While many will cite this as one of the worst years for restaurant openings across the U.S., especially in such cities as New York and Los Angeles, this fall San Francisco is bringing some of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory.
The effects of the recession can still be seen walking the streets of San Francisco, even on posh shopping strips such as Post Street, where a Diesel flagship once stood across from a multilevel Gap and next door to a trendy Mango boutique. All three are now closed. But in the food world it's another story, one of a timely culmination of long-anticipated openings and hush-hush spinoffs of Michelin star chefs making their marks at the forefront of the modern American food movement.
BENU Benu is the most coveted of any dinner reservation in San Francisco right now. Its space at 22 Hawthorne -- in the city's once gritty, now gentrified South of Market neighborhood -- is set back from the street, with private valet and a wall of glass that frames chefs and assistants working in a cloud of white uniforms and stainless steel. Two steps onto the property but still outside, a man in black bearing a small clipboard asks, "Do you have a reservation?" From there it's through a small zen garden and glass doors that open to the breeze of busy workers seating diners without delay in a pristine dining room of Guggenheim-like design: sparely decorated walls, clothless tables and plush carpet, all by architect Richard Bloch of New York's Masa and Bar Masa.
|The chef of Benu, in San Francisco, has been lauded by James Beard and given three stars by Michelin.|