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KelsEats’ Top 10 Dishes of 2010 – #3

3) Monkfish Liver Torchon, Benu

You know those rare moments where every element in a dish brings out nuances of the main component that would otherwise go unnoticed? You know those even rarer moments when the wine also brings out a flavor in the dish that would be lost without it? Where the primary component, the set, and the wine form a culinary trifecta? That was my experience with this dish. The battle that plays out in your mouth between salty and sweet, rich and refreshing, and creamy and crisp is epic and so compelling that after a 15 course tasting menu, I went back the next night to order that same dish a la carte. In a single bite I was transformed from someone who had never even heard of monkfish liver, to a monkfish liver fanatic with uncontrollable cravings. To read more about that dinner, check out my full account of my night at Benu.

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Benu Part 2: The Chefs Tasting Menu is Kind of a Big Deal

[rating: 5]

I really wasn’t expecting much the first time I walked into Benu for dinner. I mean, really what would there be to expect? Sure Corey Lee spent eight years at the French Laundry, four of which were spent as chef de cuisine, and yeah maybe he won a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year. But I guess I’m just not really impressed by, you know, things like experience and public recognition. And c’mon, only fifteen courses on the tasting menu? I’m sorry but if there aren’t at least 19 courses, I’m generally not satisfied...Continue Reading

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Benu Part 1: Creating its Own Identity in San Francisco Fine Dining

When asking fellow foodies how they would describe the dining experience at Benu, a friend of mine, well-versed in the art of fine dining, described it simply as, “The Asian Laundry.” However, after dining there on several occasions, I found this label to be a bit unfair as I wasn’t drawing parallels, but rather, I was noticing the glaring differences: the atmosphere and table settings at Benu are stark and more austere than the welcoming, cottage feel of the Laundry; the tasting menu is made of 15 courses which express Chef Lee’s Korean heritage, rather than 9 courses that communicate the restaurant’s sense of place; a feeling of grandeur is created by openly displaying Benu’s impressive, imposing kitchen, versus the quaint mystery hidden behind the closed doors at the Laundry...Continue Reading

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