In Situ

It is not often you get to taste different dishes from some of the most renowned restaurants in the world. In that respect, In Situ inside San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art sounded almost too good to be true. Led by the acclaimed chef Corey Lee from the three-Michelin star institution Benu, the concept of this constantly evolving project that opened last year is to aggregate dishes from chefs around the world. In a way, you may argue there is no originality if what In Situ does is merely copycat dishes. I beg to differ; the kitchen still needs to execute the recipes they receive from others and put them into a coherent meal. For that, I’m happy to report that the dinner my wife Jun and I had before the end of our Bay Area trip had a lot of pleasant surprises.

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Cuttlefish Cappuccino (Potato, Braised Cuttlefish, Ink) – Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy (1996)
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Crispy Crepe (Grilled Scallion Jam and Preserved Smelt) – The Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington (2013)

The portion of dishes at In Situ is on the smaller side and meant for sharing. Perhaps too small so that our dining party of four (which included and I and another couple from one of my longtime friends) had to mostly order two dishes each. That didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the creamy cuttlefish cappuccino with potato and braised cuttlefish buried inside squid ink (a product of an acclaimed restaurant in Italy called Le Calandre). I absolutely loved sharing this appetizer dish that came in a little jar with Jun, and the complexity of flavor led me to believe our dinner would be a good one. Jun was initially hesitant to try the crispy crepe of grilled scallion jam and preserved smelt (from The Willows Inn at a remote island in the State of Washington) thinking the smelt would give too salty sensation but it actually turned out that the seasoning was not overpowering so we gladly nibbled at the dish too.

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Anis Marinated Salmon (Caviar of Flying Fish, Cucumber Jelly, Affila Cress, Pickled Ginger) – Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube, Baiersbronn, Germany (2010)
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Wasabi Lobster (Mango Jelly, Thai Vinaigrette, Wasabi Marshmallow) – Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin, Germany (2013)
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The Forest (Quinoa Risotto, Mushrooms, Parsley “Moss”) – Mirazur, Menton, France (2011)

The marinated salmon with caviar of flying fish from Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube in Germany was forgettable, but I can’t stop thinking about the wasabi lobster from the famed chef Tim Raue in Berlin (who was also recently featured in Netflix Chef’s Table documentary series). Initially, the kick of wasabi seemed to be overpowering, but over time the wasabi seamlessly blended into the crunchy lobster to give a very addictive flavor that was very much hard to stop. This dish, I think I would’ve gladly eaten by myself without sharing with Jun! For the last savory course, a plate called the “forest” (a combination of quinoa risotto, mushrooms and parsley “moss”) from the famed Mirazur restaurant in France offered quite a nice end to the meal with its delicate texture and great balance of flavor. For desserts, the most disappointing one was this fancy looking dish called “interpretation of vanity” from Spain’s trailblazer Mugaritz known for pushing the envelope in gastronomy. The amorphous combination of moist chocolate cake with bubble and cocoa didn’t add up much. On the other hand, eton mess was predictably delicious and I was very glad to find out that the best dessert came from a restaurant that I absolutely enjoyed when I visited Barcelona. Tickets’ farm cheesecake with hazelnut, white chocolate and cookie not only looked pretty but it really gave such a delightfully sweet flavor that I couldn’t stop digging at the dish while everyone else was becoming full!

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Interpretation of Vanity (Moist Chocolate Cake, Cold Almond Cream, Bubble and Cocoa) – Mugaritz, Errenteria, Spain (2007)
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Eton Mess (Strawberry, Whipped Cream, Meringue) – Pollen Street Social, London, England (2015)
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Jasper Hill Farm Cheesecake (Hazelnut, White Chocolate, Cookie) – Tickets, Barcelona, Spain (2015)

Getting a reservation at In Situ didn’t seem too difficult, which was surprising given the high profile of the chef leading the kitchen and the novel concept of the restaurant. One principal issue that I had with the restaurant was the wine list, which unfortunately consists exclusively of natural and organic varieties to my great shock and disappointment (with all these great dishes, why not have some normal wines!). I liked the light, open dining space that was playful and fitting for a restaurant inside a museum. I would love to come back to In Situ to see how the kitchen evolves over time. It’s almost like a treasure hunt where you don’t know what you expect to see with the constantly changing dishes from different culinary influences around the world. Perhaps New York can come up with a creative model like this in the near future?

KenScale: 8.5/10

  • Creativity: 9.0/10
  • Execution 8.5/10
  • Ingredients: 8.5/10
  • Flavor: 8.5/10
  • Texture: 8.5/10
  • Value: 8.0/10

Address: 151 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Telephone: None; contact via email info@insitusf.org

Website: http://insitu.sfmoma.org/

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