Black and white birthday cake – Benu

Black and white birthday cake Benu

Checkerboard cake topped with sugary icing and gold leaf. Complimentary
Benu, San Francisco

This was SO sweet! I hadn’t mentioned that this was my birthday dinner when I made the dinner reservation, but I mentioned it on the side at the beginning of the meal when we handed them our Dom Perignon. Our server obviously took note and brought this birthday surprise at the end of the meal. It came in this large black music box with blue lights on the side (I wish I had taken a photo of it). You turned the handle and it played “Happy Birthday”. I really wasn’t sure what it was, but Silverfox suggested that there was probably something inside so we lifted the lid and this cake was underneath. SO cute! Of course it tasted delicious, but birthday cakes always taste the best!

Black and white birthday cake Benu

Acorn-cranberry custard – Benu

Acorn-cranberry custard Benu

With banana ice cream. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

This dessert was great to look at, but it didn’t do it for me. Maybe it was too intricate for me, but I didn’t get much enjoyment from eating it. The ribbon of custard was impressive. It had a cranberry layer and a cranberry layer. The bright, shiny cranberries were also beautiful on the plate. The banana ice cream had a great punch of flavor, but I didn’t like the texture of it. All the components didn’t quite work together. They were too disparate.

Acorn-cranberry custard Benu
Coffee service Benu

Coffee service. $5
I’m still on the fence regarding their coffee service-ware. They appeared too clunky compared to all the other beautiful dishes during the meal.

Coffee Benu

Grapefruit and espelette dessert – Benu

Grapefruit and espelette dessert Benu

With white chocolate. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

This was a very fun dessert! I loved the flavor combination and textures. The grapefruit was fresh, the white chocolate sweet, and the espelette peppers nice and spicy. You can see a red dollop of the espelette on top, but there was also a layer of it on the very bottom. A nice surprise! I don’t know if you could call this an ice cream. It looked like it was frozen with liquid nitrogen or something, resulting in an airy crystallized texture. Like I said, very fun!

Grapefruit and espelette dessert Benu

Faux shark’s fin soup – Benu

Faux shark's fin soup Benu

With dungeness crab, Jinhua ham, and black truffle custard. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

I liked this. A bit on the tasty side (from the black truffle custard), but still flavorful. I don’t know what all the fuss is about shark’s fin (or faux shark’s fin in this case). It doesn’t taste like anything – it just has a cartilaginous texture. The Jinhua ham broth was rich and the dungeness crab helped to lighten it up. Good dish, but not my favorite.

Faux shark's fin soup Benu

7×7 Magazine’s The Big Eat San Francisco: 100 Things to Eat + Drink Before You Die – 2012

Chicken velvet – Benu

Project 365: Day 108

Omg, the weather is still SO warm, sunny, and perfect. I went to the gym this morning, got my hair cut, picked up some Euros from the bank, caught up with DVR, and now just sitting on my balcony to blog (and pay bills, ew). It’s been a perfect day! I think I’ll go for a light run before dinner. It’s days like this when I feel so blessed and happy to be where I’m at in life. I do miss my honey, but he’ll be back from his conference on Monday.

Chicken velvet Benu

With abalone, abalone mushroom, and chrysanthemum. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

Another first! When this arrived, I asked “Where’s the chicken?” I’d never had chicken velvet before so I didn’t know where to look, hehe. I’ve subsequently read that chicken velvet is usually fried or poached in oil, then reheated through in a hot broth. I’m not sure if this velvet was ever fried, it didn’t taste like it, but it was definitely velvet-y and oh so delicious. The soup broth in this dish was also very delicious. And I loved the combination of abalone and abalone mushrooms. Fun!

Chicken velvet Benu

Beef braised in pear – Benu

Beef braised in pear Benu

With beech mushroom, sunflower seeds and leaves. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

Sorry that this pic didn’t turn out very well, but the meat was dark and it was served on a dark plate. The beef, however, was tasty (perhaps a little on the tasty side though). My favorite part was the sunflower seeds and leaves. I’ve never had the leaves before and they were fun to eat along with the seeds.

