In Situ at the SFMOMA

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April 11, 2018
In Situ at the SFMOMA

Everything You Need to Know About San Francisco's Stylish In Situ

Hailed by The New York Times as San Francisco's most original dining experience, In Situ is fine dining at its very best. Run by award-winning chef Corey Lee, the Michelin-starred restaurant is all about paying homage to the best recipes from around the world. In Situ is so popular that you need to reserve your table at least a month in advance. You also need to prepare yourself for a surprising meal.

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How In Situ Started

In Situ first opened its doors to the public in 2016. Chef Corey Lee is one of the few chefs in the world to have received a coveted third Michelin star for his other restaurant, Benu. A 20-year veteran in the industry, he also won the James Beard Best Chef in the West Award in 2017, becoming the only chef from San Francisco to win the honor so far. Celebrating the intermingling of cultures in San Francisco, his intricate recipes combine Japanese and Korean flavors with fresh Californian produce to create modern interpretations of what American cuisine could be.

Lee's journey as a chef started when he was all of 17. He offered to work for free at Blue Ribbon Sushi in New York City. He spent some time in London at such places as Pied a Terre, which is renowned for its grueling schedule, only to return to New York City. Along the way, he built a reputation for being a talented young chef who isn't afraid to work hard. It wasn't long before he was offered the position of head chef at The French Laundry, where he received his first James Beard Award. The rest, as they say, is history.

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The In Situ Experience

In Situ can be described as a curation of the best dishes from around the world. Chef Lee picks recipes made by famous chefs from around the globe, which are then recreated under his watchful eyes by his own highly-skilled team.

What sets In Situ apart is that unlike other high-concept restaurants, there is no binding palate to the menu. In Situ's menu changes every season, depending on the availability of ingredients. While that may sound a little jarring, it is an experience in itself. Don't be surprised when a spicy guinea fowl salad is followed by The Forest, a dish first created by the French chef Mauro Colagreco.

In Situ has a catalog of 100 recipes, which include those from such renowned chefs as Massimo Bottura, Noma's Rene Redzepi, Quay's Peter Gilmore, The French Laundry's Thomas Keller, and more.

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Highlights on the Menu

It's hard to choose favorites at In Situ, given the rarity and pedigree of each dish that's served. There is Celeriac and Goat Cheese Profiterole, which is a David McMillan recipe. The profiteroles come in a tangy tomato puree, which is beautifully balanced with sprinkled parsley leaves. There is also Christoph Hardiquest's Scallop Carpaccio and Oyster Gazpacho and Chris Shepherd's Cha Ca Style Snapper.

If the menu features Albert Adria's cheesecake during your visit, made from Jasper Hill Farm cheese, don't miss it. The cheesecake's hazelnut crust, together with white chocolate, is decadence on a plate. The same goes for Massimo Bottura's Oops I Dropped The Lemon Tart! The nuanced dessert has candied lemon, a delicious crust, and slightly sour flavors juxtaposed against the right amount of sweetness.

In Situ doesn't just celebrate revered recipes from around the globe, but it's also be conscious of the seasonality and locality of ingredients. For example: chef Esben Holmboe Bang's salted butter ice cream calls for Norwegian butter. However, at In Situ, the Norwegian butter is replaced with San Francisco's local butter, thus keeping the dish sustainable.

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Getting to In Situ

In Situ is housed in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). You need to enter at the museum's Third Street entrance to get to the restaurant. However, you don't need to enter the museum itself or pay admission.

Getting there is easy. You can take Muni or BART to the Montgomery Street Station, or take the 8, 14, 30, or 45 Muni bus lines. If you are driving to the restaurant, you can use the museum's parking lot at 147 Minna St.

Make sure you reserve your table at In Situ well in advance. There is usually a month-long waiting period for reservations. The restaurant is open 5-9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays. The average price is $85 per person.

Nearby Attractions

In Situ's home, SFMOMA, has a collection of more than 30,000 works of art. It even has the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, which is widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary art collections in the world. The museum offers free entry for kids up to 17 years old.

If you want to soak in more local culture, then there is also the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Contemporary Jewish Museum nearby.

Anyone having dinner at In Situ can then head to Novela, a book-themed bar, afterwards. There is also Beard Papa's, a popular bakery in the neighborhood, for those who want to continue their culinary expedition in the area. Other attractions in the vicinity of In Situ include Press Club, Gagosian Gallery, and the Westfield San Francisco Centre.

Other Great Dining Experiences

It might be hard to get into In Situ, but that doesn't mean you won't have memorable dining experiences in San Francisco. There's no shortage of excellent places to choose from. There's The Nob Hill Club with its farm-to-table concept, an impressive selection of wine, and attentive service. If you love wine, you will love The Barrel Room. The restaurant has wine-focused menus that change every three months. There is also Waterfront Restaurant, an award-winning restaurant that serves some of the best seafood in town.

When it comes to great food, San Francisco will spoil you for choice!

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