Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Mike and Hali spent a Saturday evening having dinner at Benu in San Francisco. This is one of the restaurants that the New York Times recently deemed worthy of buying an airplane ticket to visit.

Benu is also one of the practitioners of the "small plate" culinary theory: many courses consisting of only a few bites each and each offering meant to create a different and unique sensory experience. Grant Achatz, of Alinea Restaurant in Chicago set forth the small plate rationale on a recent edition of NPR's Fresh Air: the taste of any individual dish is subject to the law of diminishing returns, by the third or fourth bite one's appreciation of any particular food item has gone substantially downhill.

So, we see the menu above.

Mike's theory: in order to truly appreciate this kind of cuisine one needs to have some talented taste buds. To be honest, most of the plates went by in a blur and cannot be recalled. As Michael Bauer said in the Chronicle: "As at the French Laundry, portions are small, and if you get absorbed in conversation the intricacies of what's on the plate will pass you by." Luckily Mike kept the menu.

Mike had two very nice glasses of wine: a sparkling wine from Roederer (Evening Land) and a Pinot Noir from Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon.

And as for Benu itself? Very good! But, both Hali and Mike found the atmosphere slightly austere. Both preferred last year's experience at Cyrus.


Diane said...

Sounds very adventurous! Not sure but, Cyrus sounds a little more to my liking. A thousand year old quail egg might scare some folks away. ;-)

Mike Mundy said...

Actually, I'm somehow not sure about that quail egg myself. Tasted like a regular egg to me.

I must say, everyone at Benu was quite friendly . . . we visited the kitchen afterwards, were introduced to the staff and shook hands with the chef. Nice!

Diane said...

Cool that you were able to visit the kitchen of Benu! I must say, I took a peek at their website and every dish looked like a piece of art. Very beautiful.

Diane said...

Perhaps this is what you had?

Mike Mundy said...


The "thousand year old quail egg" is probably some sort of culinary pun that I don't get.