Per Se (New York, NY)

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
Dining date: 9/8/15


While traveling in New York, a few coworkers and I had one free night to have a dinner together. They left it up to me to choose a restaurant for the four of us. It didn’t take too much deliberation to pick Per Se. This would be my first time dining here and the first Thomas Keller restaurant for the rest of the party.

Dining Room

Dining Room

Generally regarded as one of the best restaurants in the city (America and the world), Per Se holds three Michelin stars, is rated 4 stars by the New York Times, and is ranked #40 in the latest best restaurants in the world list (holding a top 10 spot for an impressive 8-year streak from 2005 to 2012).


Continue reading

Ad Lib (Yountville, CA)

Ad Lib
Silverado Resort
1600 Atlas Peak Rd
Napa, CA 94558
Dining date: 8/30/15


When The French Laundry closed this past winter for a remodel, Thomas Keller partnered with Napa’s Silverado Resort to open up a temporary restaurant on the grounds. The primary reason was to keep the TFL team employed while the restaurant was closed, which was only supposed to be about 3-4 months. The French Laundry did reopen in April, but Ad Lib’s run has been extended through October when the resort will host a PGA Tour event.

While I am a huge Thomas Keller fan, I was a little apprehensive about trying Ad Lib. The restaurant had received somewhat mixed reviews and The French Laundry staff had already departed in April back to their home restaurant. Furthermore, one of the most popular dishes from the original run, a short rib beef wellington, was no longer on the menu. However, I figured I might as well give the restaurant a try during its limited run.



Temporarily situated inside the resort’s Royal Oak restaurant, Ad Lib was one of the dimmest restaurants in recent memory. The focus of the decor was primarily on the large windows peering out onto the resort grounds and its golf course. While it was dark by the time of our reservation, we observed a striking moonrise over the mountains.

Continue reading

Bouchon (Yountville, CA)

6534 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Dining date: 8/31/15


I’ve been to the Beverly Hills and Las Vegas locations of Bouchon numerous times although I had not been to Bouchon’s first location here in Yountville (until now). I’d like to think I’m very familiar with the cuisine here; the menu at all Bouchon locations is pretty much the same serving up Thomas Keller’s interpretation of French bistro food. One thing that does set this location apart is that it’s garnered a Michelin star.

I stopped in for a late Monday lunch after a morning of wine tasting.



Continue reading

Ad Hoc (Yountville, CA)

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Dining date: 8/30/15

Ad HocI’ve been to Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc twice before (with the last visit over five years ago) and been to Addendum once, earlier this year. While looking for a brunch spot for a large party, Ad Hoc came up as the popular choice.

This would be my first time having brunch here. Ad Hoc offers one daily menu, 3-4 courses served family style. The restaurant sometimes serves its famous fried chicken in a classic chicken and waffles dish for brunch; I was really hoping for this but it wasn’t in the cards this afternoon.


Continue reading

5×5 Chefs Collaborative @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

5×5 Chefs Collaborative Dinner
Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 8/20/12


I attended the first 5×5 dinner of the season at Melisse, but have unfortunately missed the last two due to some conflicts (Providence & Angelini Osteria). I was glad to be able to attend this latest one, which happened to be one of my most anticipated L.A. meals of the year. Having an all-star cast of L.A. chefs was part of it, sure, but there were four other opportunities for these 5×5 dinners. The difference-maker for me was the rumor that Thomas Keller (one of my favorite chefs, duh) would be around to survey the kitchen and meet & greet guests.

The guest chef for this dinner was Richard Rosendale of The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Rosendale will be representing the U.S. at the upcoming biennial chef competition Bocuse d’Or, something Thomas Keller has been strongly involved with. In preparation for the competition Keller has been taking Rosendale around the country to broaden experience and exposure. This was their latest stop (Rosendale revealed the next would be a stint at The French Laundry).


Similar to previous 5×5 dinners, each chef prepared one course, while the home restaurant’s pastry chef created a seventh.


We started with a few cocktails (left to right).

Moscow Mule 
Basil Basil Basil Hayden Bourbon, Normandin Mercier Pineau des Charentes, Fever Tree Soda, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Basil, Basil Simple, Highball
Blackberry Bramble Nolet’s Gin, Lucien Jacob Creme di Cassis, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Blackberries, Rocks


We generally found the cocktails to be fairly watered down, which may have been partially caused by us waiting until all three were served (it took some time for the last one to come).

“Gougères” sauce Mornay with preserved black winter truffle

“Gougères” sauce Mornay with preserved black winter truffle

The first thing to come out of the kitchen was this strong amuse bouche. The gougeres were similar to one of the signature starters at The French Laundry, albeit this one had a strong truffle flavor that really separated this bite. Hard to go wrong with cheese and truffles.

