As we reported a few months ago, Corey Lee, chef-owner of Benu, is opening a new restaurant called Monsieur Benjamin on the ground floor of the new 300 Ivy project. He was recently named a James Beard finalist as Best Chef (West) for his work at Benu and will be joined in his new venture with chef Jason Berthold (formerly of RN74, The French Laundry and Per Se), who will be heading things up in the kitchen.
Why Monsieur Benjamin? Is Benjamin named after someone specifically?
Corey Lee: Monsieur Benjamin is a name I heard called out by a bellhop in a Paris hotel while I was there doing some research for the opening of the bistro, and thinking a lot about the name. There was something very American and very French about it that appealed to me, and as I considered it more and more, it seemed like the right name for the restaurant.
There's the obvious reference to Benjamin Franklin, which is appropriate because he was the first American ambassador to France, and there is also the use of the name Benjamin in French—an endearing nickname given to the youngest in the family. But who was that Monsieur Benjamin in Paris? I don't know.
We're excited about the outside dining options (reported at 16 seats). Was that a goal for the place or did it just fall into place due to the new construction?
This city needs more late-night dining options. Why aren't there many late-night options? How late will you be open?
How do you hope people will feel when they're dining with you in your space?
Do you have any concerns or "unknowns" about opening up here in Hayes Valley, or specifically in this new building?
Some of your old coworkers (like Charles Bililies) are opening busy with restaurants in Hayes Valley. Why do you think this neighborhood has become so hot in the past few years, especially when it comes to the dining scene?
You're home on a Saturday afternoon and starving. What do you make for yourself?
Where's your favorite place to get a meal under $15 in San Francisco?
Monsieur Benjamin is expected to open on the ground floor of 300 Ivy in the next few months. As soon as we learn the exact date, we'll let you know, so stay tuned.
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