Photo Credit: Eric Wolfinger
Corey Lee has dazzled diners for more than 20 years while working at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world, including a tenure as head chef at The French Laundry. Now he has his own three Michelin-starred restaurant, Benu, in San Francisco, as well as Monsieur Benjamin and In Situ, a unique eatery that will open inside the newly-expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in June. Honored by the James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine, which named him Best New Chef, Lee is also a goodwill ambassador for the city of Seoul, Korea (an honor given to leaders in various fields) and authored “Benu,” published by Phaidon in 2015. He shares his guide to San Francisco with us.
Where were you born: Seoul, South Korea
How long in San Francisco: Six years
Occupation: Chef and restaurateur
Favorite Restaurant: Great China in Berkeley; it has the best Peking duck.
Best Sushi: My favorite sushi place just closed. I’m looking for another one.
Best Italian: Delfina
Best dessert: B. Patisserie
Best place for a romantic date: Saison
Best Sunday brunch: Monsieur Benjamin
Best place for a power business meeting: Trou Normand
If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? St. Regis
Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Rand + Statler
Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches: Hong Kong. Really, I’m serious.
Best Spa: I love Korean saunas and there’s only one in San Francisco. It’s the Korean sauna on Geary. All it says is “sauna” in Korean so I’m not even sure what the name is.
Favorite Charity Event: Meals on Wheels
Favorite Cultural Event: Opening night at the [San Francisco] ballet. I went the last few years but this year was just too crazy. It’s a fun night.
Favorite Cultural Institution: SFMOMA
Best Steakhouse: It’s a tie between Harris and House of Prime Rib.
Best Pizza: Flour + Water
Best Lunch: Boulevard
Best Gym/Athletic Facility: Harding Park
Best Massage: I’m looking. I used to get massages pretty often in Japantown. There’s this Japanese massage center, but they closed. I’ve tried all these different places since, and I haven’t found one.
Best Limousine/Driving Service: I’m an Uber guy.
Best Museum/Exhibit: SFMOMA
Describe your city in three words: Innovative, open-minded, now.
Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: Point Bonita Lighthouse. It is the most beautiful walk.
All-around favorite spot in San Francisco: The walk from North Beach through Chinatown down to Jackson Square. I think Jackson Square is the oldest part. North Beach and Chinatown are the most ethnic parts. It’s like this quick stroll through the history of San Francisco.
Best Aspect of San Francisco: The spirit and energy of its people