Lord Ace of the Fictional Lands (ensuing) wrote,
Lord Ace of the Fictional Lands
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The Most Expensive Meal I Might Ever Eat

Yesterday I went into San Francisco for a couple different reasons. I got to see the burned building that shut down BART service for most of Thursday while riding BART into the city. The fire looked like it was pretty horrible, the building was just a charred mass. It was surprisingly close to the tracks, riiiight next to them. I hear it melted some street lamps, charred the bushes across the street from it, and melted part of a car because it was such a hot and powerful fire. Pretty crazy. I don't think anyone got hurt, so that's good.

But yeah, went in to SF. Wanted to pick up Pin to Kona 4-6 from Kinokuniya, hang out with nayung, and have dinner with my parents. I had a great time with nayung, we wandered around for a while, a little in Union Square, a little in Yerba Buena Gardens, went up to Grace Cathedral, and walked around a bit of Chinatown. I'm a little ashamed I didn't know more about the city or it's history, but… hopefully I wasn't too boring!!

I had to leave in the late afternoon to get changed and meet my family for dinner.


Like the subject line says, this was likely the most expensive meal I may ever eat. It was an 18-course tasting menu at benu. All 18 courses were small plates, which was perfect because by about course 9 I was feeling pretty dang full. The restaurant was really good about getting my brother choices to match his dietary choices. He doesn't eat red meat or pork, so they would prepare alternate items if the ones we were getting had any meat he didn't eat in them. My brother and mom both got the wine flight(?) and the sommelier was really fantastic about explaining the different alcohols he chose for the dishes. I don't drink alcohol, but it was fascinating to hear him describe everything and he was great with giving us the history of the different drinks… it almost made me curious enough to try some. My mom and brother let me smell their drinks, but they all smelled just like alcohol to me, except the sake (didn't smell like alcohol at all!) and the madera (smelled like alcohol and cherries).

Sorry, no pictures of these. I was hoping someone would take some with their phone (everyone else has iPhones) because I didn't have my camera, but they felt it was inappropriate. I sort of agree, but… it would have been nice to have some pictures. Anyway, on to my poor descriptions of the courses:

Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger - It was good. The egg was very... eggy? And I always love ginger.
Oyster, pork belly, kimchi - Interesting combo, but very tasty. The kimchi flavor sort of lasted in my mouth a while, but not in a bad way.
Potato salad with anchovy - The anchovies were caramelized and soooooo good. They sort of tasted like sesame seeds.
Monkfish liver, peach daikon, brioche - Didn't care for this one. I thought the liver tasted sort of like american cheese? It had the same sort of color too. I'm not a fan of liver to begin with, so that might have tainted my opinion. The brioche was good though!
Wild sockeye salmon: fillet with cherry and hot mustard, roe with eggplant and perilla - I LOVE salmon, so I enjoyed this one. The fillet was good, still a little raw in the center (which I liked) and the mustard and cherry gave it this great hot and sweet taste. The roe and eggplant was pretty good too. The roe would lightly pop in my mouth and felt so neat!
Eel, feuille de brick, créme fraiche, lime - Reaaaaally tasty. The créme fraiche had such a strong lime flavor, but it wasn't overpowering. Really tasty.
Mozzarella, basil, XO sauce - Love mozzarella, especially buffalo mozzarella (which this was), and the sauce was nice and slightly spicy, which worked with light flavor of the cheese. Yum!
Omasum tripe, shrimp, yellow chive, lovage - I didn't know what tripe was, so I made sure to eat this before anyone told me what it was and biased my thoughts about it. I thought it was sort of chewy and flavorless. And then I found out it was cow's stomach. Oh, okay? I don't get why people would eat it, when it doesn't really have a taste (or at least the stuff I had didn't), and the texture was… less than awesome? Whatever. Now I'm tried it, no need to go out of my way to try it again.
Salt and pepper squid - Probably the best dish of the evening. There was a piece of squid that was cut and fried, so it looked like a light cracker (actually, it sort of looked like a flat black pork rind, ha!). There were thinly sliced chilies and tiny pieces of fresh squid on top. SOOOOOO GOOOD! Super light and refreshing-tasting. I would have been more than happy to have gorged myself on those all night long.
Foie gras xiao long bao - Never had foie gras before, so I was a little nervous about this. They served it like a soup dumpling and it was DELICIOUS! So rich! If that's how foie gras usually tastes, sign me up! =9
Chicken velvet, abalone, abalone mushroom, chrysanthemum - The chicken velvet was actually in this like… heavy foam sort of state? Very different. I had heard abalone was very chewy and not very good, but the bit I had wasn't chewy at all! It didn't have a lot of flavor on its own, but not bad!
Sablefish, lobster, black bean, corn - I generally don't care for lobster (I find it somewhat flavorless), but this was very nice and almost sweet. The sablefish was rich in flavor and texture, but not too heavy. The sauce was made of fermented black beans and was a little too strong. There was a corn "cracker" that was on top of the dish. It was very flat and crispy and the flavor was very powerful. The aftertaste was almost exactly like putting fresh sweet corn in your mouth. It might have been a tiny bit too sweet though…
Duck, celery, scallion, Shaoxhing wine, black truffle bun - The duck had a REALLY strong flavor, a bit too strong for my tastes. The black truffle bun was good though. It had just a slight truffle flavor and a little bit of duck leg meat in it, so the flavors were nice and light.
Beef rib, wood ear mushroom, lettuce, pine nut, fermented pepper - The beef had this lovely little crust on the edge, yum yum! The mushrooms didn't have the strong flavor I was hoping for though.
"Shark's fin" soup, dungeness crab, Jinhua ham, black truffle custard - No real shark in it, thank goodness! I liked the broth and the crab was fantastic, but the black truffle custard was much too strong. I thought it was overpowering, and it wasn't a flavor I cared all that much for. The rest of my family loved it!
Raspberry, tonic, lavender, olive oil - I don't know what meant by "tonic," but there was this foamy stuff that tasted weird and sort of alcohol-y, so I only had a nibble of that. I ate all the raspberries though! Very fresh and yummy.
Spice cake, blueberry, yogurt, oatmeal ice cream - Oatmeal ice cream? How strange. it was good though! I can't really explain it beside it being oatmeal ice cream…
Chocolates - I was soooo full by this point, I only had one. I think it was dried cherry? I don't like dried cherries, but this was quite tasty.

The meal was very different and tried all sorts of things I would probably never have tried on my own. I'm happy I went and I enjoyed it a lot. But yiiiiikkkeeeessss, what an expensive meal. Thank-you, lovely parental units, for taking me (and my brother) out to such a high-class place!
Tags: family, food
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