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar Vidalia onion soubise, Hobbs Shore bacon, rye panna cotta & red ribbon sorrel (Rory Hermann, Bouchon)

Next was home chef Rory Hermann’s dish. The caviar and sweet onion flavors were what stood out most, and I found the rye panna cotta to be very interesting – essentially a rye bread in smooth custard form. The flavors came together pretty well in this light starter.

A trio of breads were available this evening: the signature epi, brioche and multi-grain. I went with the first two; the epi was reliably good but I enjoyed the soft, buttery brioche even more.


Cuttlefish Salad sea bean-green goddess, espelette, cuttlefish cracklings (Michael Voltaggio, ink.)

Cuttlefish Salad sea bean-green goddess, espelette, cuttlefish cracklings (Michael Voltaggio, ink.)

Voltaggio’s dish featured a duo of cuttlefish – one in pasta-like ribbons and the other as fried “cracklings.” I really liked the texture between the delicate chew of the cuttlefish, crispy fried cuttlefish and crunch of the dehydrated dressing. The spring peas added a welcome sweetness to the overall plate.
Santa Barbara Prawn roasted rosa bianca eggplant, shellfish & green zebra tomato jus (Josiah Citrin, Melisse)

Santa Barbara Prawn roasted rosa bianca eggplant, shellfish & green zebra tomato jus (Josiah Citrin, Melisse)

Perfectly cooked spot prawns, clams and mussels were smothered in a complex broth with earthy olive tones and a duo of sweetness from the tomatoes and raisins.

Pave of Leek & Halibut spiced “carrot”, truffle ribbon, sea cress, crystal lettuce, raisin purée & smokey leeks (Richard Rosendale, The Greenbrier)

Pave of Leek & Halibut spiced “carrot”, truffle ribbon, sea cress, crystal lettuce, raisin purée & smokey leeks (Richard Rosendale, The Greenbrier)

Guest chef Rosendale’s dish was a major disappointment. The layered halibut and  leeks was a good pairing, but way over-salted. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the accompanying carrot, tomato and “truffle ribbon” were rather bland and tasteless. While I hoped that the over-seasoned and bland would offset each other to create a perfectly seasoned bite, this just wasn’t the case.

“Risotto alla Milanese” stewed ossobuco & lemon pistachio gremolata (Gino Angelini, Angelini Osteria)

“Risotto alla Milanese” stewed ossobuco & lemon pistachio gremolata (Gino Angelini, Angelini Osteria)

Angelini reliably creates something rather simple and delicious in meals like this, and this was no exception. An al dente saffron risotto was topped with a tender piece of veal shank, while the gremolata provided a little bit of fresh citrus to counter the richness. A great balance of flavors – I just wish the portion wasn’t so tiny.
Liberty Farms Duck Breast gratin of Weiser Farms tromboncino, smoked tromboncino purée & black mission figs (Michael Cimarusti, Providence)

Liberty Farms Duck Breast gratin of Weiser Farms tromboncino, smoked tromboncino purée & black mission figs (Michael Cimarusti, Providence)

Cimarust’s duck dish was the final savory course. The duck was cooked a nice medium-rare and Cimarusti was able to imbue it with a pretty strong smoky flavor. It was complemented by sweet figs and some frisee; I’m not sure if the tromboncino squash made it to the plate.

“Le Vacherin aux Pêches Verveines” Frog Hollow Farms peaches, lemon verbena & chamomile bubbles (Allen Ramos, Bouchon)

“Le Vacherin aux Pêches Verveines” Frog Hollow Farms peaches, lemon verbena & chamomile bubbles (Alen Ramos, Bouchon)

Dessert was a very simple, yet satisfying dish. Sweet peaches were paired with a meringue and a foam with floral and lemon flavors. Light and refreshing.

As a parting gift, we were given earl grey and pistachio macarons as well as a canele.


I thought the food overall was good, but not great, and didn’t meet the expectations suggested by previous 5×5 dinners or the $150 price tag. I just didn’t think anything really stood out, and flavors didn’t quite come together as well as anticipated. I understand that even with an all-star cast of chefs, dishes often don’t come out as refined during a one-night special event in a foreign kitchen – it won’t detract me from attending future 5×5 dinners. Plus, my experience was definitely made up for by the fact that Thomas Keller was there working the dining room. I just hope that leek & halibut dish doesn’t make its way anywhere near the Bocuse d’Or judges’ table.

Chef Keller signing an apron. An apron with a bunch of notable chef signatures happens to be a great conversation-starter.


KCET Uncorked @ Bouchon (Beverly Hills, CA)

KCET Uncorked!
Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 6/13/11


Anyone who knows me (or has read their fair share of posts from this blog) knows that I’m a huge fan of Thomas Keller. Huge. Borderline obsessive. So, when I was invited to a seven-course dinner (with wine pairings) at Bouchon with a chance to sit down and dine with Chef Keller, this was truly an invitation I couldn’t refuse.

