Say bonjour to Monsieur Benjamin, the second project from Corey Lee of Benu, which opens in Hayes Valley tonight. Intended as a more casual spinoff of his high-end flagship, Monsieur Benjamin boasts a menu of reinvented French classics from Lee and chef de cuisine Jason Berthold, last seen behind the stoves at RN74. Along with GM Thomas Palauqui, they've had over a year to perfect the menu, and it shows in the breadth of the offering, with more than 40 dishes.
The monster menu features reinterpretations of a number of French favorites, spanning from blanquette de veau to sweetbreads grenobloise. Two kinds of raw oysters and some snacky bites like pommes gaufrette with chicken liver mousse, Camembert beignets, and potato-leek croquettes with Gruyere. (Let's just say this is not a diet spot.) Pâté, escargot, beef tartare, mussels steamed in beer—they're all here. And for those who'd rather not overthink things, there's steak frites and, of course, a burger. Cheeses and crepe cake are among the dessert options. Here's the full dinner menu.
On the drinks side, Benu's master sommelier Yoon Ha has put together a French-heavy wine list with most bottles under $100, as well as about 20 by-the-glass selections and a smattering of beers and ciders. Cocktails are a varied bunch, with a little bit of everything, from refreshing (My Morning Sun, with iced green tea, gin, and saffron liqueur) to spirituous (Dagger of a Day, with cognac, Bonal, apricot liqueur, and Angostura). Here's the full drink menu.
The expansive, modern 90-seat space was done by Aidlin Darling Design (Bar Agricole), and while it has some classic bistro touches like paper tablecloths and dishtowel napkins, it's definitely got some only-in-SF elements, like the reclaimed-wood backs on the banquettes. Lee conceived Monsieur Benjamin as serving a late-night crowd, and it'll be open from 5 pm-1 am nightly, with weekend brunch kicking off at 1 pm in a few weeks' time.
· More on Corey Lee's Forthcoming Hayes Valley Bistro [~ ESF ~]
· The Road to the 38: Corey Lee's Benu [~ ESF ~]