And then there's the food itself, which, like everything else at Benu (and inside Benu, his cookbook, out this month from Phaidon), is more or less a master class in stripped-down elegance, a phrase that defines his cooking as exactly as any of the labels—modern, high-end, Asian-accented—that have been applied to his food since he opened the restaurant in the SoMa neighborhood in 2010. Consider Lee's riff on the classic French crudité spread. He started with an image in his head of the radishes, butter, and salt served at French bistros: "It's timeless, and I didn't want to totally rework it. But I also didn't want a trite play on something classical," he says. At Benu, the dish becomes a smattering of raw vegetables accompanied by a silky hillock of Bercy butter crowned with a nest of caramelized dried baby anchovies. Why anchovies? In Europe, they are often used to flavor butter; in Korean cuisine, baby anchovies are used to make stocks. Lee found unexpected harmony in that duality—in using a single, traditional ingredient to unite two vastly different cultures on a plate. As soon as you look at Benu's dish, Lee explains, "you can identify things you expect, but simultaneously you realize it's entirely different and totally new."