Restaurant: benu (Tasting Menu – Part 3) Cuisine: New American/Euro-Asian/Pacific Northwest Last visited: May 7, 2013 Location: San Francisco, CA (Financial District) Address: 22 Hawthorne Ln (at Howard St) Phone: (415) 685-4860 Transit: Howard St & New Montgomery St Price Range: $50+ 1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try! Food: 5 Service: 5 Ambiance: 3.5 Overall: 4.5 Additional comments: Chef/Owner Corey Lee James Beard Award winning chef 2 Michelin [...]
If you are familiar with Chinese cuisine, or even Asian cuisine, meaning you grew up eating food from these cultures, you will experience and relate to benu’s Tasting Menu differently. For me it was personal and at times nostalgic and even challenging. It started off with a modern play on Chinese appetizers and childhood snacks which I found the most fun.
Chef Lee worked under Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry for 8 years and was chef de cuisine for the latter half. Being classically trained in French cooking, his 2 Michelin Star restaurant benu is an eclectic and creative mix of Asian inspired Californian cuisine expertly executed with French, Asian and New American techniques.
It is known as the first Moroccan restaurant to receive a Michelin Star, I wouldn’t celebrate it as that. Some of the Tasting Menu courses seemed New American and I was more intrigued with Mourad’s creativity and techniques than I was with his “New Moroccan” flavours. Aziza is ahead of the game and almost before its time.
It received James Beard Award nominations for the restaurant, Chef Mourad, and his Pastry Chef Melissa Chou. The restaurant and team is still on the rise and it’s a strong collaboration. The dessert menu should not be missed and Melissa’s talent is contributing to Aziza’s 1-Michelin Star rating.
The Tasting Menu was riskier and more exciting than the a la carte menu, and without trying the Tasting Menu I would have missed out. It wouldn’t have been bad, but I wouldn’t have been surprised and my dining experience would not have reached full potential. The flavours of Morocco were not always obvious, but the food still good.
Mourad’s personality came out in the Tasting Menu. His creativity is best expressed in his Tasting Menu and I wasn’t expecting it to get as intense as it did. He is a real chef who is passionate about cooking and the menu was progressive, artistic, and innovative to Moroccan cuisine.
There are no short cuts here. Their passion to do something different and creative may come across as “fusion” or “Western”, but there is a lot of thought and professional execution going into their recipes, quality of ingredients and end presentation. The dinner menu offers more creativity.