I had a meal of epic proportions at uber fine-dining restaurant Benu ("I see rich people," I texted my pal AB as I waited for her to arrive), which took over Hawthorne Lane's spot in SoMa in just the past year. It was AB in fact who clued me in to Benu's worth—she had just finished writing up a piece on the incredibly gifted sommelier Yoon Ha. So, since I owed her a meal in return for the one she'd sported me at Coi ... here we were.
And what a mind-blowing meal we had, accompanied by some of the most inspired and creative wine (and sake). I told AB, "Let's become regulars." That's saying a lot, considering the pricetag on this place. But heck, Yoon Ha knows his sh*t and so does Chef Corey Lee (whose spent time in some of the most illustrious kitchens including The French Laundry). Koreans rock. Yes they do. Woooo.
Benu's cherry blossom granita with yogurt, cucumber and pistachio crumble ... a refreshing balance of tangy and tart with a bit of crunch and salt thrown in.
Abalone grenobloise with cauliflower, parsley and capers ... dusted and fried in panko, the shellfish was light and tender in consistency, and mild in flavor. The accompaniments brought the pop to the dish.
Creamy, sinful and oh-so-good foie gras steamed in sake, with the tiniest brunoise of peach, accompanied by kohlrabi, perked up by the bite of perilla sprigs, with a side of buttery brioche toast.
From the oak-acorn strozzapreti, Iberico ham, Himalayan truffle ... a lovely earthy, savory pasta.
This risotto was the dish that almost brought AB to tears—of joy, that is ... as I'm Korean (and we just don't do that kind of thing in public ... tiger moms don't condone such displays of emotion after all), I did not follow suit. However, that's not to say I didn't feel exactly as she did. The creaminess of the rice, flavored with corn and black truffle and given a generous helping of the most luscious sea urchin, which melted like butter on our tongues, brought us to our proverbial knees. We scraped the plate clean.
Duck with crisp-tender baby bok choy and jicama cubes. A really nice combo with a perfect sear on the medium-rare bird.
Andante Dairy cheese, compliments of another Korean ... oh so pretty and precious, really lovely stuff.
Almond brioche, apricot, buttercream, osmanthus ... A gorgeous-looking plate and equally gorgeous in flavor. The fragrant osmanthus flower is native to China and often used to infuse teas.
After copious amounts of wine and food, we were served a selection of scrummy truffles to go with our tea and coffee.
Phew. I gotta say, I'm beyond impressed. Benu really brought it. In spades.