Written byMax Child
French food is back, baby. Again.
Italian and American eats may be ruling the roost for now, but we sense a Francophile resurgence on the horizon. And leading the charge in San Francisco, with one of the most ridiculous restaurant names put to print, will be Monsieur Benjamin.
What kind of food does M. Benjamin serve? Oh, he has all the family favorites. Escargots. Beef Tongue Dijonnaise. Pigs Head aux Endives. You know, what grandma used to make. You can’t handle the thought of consuming these anatomical oddities? Good news — the Benjamin knows how to make them look cool. So cool, in fact, that I think you might even take a bite. You’ll enjoy it.
Man does this food taste good, by the way. Brothy flavor pours off the mussels. The steak tartare was light, yet potent. Our frog legs were SUCCULENT. There’s simply no other word to describe them. Fresh and succulent.
The restaurant is popping as well. Sure, it has the classic bistro conceit of uncomfortable chairs and cramped lodgings, but it’s not like you’re going to elbow the person next to you. The glass walls remind you you’re in Hayes Valley’s trendiest restaurant-cum-Apple-Store. The wine is flowing and the crowd seems happy to be there.
So if you’ve ever wondered what the deal is with pates and terrines, if you’ve ever questioned the wisdom of eating raw ground beef, or if you’ve ever scrunched up your nose at the idea of digging into amphibian flesh, we suggest you hit Monsieur Benjamin right quick and get educated.
Let’s start with the biggest disappointment of the night. Light little bits of fried dough covered in umami dust. Not bad, but we weren’t feeling the camembert flavor. Let’s declare a moratorium on fancy doughnuts that don’t taste of anything but fryer oil, mmmmmkay?
Succulent. There was some light lemon juice rolling down our chins as we bit into these, and we were happy.
Not French! So tricky, Mister Benjamin. Who is the Benjamin? Franklin? The personification of all the money these guys are going to make? Anyway, the sandwich was excellent, and we converted a non-French Dip eater to the way of light. Also, you might notice that we stuck to appetizers and cheaper entrees. This place is pricey, but you can do really well with a bunch of smaller stuff. That’s our recommended path.
Mussels with Garlic Sausage
A hearty pile of perfect shellfish with kickin’ meaty bits underneath, for a bonus. Money.
Beef Tongue Dijonnaise
My notes say this was a “refreshingly hood dish.” Pretty sure that was an autocorrect mistake, but I like that idea. Not only was this dish hood, it was REFRESHINGLY hood.