One of the city's most high-profile establishments, chef-owner Corey Lee's contemporary American restaurant delights food-obsessed locals and travelers alike. Lee's pedigree spans 15 years in fine dining, including a position as chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller's the French Laundry, but Benu is decidedly more relaxed—no jacket required. The dining room is very minimalist, with bare-wood tables and high-backed banquettes along the walls. The pricy tasting menu ($195 per
person) of 14 to 18 courses is mandatory. Each dish is a marvel, from the meticulous presentation (Lee has had pieces specifically designed for the restaurant and each course) to the sophisticated flavors and textures. Fans of Asian cuisine will be particularly thrilled to see his elegant handling of ingredients like a thousand-year-old quail egg, xiao long bao dumplings, and sea cucumber. He utilizes many modern techniques, but never in an alienating way. You may find dishes like Hokkaido sea cucumber stuffed with lobster, pork belly, eggplant, fermented pepper or eel, feuille de brik (flaky pastry), crème fraiche, lime. An extremely professional staff is behind the quick pacing and on-point wine pairings. Couples expecting an ultraromantic environment may be a bit disappointed by the stark atmosphere, but culinary adventurers will be thrilled.