If you didn’t make a reservation for just-opened Benu ages ago, you’re in for a long wait. Chef Corey Lee was previously chef de cuisine at the French Laundry, and anticipation has been running high for his new restaurant—as high as his ambitions. The place even looks like an (accessible) urban temple of cuisine. “Austere and elegant” is how CarrieWas218 described it, and others note the carpeting that preserves a hush throughout. But service is attentive and personable as well as professional.

Those who ordered à la carte were thrilled with their meals. It’s well worth pre-ordering the poularde en vessie (young hen cooked in a pig’s bladder), says sf_duke. “All I can say is WOW!!! The texture was absolutely delightful with wonderful but delicate flavors.” Carnaroli risotto involves uni, corn, and black truffle, all of which work wonderfully with the rice.

The deeply flavored lobster bouillon with béarnaise custard and tarragon is spectacular, says Kmanlove, with a few pieces of perfectly cooked lobster. Lamb chops, marinated for a day in citrus and apple and then sautéed, are extraordinary. And a standout dessert is blackberries combined with cream, Douglas fir meringue, and a crumble made with buckwheat and candy cap mushrooms. “Many times desserts at a place like this go over the edge of creativity and just aren’t satisfying,” comments Kmanlove. “This was both creative and delicious.”

But the tasting menu disappointed CarrieWas218, who was looking for a near-religious experience. Still, she says it was “memorable for its execution and precision.” Highlight: shark’s fin soup of Dungeness crab, cabbage, Jinhua ham, and black truffle custard. “We were delving into depths of umami and complexity, expanded with the elegance of the truffle custard.” Lowlight: Sea urchin, potato purée, corn, celery. “After the strong and rich flavors of the soup, I was frankly shocked at the mediocrity of the sea urchin.” In the end, it left her cold. “Not transcendent, too technical, and ultimately no soul.”

Benu [SOMA]
22 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco

Discuss: Benu reports?

See more articles