The dinner was a fundraiser for KCET, the public broadcasting network with shows such as America’s Test Kitchen and Simply Ming. The company I work for is a sponsor for the network, and had 4 seats at the $2,500 a plate dinner. Somehow, I got one of the seats. Can I say…best work perk EVER?

The benefit dinners spanned two evenings – one catered more towards the public (on the 12th, $250pp) and a more intimate affair (on the 13th, $2,500pp) catered to businesses and other large donors. Due to the nature of the event I didn’t bring my camera in, but I did take some quick shots of the food with my crappy camera phone. However, I did have my camera for the second half of the meal.

Before dinner was served, hors d’oeuvres were passed around, consisting of gougères, caviar and smoked trout crostini, some sort of mushroom tarts, and cups of French onion soup.

We started off with a few things at the table as the first formal course.



Rillettes aux Deux Saumons fresh & smoked Scottish salmon rilletes, served with toasted baguette croutons

A really well-balanced blend of fresh and smoked salmon, this was delicious with the toasted slices of baguette.

Pate de Campagne country style pate with watercress, cornichons & radishes


I don’t often like pates, but I enjoyed this one. Knowing many courses were to come, I abstained from eating too much of it though.

Grand Plateau Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, little neck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels & dungeness crab
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, Santa Barbara County 2009




I’m no stranger to Bouchon’s raw seafood bar (see: American Wine & Food Festival), and it’s hard to go wrong with a tower full of ice and fresh seafood. Everything was good; my favorites were the clams and the lobster (particularly the claw). The clams were plump and had a nice chew, while the lobster was really sweet and delicious. Loved it.

Salade de Fenouil et Abricot young fennel bulb, apricots, Bellwether Farms ricotta cheese & garden sorrel
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Maria Valley 2009


I enjoyed this salad. It incorporated a couple of in-season ingredients (fennel and apricot), and really came together with the rich ricotta.

“Carnaroli Risotto Biologico” summer truffles, English peas, sweet pea shoots & parmesan mousse
Pinot Noir, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Rita Hills 2008


This was probably my favorite dish of the night. One of the best risottos I’ve ever had was the white truffle version at The French Laundry; while this wasn’t quite on the same level, it was executed just as well. Again, seasonal produce was showcased in the form of the pea and pea shoots, lending a lighter, cleaner flavor to this risotto. Little bits of black summer truffles made the dish extra special. Best way to get my veggies and carbs in one spoonful.

Throughout the meal, Chef Keller moved from table to table, eating one course at each.


Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye “Cuit Sous Vide” fricassee of fava beans, butter poached morel mushrooms, caramelized cipollini onions & natural lamb jus
Syrah, Rusack Vineyards, “Ballard Canyon Estate”, Santa Barbara County 2008


The lamb was prepared a nice medium-rare, leaving it very tender. I also enjoyed the addition of the morels and fava beans. I thought the rich, savory lamb jus really made the difference, bringing everything together. Really enjoyed the syrah with this dish.

Selection de Fromages Artisaneux beemster gouda, marisa & fourme d’ambert with honey comb, candied nuts, cranberry currant campagne & walnut bread
Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot, Rusack Vineyards, “Anacapa”, Santa Barbara County 2007


During the cheese course, a live auction was held, featuring trips ranging from across the street (Montage Beverly Hills) to Europe (Monte Carlo).


As the savory courses came to an end, two desserts came out. I was a little surprised they didn’t serve their signature chocolate bouchons though.

Tarte au Citron lemon tart
Semillon, Rusack Vineyards, “Soul of the Vine”, Santa Ynez Valley 2009

lemon tart

I’m not a huge “sour” person, so I found this lemon tart to be a little bit too sour for me.

Ile Flottante meringue with vanilla creme anglaise, almond & caramel


I liked this dessert better…kind of like a marshmallow, but more complex. It was light, airy and sweet, with the bulk of the flavor coming from the accompanying vanilla creme anglaise. I thought the almonds and caramel worked really well with this dessert.

Mignardises nutter butters, TKO, cookies, macarons, jellies, chocolate tart, lemon meringue



Of course, we had the requisite kitchen tour.


I knew coming into this dinner (experience) that I’d probably remember it for the rest of my life. After all, being able to meet and spend some time with Chef Keller was such a unique opportunity for me. I would have to say he was a little less easygoing than in prior meetings, but it was still very cool to spend some time with him.

As for the food, I would call it an excellent Bouchon dinner. I was hoping the food would have glimpses of the cuisine at the French Laundry level, but that wasn’t the case here. Still, similar to previous Bouchon experiences, the dishes were really well-executed and pretty delicious.