WSJ: Chef Corey Lee’s Imitation Game


Yes this is really interesting, even a little polarizing maybe. The name “In Situ” is very interesting. How well do these dishes work outside the context of the original menus for which they were created? Will this be all a-la-carte, or will they create a tasting menu out of it (doubtful)? Will the diner play curator, and will he/she be educated enough to discern how to order and in what progression? Presumably a good deal of these dishes will be tasting menu sized, i.e. quite small, meant to fit in the arc of the original menu. The best tasting menus allow for a flow of flavors and textures from course to course. Sounds like he’s collecting lots of recipes - I wonder if the menu is going to be huge or how he plans to select the dishes that’ll be available at any given time. Will it be for diners to play tourist through the “greatest hits” or will he try to create his own narrative through these dishes?

If anyone can pull it off from in a technical cooking sense, it’s Corey Lee; he has some serious cooking aplomb. Benu is ultra technical, and though the food or ethos haven’t really resonated with me, I’d be interested to try his attempts at others’ proven dishes. He’s got the skill to do it, for sure.

It’s the concept that I’m a little apprehensive about, personally. As an SF diner, it’s quite convenient to have the world’s best dishes or so in your backyard, but I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing on the whole. One thing I am certain of, though, is that this kind of restaurant should probably be done only once.

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Not really a new concept - perhaps most famous is Restaurant Ikarus in Austria which for the last 12-13 years recreated each month the cuisine of one world famous chef (most of the times the chef was somehow involved)

I believe it will be a la carte.

Very interesting, thanks for that. Ikarus is an interesting name, too. How have I not heard of this? Some of my favorite chefs were guest chefs there. (And Chris Kostow is there now? Dang I’ll miss him at Meadowood in a few weeks).

Interesting that Ikarus has only had 1 Japanese chef since 2003 - and that chef works out of Sydney.

I see. Looks like Ikarus takes the tasting menu approach and lets the guest chef present a menu of his/her own signatures.

Well, at this point, I’m far more excited to try In Situ than I am going to Benu . . .

I forgot this place had opened. Sounds fun.

I’m heading there in August. Very much looking forward to it

More info.

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I believe the lemon ice cream and sherbet would properly be attributed to Lindsey Shere, who was Chez Panisse’s pastry chef at the time.

That shrimp grits was damn near perfect, best course i had.


Got to grab a bite there this past Saturday:

Shrimp Grits
pickled jalapeño, shrimp oil
Wylie Dufresne, wd~50

The Forest
quinoa risotto, mushrooms, parsley “moss”
Mauro Colagreco, Mirazur

Lemon ice cream and sherbet
Alice Waters, Chez Panisse

Space was open and bright. Funny hearing the front desk repeatedly telling people that they were “fully committed” despite the number of open tables (my reservation was at 1:15pm). Everything was good. The shrimp grits was exceptional. Portions were much larger than I thought they would be. If I return again, and I would very much like to, I would bring others along. The Forest was much more rich and umami laden than I expected. Very satisfying. Lee’s the real deal. Making me itch to go back to Benu again as well.


The rest of my meal

uni, nori, panko.

brown oyster stew

octopus and the coral

spicy pork sausage rice cakes
momofuku ssam bar

interpretation of vanity



Do you guys know if we can order both lounge and dining room menus, or only in their respective sections? Might go in a couple of weeks when I’m in town.

The menu’s explicit that you can’t order the dining room menu in the lounge. From what I’ve read, not vice-versa, either.

Awww. Thank you sir.

When I went, I was asked to wait in the “lounge” (which is really a bunch of long tables at one end of the front room) while my table was being readied. I ordered the shot of caramelized carrot soup. I was taken to my seat before it arrived. When I alerted the server that I had ordered the soup, they became rather flustered, stating that they had to go to the kitchen and cancel it posthaste. A pretty vigilant response.

I had wanted to try dishes from both. But from your reports dining room is the way to go?