Per Se (New York, NY)

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

Door

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).

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Ad Lib (Yountville, CA)

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

Silverado

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.

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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.

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Bouchon (Yountville, CA)

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

Exterior

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.

Interior1

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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.

Interior

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Addendum (Yountville, CA)

Addendum
6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Dining date: 5/25/15

addendum

Addendum opened in 2011 behind Ad Hoc serving picnic favorites on Thursdays through Saturdays for lunch (Spring/Summer only). It’s easily the most approachable way to try some of Thomas Keller’s food in Yountville since it doesn’t require making a reservation and is very family-friendly. Food is ordered from a little shack in the back and eaten throughout picnic benches or even on the lush grassy areas.

Ad Hoc’s most famous dish has to be its herb-brined fried chicken served every other Monday night. But here at Addendum, the chicken is always on the lunch menu (along with BBQ pork ribs or pulled pork and a couple of rotating side dishes).

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I’ve had the fried chicken at Ad Hoc before (and again at Bouchon Beverly Hills, even cooking it once at home), but it’s been a while since I’ve had it. Following our dinner at The French Laundry, we came here for a quick meal before leaving town. We picked up a bucket of fried chicken and an order of pork ribs to eat on the picnic tables. It was a beautiful day to be outside with a bucket of fried chicken.

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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

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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).

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

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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

cocktails

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.

bread

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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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