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French Laundry or Benu or.....

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Obv know about FL. Have heard great things about Benu. Basically, I want to go all out the next time I'm in the bay area. Money is no object (for this one meal). Which would you choose, or would you send me somewhere totally different? We are less keen on a great wine menu and moreso looking for the best possible food we can get. Never eaten at a super high-end place before...best places I've been to in sf have been la folie, gary danko...places along that echelon...many thanks for any advice!

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The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

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  1. There were some recent thread on this. The most informative/on topic one was probably this:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/831229

    Also, look up uhockey's reviews. They are usually informative:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/806780

    The board is currently in love with Atelier Crenn and really wants it to succeed. Cooking techniques, flavor combinations, presentation are all innovative and some definitely push the boundaries. Room is unremarkable, small, and only one bathroom. The full 18 course menu, which I had, takes 4 1/2 hours. Dessert/pastry amazing. I personally, found some misses to the dishes but also some great hits. Definitely only for people who have an open mind and the endurance for the meal. Wine list is eccentric and young. Didn't have the pairings so couldn't comment if they worked or not.

    Benu uses a lot of innovative ingredients as well. If you like and are familiar with East Asian cuisine, however, the flavor combinations and presentations are not far from the norm. The wine list is great for a young restaurant, and the beverage pairing was amazing and a true highlight. The tasting menu takes about an hour less than Atelier Crenn. Desserts are not as creative, but there were no misses and a lot of great hits. Again, one has to be open minded about ingredients, but if you like East Asian food, the flavor profiles are not boundary pushing. I really loved my meal here. Room is unremarkable but very spacious.

    I've been to the French Laundry once, and it was three years ago (when Corey Lee was still there). I loved my meal there as well. In a house like structure, with lots of nooks and crannies the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Food was great - not very exotic - but very well done. Wine list was awesome. Didn't do the pairings.

    I've only been to Manresa once, and this was a couple years ago. I would say it is a half step down from the French Laundry in terms of conveying "this is a special meal." I did not like my meal here as much as the French Laundry, but the chef was also taking the occasion to highlight "bitter" which is not a favorite taste of mine. Had the wine pairings but didn't feel they added anything to the meal - would skip next time. I believe my experience was an anomaly but based on that one experience, I can't say I would go back.

    I haven't been to Cyrus, Meadowood, Coi or Saison.

    1. we just had an amazing meal at Saison. I much preferred it to my meal at French Laundry for these reasons:
      - i left full and completely satiated (I was not satisfied at French Laundry)
      - the atmosphere at Saison is very very relaxed. Incredibly professional service but in a warm and comfortable setting.
      - the meal was very imaginative with great flavors.

      We didn't do the wine pairings but we did enjoy the bottles we had.

      I have not eaten at Atelier Crenn or Benu.