Benu, Corey Lee's "breathtaking" restaurant in the old Hawthorne Lane spot, is the eighth Bay Area joint to crack The Chronicle's solemn four-star ceiling. And rightfully so. Lee's place is, for lack of a better descriptive, rad. In fact, radical might be the best word to use because, as Michael Bauer points out, Lee "is not afraid to mix cultures, always with rousing success." He's also not afraid to use fish sperm. So there's that.
When Benu first opened, Bauer gave it a respectable 3.5 stars. Michelin then rewarded it with two stars. And then, just today, Bauer re-christened the joint with a Nadia Comaneci-esque perfect score. However, don't assume that you need to over-think Lee's food in order to enjoy it. A close friend of ours recently dined at Benu under the duress of a potent medicinal pot cookie (prescribed for health reasons, naturally) and had a superb, transformative experience.
The other restaurants sitting comfortable in the four-star club are Chez Panisse, Coi, Cyrus French Laundry, La Folie, Manresa, and Restaurant at Meadowood.