It is if you're David Chang. See, in a recent Wall Street Journal piece, the noted chef opined that Benu, SoMa's modern restaurant of well-executed divinity, could very well be the next El Bulli. Or Jack's Bistro. Or Roy's. (Ha! Kidding. Unless coconut shrimp still amuses your bouche, no self-respecting artisan mafia member likes Roy's. Perish the thought.) Wall Street Journal reports:
Benu, a year-old San Francisco effort from Thomas Keller's former right-hand man Corey Lee (he was chef du cuisine at the French Laundry), has captured the imaginations of his fellow chefs.
"Benu really is the best restaurant in America," said chef David Chang.
This, of course, is a stunning turnaround from the days of Chang's fig-on-a-plate tirade and verbal penis measuring contests with Anthony Bourdain.
But why is Benu so Benu? For starters, using quiet science to infuse huge quantities of butter into food. Check it:
The culinary world is excited about Mr. Lee's concept because he is one of the first chefs outside of Asia to marry modernist and Asian styles. He works with food scientists to develop new cooking techniques, enlisting a hydrocolloid manufacturer, for example, to identify compounds that let him infuse huge quantities of butter into mashed potatoes. Born in Korea, Mr. Lee is a frequent traveler to Asia—he's been eight times in the last two years. He researches Asian ingredients, in which there is "a huge range in quality," to find the best vinegars, soy sauces and dried seafood. With these items, he makes things like seafood stock from dried scallops and produces tofu from both soy and corn.
If you want to score a reservation at Benu, visit benusf (one minor yet ideal change the restaurant could make would be a new website) or call 415-685-4860. Or, just walk in and see if they have a table open right when the doors open. Most esteemed places usually do early in the early evening Monday - Thursday. (It helps, though, if you're a party of one or two.)