In Situ Review: The Art of Replicating the World's Best Dishes in San Francisco

A beam of excitement shot through me when I first heard that Corey Lee (Benu, Monsieur Benjamin) was opening In Situ on the lower floor at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The restaurant has only been operating for less than two months and has already been written about by major online publications, like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Having been to both Benu and Monsieur Benjamin and loving those experiences, I had high hopes for In Situ and loved the idea of the restaurant operating as a rotating food exhibit. 

Corey Lee is doing something completely new that on one else dares to. What makes this restaurant original is how none of the dishes are actually created by Lee. Each dish is a faithful replication of the best dishes in the world created by renowned chefs. These chefs gave him their culinary secrets and permission to copy their dishes exactly. As one can imagine, replicating a technical dish isn't an easy challenge. This means detailing every step in the process with precision. It's a lot of pressure, but if there's anyone who could pull this idea off it would be Corey Lee, "one of the best chefs on earth". 

In Situ makes it possible to try dishes from all over the world without leaving San Francisco. I would love the chance to visit the world's #1 restaurant Osteria Francescana, but the chances of nailing a reservation is slim to none. Even then it's a pricey 10+ hour flight. I definitely don't have the luxury to roll like that, but what I can do is order the infamous 'Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart' for $16 at In Situ while it's still on the menu. It's nice to be able to take a 7 minute walk over from my office to try all these dishes that have made an imprint in the world of food. 

What I was disappointed in was the lack of information about each dish. It would've been nice to know about what the dish is comprised of and what techniques were applied. It wasn't until after the meal that I researched WD-50's shrimp grits to find out that the "grits" are actually made of shrimp that's been grounded and cooked with dehydrated table corn until they resembles grits. If I'd known that prior to consumption, it may have made me appreciate the dish even more at that moment.

The variety of dishes on the menu are literally all over the map, which isn't necessarily a good or bad thing. I'm simply stating that there's no consistency and the spectrum of flavors varied so widely that some dishes were underwhelming when compared against another, like the French Laundry's liberty duck breast. 

In Situ has met my expectations of what I was hoping for and I look forward to visiting again to try more dishes. I'll be sure to update this post as I eat my way through the menu. 

It's also worth noting that Lee offers the chefs a portion of the proceeds for their respective dishes. Most have decided to donate their share to the museum or charity of their choice.

Date of Visit: 7/22/2016

The Forest (Mauro Colagreco; Mirazur; Menton, France; 2011) was my favorite dish; wild mushrooms, tender green stems and a fuchsia sweet pea flower on a bed of quinoa risotto topped with fried strips of sunchoke peel as "twigs" and "moss" made of parsley-juice spongecake, plus some butter and Parmesan foam. 

My second favorite dish was the Spicy Pork Sausage Rice Cakes (David Chang; Momofuku Ssäm Bar; New York City; 2007). It's inspired by the idea of Chinese ragu, but is a play on mapo tofu. It's spicy with a lot of texture, crispy and pillowy rice cakes tossed in Sichuan peppercorn oil and thrown with yu choy and fried shallots. 

The "grits" in the Shrimp Grits (Wylie Dufresne; WD-50; New York City; 2014) are actually made of shrimp that's been grounded and cooked with dehydrated table corn until they resembles grits. It reminded me of the concentrated flavors you'd get in a lobster bisque. 

My nose and eyes suffered from the Guinea Fowl Larp Chiang Mai (David Thompson; Nahm; Bangkok, Thailand; 1999). I loved the textures of this dish, but the delicate flavors of the guinea fowl is lost in the high salt and spice content. There are people who travel to Thailand just for this dish, but I wouldn't. 

The Liberty Duck Breast (Thomas Keller; The French Laundry; Yountville, California; 1995) with French green lentils, apples, aged red wine vinegar sauce. It was tasty, but basic and underwhelming in comparison to the other dishes.

A recreation of dessert from one of the best restaurants in the world is the perfect way to end a beautiful meal, especially after consuming two spicy dishes. The Sheep's Milk Yogurt (René Redzepi; Noma; Copenhagen; 2005) is incredibly refreshing. Tart juice from sorrel leaves are frozen and made into a granita that sits next to a yogurt mousse with a thin anise-seed brittle.  


Visiting In Situ

Location

151 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone

(415) 941-6050

Menu

http://insitu.sfmoma.org/menu

Hours

  • Sunday - Wednesday: 11AM - 4PM 
  • Thursday - Saturday: 11AM - 4PM and 5PM - 9PM

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