Best California Cuisine - 2012
Twenty years ago, Benu would have been described as an Asian fusion restaurant. A dish like chef Corey Lee's signature faux-shark-fin soup with Dungeness crab is filtered through multiple lenses: formal French technique, Cantonese haute cuisine, even the avant-garde cuisine advanced by Ferran Adrià and Grant Achatz. But a more proper name for the dishes on Lee's 18-course tasting menu — foie gras soup dumplings, monkfish liver with sour cherry and pistachio — is California cuisine. Sure, it doesn't look much like the food at Zuni or Oliveto. But Lee's ambitious sourcing of ingredients is impeccable; you don't leave Thomas Keller's kitchen without a sizable directory of farmers and ranchers. And Benu's food reflects the ingredients, the taste memories, and the culinary heritages of many different Californians, not just their daydreams of the rustic foods of France and Italy.