlude: truffled steamed bun to die for. I wish someone would start selling this!
Roast quail, chard, chestnut, aged tangerine peel. Would have wanted the meat to be more tender.
Lovely, meticulous presentation right here. Scallops with jujube, burdock, which is a root-based plant, and oyster leaf.
"Shark fin soup" with dungeness crab, shellfish custard
The "shark fin soup" with jus. Don't worry, this is fake shark's fin. I can't remember the last time I had a real one.
Palette cleanser green apple sorbet with yuzu. Perfect for my no dairy diet.
Petit fours: crunchy seaweed as we waited for our bill.
Munching on butter cookies as I reminisced the heavenly yuba dessert.

Benu on Urbanspoon

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