NY Times dining critic Pete Wells has made a name for himself through his poetic reviews, which are often equal parts playful and damning. Now he’s come to San Francisco to ply his trade, visiting In Situ, the newly-opened restaurant from chef Corey Lee (Benu).
Located in the redesigned SFMOMA, In Situ’s unique menu and concept (a term about which Wells says " for once, the industry jargon is apt") offers diners the opportunity to try dishes from renowned chefs all over the world. It’s a new way to express food as art, though the critic avoids wading into that debate, saying "Whether that means food is or is not art is something you can talk about over a sticky glass of Madeira from D’Oliveiras at the end of the meal." And while the critic didn't award any stars (perhaps it's too far out of his jurisdiction), he had some salient observations to share.
On whether the menu is cohesive:
"Two points about this lunch struck me. First, everything was delicious. Second, the flavors veered wildly different from dish to dish — they were, so to speak, all over the map — and it didn’t matter."
On needing the context of the original restaurant to understand a dish:
"I didn’t get any of that eating sheep’s milk yogurt and wood-sorrel ice as I sat across Third Street from the Metreon shopping mall. But I didn’t mind having the dessert taken out of the context of Noma any more than I mind streaming "Drunk in Love" on a playlist that takes it out of the context of Beyoncé’s fifth studio album."
On what the restaurant means for culture:
"One thing In Situ proves, just by existing, is that certain chefs are now cultural figures in a sense that once applied only to practitioners of what used to be called high culture: literature, concert music, avant-garde painting."
On the extension of a chef's point-of-view, via their food:
"In Situ makes a good case that restaurant food can be highly expressive of an individual chef’s sensibility and of the sensibility of a particular place and time."
"By avoiding originality, In Situ is the most original new restaurant in the country."
So, that's one take on Lee's newest effort. Now we're just waiting for our own trusty critic to opine upon what is certainly one of the most interesting restaurants to hit the national dining scene in some time. Stay tuned.