Benu (San Francisco, CA)

22 Hawthorne Ln
San Francisco, CA 94105
Dining date: 8/4/22


My first and only visit to Benu was just after it opened, ten years ago. Much has changed in those years as the restaurant has received recognition from all over the world, holding three Michelin stars since 2015. It is generally  regarded as one of the city’s top fine dining establishments with a price that expects as much. At a current price of $350 ($456 with service charge + tax), paid upfront, it’s one of the most expensive restaurants in the country.

Benu’s success has helped Corey Lee open up other restaurants in the city including Monsieur Benjamin (2014), the now-closed In Situ (2016), and San Ho Won at the end of 2021.

century quail egg


mussels with glass noodles


crab with fermented crab


mackerel roll sushi


shrimp with jellyfish


tofu flower


acorn pancake iberico ham and black truffle


xiao long bao homemade soy sauce and vinegar


short grain rice seasoned with green onion, whole abalone roasted in butter, rock seaweed


charcoal noodles with sauteed black bean sauce giant squid, perilla, fresh and dried caviar


mulhwe with iced water kimchi broth cured sea bream, sea urchin, oysters radish, sesame leaf, seaweeds


roast turbot glazed in spicy fermented pepper sauce braised chrysanthemum and radish, dried garlic flowers


barbecued quail broccoli xo sauce, black truffle


charcoal-grilled beef rib braised with beet and pear steamed mountain yam, minari


omija and olive oil


milk pudding


salt, smoke, peat


pine needle sikhye


The meal at Benu was a very strong one, although it fell short of extremely high expectations. Of the opening dishes, the fried shrimp was my favorite. It was perfectly fried, with great balance between crispy coating and supple shrimp, accented by flavors of the sea. Speaking of flavors of the sea, the whole abalone and rice dish was another strong one. Tender butter-basted abalone was served alongside a deep, rich sauce made of its liver and a perfect bowl of rice. The quail was another highlight, cooked just right and paired with steamed black truffle buns.

However at its price point, it’s hard to say that I would return anytime soon. The cooking and service were at a very high level but there were few “wow” moments; there is just so much else to eat in this city.

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