As soon as a friend began to tell me about In Situ, Corey Lee’s new restaurant in SFMOMA, I knew I needed to go. The concept took me back to grad school, where I probably would have spent 10 pages overextending Walter Benjamin and Pierre Bourdieu to the restaurant, its location, concept and execution. Lee has partnered with elite chefs from around the world to collect and offer some of their signature dishes (contemporary and past), cocktails, desserts, etc. in one rotating menu collection. I’ve dabbled in foodieism in the past, but parenthood and old age has forced some limits on me — the idea of being able to sample dishes from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry without convincing my wife that an evening at that Napa Valley is worth knocking a few nights off an upcoming vacation or dipping into our son’s college savings for is pretty appealing. Trying signature dishes from Wylie Dufresne’s now-defunct WD~50 restaurant without time travel? Ok!
I made my 30-days-in-advance reservations, and silently waited for the calendar pages to turn. I killed that time by booking a (work) trip to NYC, where I knew I was going to try and eat at a different outpost of David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group every day with a different friend. I also killed that time by not writing blog entries, and petting my amazing pet dog.When the night approached, I couldn’t get us out of the house fast enough, eventually making us nearly 30min early for our reservation like a couple of tourist yokels.
I didn’t pay as much attention to my cocktails and their lineage and composition — I wish I had, they really were superb. I had a few different whiskey and rum concoctions while Mrs. Fredoluv strew a path of broken Prosecco glasses behind her. I also didn’t think to take pictures of our first dishes, probably because I feel a little corny taking pictures of my food (even though it was happening at every table around us). I knew I’d have the Shrimp Grits from the above-mentioned WD~50 (lead picture in this NYT write-up), and it was amazing. A simple bowl of obliterated shrimp that’s been cooked in corn powder, garnished with delicate jalapenos and a squirt of shrimp oil…I honestly had to hold back from licking the bowl, I’d gladly eat a ramen size bowl of Shrimp Grits and feel no shame. Mrs. Fredoluv started with a bowl of potatoes, squid ink and sea vegetables that was also pretty delightful — I stole a potato and cucumber but had to sit on my fork to ensure I didn’t continue to tip the entire plate to my mouth and shovel the contents rapidly. Delicate and super-flavorful!
I had a hard time choosing my big boy entree, everything sounded amazing. Chicken from French Laundry sounded good, but it was chicken. Who wants chicken when you can have the sun?!? A bowl of wagyu beef udon soup really called to me, but it was the most expensive thing on the menu — I just couldn’t get over the hump of ordering $40 soup (I guess others found it extreme as well, but loved it). And finally, the Momofuku spicy pork sausage rice cakes sounded amazing…but again, I knew I could order them for real in a few weeks. Still…I’m a sucker for rice cakes, and had to go with the latter. So glad, I loved the amazing, chewy slabs of heaven swimming in flavorful pork ragu! In almost every bite, those top flavors would give way to the ssamjang slicked vegetables and my mouth would cower in servitude — the fermented umami flavor brought a new sensation that I hadn’t experienced. I wanted Mrs. Fredoluv to experience it, but she refused to let her ‘no pork’ rule get an exception. That’s okay, I couldn’t taste her wasabi crusted lobster either (I’m lobster intolerant!).
We also had desserts, but I dunno, they just weren’t as good. To be honest, I wish I’d had another savory dish instead, piling on a new mouth experience instead of glumly chugging through a mouth of sweet stuff that I wasn’t into. I’m excited to make new reservations and see what’s on tap the next time in the rotation…