Beef braised in pear Benu

Chicken with black moss – Benu

Chicken with black moss Benu

With mountain yam and celery. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

I loved the chicken and the broth in this dish, but I didn’t like the mountain yam. The yam was too slimy for my taste. Also, I liked how the black moss looked on the plate, but it didn’t taste like anything. The chicken, on the other hand, was so moist and delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever had chicken prepared this way. That’s another reason why I loved this dinner at Benu, it afforded me the opportunity to try so many different things. I didn’t like everything, but I certainly appreciated all the dishes.

Chicken with black moss Benu

Homemade glutinous rice cakes – Benu

Project 365: Day 107

Yay, I’m back in San Francisco! And apparently, the weather has been frickin’ amazing. It’s the early evening and it’s still very warm outside. Ah, how I’ve missed you, my home! Whenever I get back from a trip, I always crave certain food. The first thing I did when I got back was order delivery from Mission Chinese Food. I needed something spicy and with punch-you-in-the-face flavor, and MCF always does it for me.

Honestly, I shouldn’t be eating again since I had a large and delicious brunch buffet at Wicked Spoon in The Cosmopolitan this morning. I was hungry again at the airport so I had a Whopper Jr. from Burger King. Argh, I can’t believe I did that!

Homemade glutinous rice cakes Benu

With pine nut, pumpkin, black truffle, garnished with flat leaf parsley. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

Wow, this dish was amazing! It was like a pumpkin gnocchi. The texture was different, but the flavors were warm, delicious, Italian. I loved that this wasn’t what I expected when I read the description. “Glutinous rice” doesn’t conjure up Italy in my mind, but I was pleasantly surprised. Everything work perfectly together and the flavors were absolutely spot on! Noms!

Homemade glutinous rice cakes Benu

Hokkaido sea cucumber stuffed with shrimp – Benu

Hokkaido sea cucumber stuffed with shrimp Benu

With cucumber, onion, and fermented pepper. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

Um, this was the first time I’ve had sea cucumber. I was dreading it when I saw it on the menu and again when it arrived at the table. It actually wasn’t that bad. It didn’t have much of a flavor, but the texture didn’t appeal to me. The red sauce also didn’t taste like much, but the white gooey blob was kinda gross. I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t think I’ll be ordering sea cucumber again. If they couldn’t make me love it at Benu, I doubt I’ll like it from somewhere else.

Hokkaido sea cucumber stuffed with shrimp Benu

Foie gras xiao long bao – Benu

Project 365: Day 106

It’s the last day of the conference, phew! We have classes until 1 pm and then we’re free. I’m flying home tomorrow so I’m going use this evening to decompress and eat, lol. I think I’ll head to The Palazzo and grab a late lunch at Sushi Samba. My roommate usually stays at that hotel and likes that place for sushi. For dinner, I’m gonna try Firefly off The Strip then hang out at a bar nearby. I’ve spent way too much on this trip when I should have been saving for my Europe trip next week. 😦

Foie gras xiao long bao Benu

Shanghai soup dumplings filled with foie gras. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

Meh, this was ok. I guess it was nicely cooked, but it was hard to locate the foie gras especially if you were dipping the dumpling in the vinegar sauce. I dont’ even know how the foie gras was incorporated. There was definitely a meat mixture inside, but I’m not sure if the foie was part of that or part of the soup. Anyway, one of my dumplings had a tear on the bottom so the soup had dripped to the bottom of the bowl. Lame.

Foie gras xiao long bao Benu

Salt and pepper squid – Benu

Salt and pepper squid Benu

Puffed squid with pickled serrano pepper slices, serrano chili powder, micro cilantro leaves, dollops of garlic sauce, and diced pieces of squid. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

This was really fun to eat. At first, I didn’t realize that the black portion was also squid that had been puffed. I loved the flavors and all the different textures.

Salt and pepper squid Benu