Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thomas Keller Casual – Addendum and Ad-Hoc, Yountville

If there was a food mayor in Yountville, it would be Thomas Keller. Take a walk down Washington Street in Yountville and it would be near impossible not to walk past one of his establishments – French Laundry and the gardens, Bouchon, Ad Hoc or Addendum. We skipped French Laundry but headed to the more casual establishments – picnic lunch at Addendum and dinner at Ad Hoc.


We were there for the labour day weekend – not the best time to go but we didn’t realise this till it was a little too late. Nonetheless, we made good of a potentially bad situation, braced ourselves for the crowds and tried to avoid traffic when possible. The upside of being there during this busy weekend was the Lobster Roll which was the labour day special at Addendum. The downside (and a very big downside) was that Addendum was crowded beyond belief. Tables were hard to come by, their order system crashed and so the food was a little slow coming out of the kitchen and our cookie order went missing.

The food is ordered and confirmed in the small hut in the addendum area but it is good and in the Ad Hoc Kitchen and then hand delivered by food runners. When the finally food did arrive about 45 minutes later, it thankfully did arrive hot and it did delivery on being finger licking good.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken - Thick crispy crust and hot juicy chicken – it is very good fried chicken

Ad Hoc
If I lived in the area, I would probably dine here regularly. The menu changes daily for variety and seasonality, it is best for communal dining, you don’t have to get dressed up for it and the food is comforting and fantastic. The food is not fussy and it simply quality ingredients, straightforward flavours that are easily appreciated. At its core, it is just downright good cooking, well executed and properly seasoned.

The pre-fix menu is a standard four-course (currently $52) – salad, meat, cheese and dessert - with an optional additional daily special.

For our menu that day – 1 Sep 2013

Salad of little gems with smoked trout, English cucumber ribbons, scallion crème fraiche, picked red onions, crispy capers, the French laundry garden tomatoes and everything vinaigrette

Grilled chicken wings with Alabama white sauce

Braised beef short ribs
The ribs were rich and fatty and braised till they were extremely tender.

braised beef short ribs, charred corn and haricot verts in sage buerre sauce, crispy spiced marble potatoes, Jacobsen orchard figs and red wine beef jus

Harbison cheese -
A cow’s cheese that has an herbal and sweet flavour, served with black pepper flatbread and honey mustard.
Blueberry cobbler ice cream sundaes

Addendum and Ad Hoc
6476 Washington Street
Yountville, Californi

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Ah Hock's Fried Oyster Hougang (not in Hougang)

I was recently home for a few days and man I’ve missed the local food. Whampoa market has fast become part of my home visit routine for a plate rojak and Ah Hock’s Oyster Omelette. I actually don’t crave or usually order Orh Luak but I love their version here. It is extra crispy from the sweet potato starch, hot pan and grease which is a good contrast to the small juicy oysters that punctuate the dish with a burst of flavour. What brings it all together is then the homemade chilli sauce – not too fiery and tart - swish chopsticks full of crispy starch, oysters and egg in the sauce for that acid that brightens it all. And it looks like the frying “kung fu” has been passed down to the next generation, so we’ll continue to have this hawker hero around. Hurray!

Ah Hock's Fried Oyster Hougang
Whampoa Makan Place,
Blk 90 Whampoa Drive #01-54

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Swan Oyster Depot, SF – Timeless Eating

The mood here is tutti a tavolo a mangiare. It is a little like joining the family at the dining table, but a happy family. After all, a family that eats together stays together right? They joke, banter about meaningless things and talk about sports whilst shucking oysters and clams and serving customers.

oyster station
oysters - kumamoto, miyagi, blue point
There are more luxurious dining places, chairs and waiting in line is a real pain but the fresh seafood is undeniably good. The seafood here is what you see if what you get. The menu is either on the board or in front of you. We sat in front of the bivalves and watched them repeatedly shuck the oysters and clams and had some of those briny morsels for ourselves. It isn’t just pristine produce that sets this place apart; it is about the history and the family – the Sancimino family bonded by blood and also by a labour of love that they perform every day with a great sense of joy, and that little extra goes a long way.

We skipped the chowder having read mixed reviews about it and stuck to the fresh, raw and cured. With pints of ice-cold Anchor Steam, we picked through a platter of oysters, raw clams, house smoked salmon and some juicy shrimp.

house smoked salmon

house smoked salmon
cherry stone clams
seafood salad

Very unfortunately for us, there was no crab and crab fat (we were too early for the crab season) – there was a collective groan in the room when they announced that there was no crab for the day, and no uni. Nonetheless, it was just honest no bullshit good food.

shrimp and cocktail sauce

Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk Street
San Francisco

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Saison, SF. Amazing.

This is definitely one of my favourite meals this year alongside the incredible sushi dinner at Sawada.

The aesthetics are modern minimalist but gorgeous. The cooking philosophy is the celebration of the return to roots of cooking by and around fire and respect purity of ingredients.

The food is phenomenally good. Chef Joshua Skenes is a very gifted chef. The kitchen puts out creative plates made with modern techniques and the old craft of fanning flames to achieve differing degrees and effects of fire - to roast, char and to fire-kiss.

There are Japanese sensibilities in the cooking and the plating. We were presented an striped jack kissed by a coal and the roasted bone gelee and a lamb tartare that looked but tasted nothing like pieces of sushi and a bowl of dehydrated mustard leaves with seaweed broth and mixed grains made me think of an ochazuke but a more powerfully flavoured version of it. This common theme carried on from the savoury to the sweet courses, buckwheat for dessert? Buckwheat soufflé, ice cream and roasted buckwheat tea, not too sweet, nutty and light, this dessert was right up my alley.

Not everything points Japanese and not all the flavours are familiar. Some flavour combinations are out of this world. Toffee, bread, milk, beer – a duck liver toffee, caramelised white chocolate, beer foam and crunchy bread with about another 10 different elements is something that when the server announces doesn’t make sense but somehow in your mouth it does. I wondered out loud, I wonder how the chef managed to come up with this combination, imagination and smoking I believe was the response I got. And I believe them. Whatever it is, it works, Saison produces an amazing gastronomic experience.

The evening begins with a couple of drinks. We were welcomed with a glass of Krug, cheers to good start for a splendid dinner – we are here yay!! And then once seated, our palates were refreshed with a glass smoked sage soda, pineapple espuma and garnished with the tiniest coriander blossoms.

cheers with krug

soda, smoked pineapple, soda

And this was the rest of the meal -

custard, grilled turnip, sea urchin

reserve caviar, corn pudding, tomato gelee

striped jack, cherry blossom

live scallop, avocado, trumpet lily

king salmon, its roe, vichysoisse

king salmon, its roe, vichysoisse

abalone, roasted over the embers

tomato, sungold tomato, safflower oil, grilled tomatillo consommé
spot prawn, swarnadipa spices, yoghurt, mandarin

melon, melon soup, fermented melon skin, coconut, ham

melon, melon soup, fermented melon skin, coconut, ham
60 day lamb, slow grilled nightshades

brassicas, toasted grains, wild seaweed bouillon

toffee, bread, milk, beer

wood pigeon, boudin, warm spices, dates

raspberry, meyer lemon, basil buds

buckwheat, soufflé and ice cream

sesame cake with duche de leche and kinako

liquid molten vanilla bean truffle

chrysanthemum macaroons

a very good canele

Let’s get a few obvious questions out of the way.
Was it expensive? Yes. (eater did feature it as #7 in their list of most expensive tasting menus in American, Jan 2013)
Was the food good? Yes. It was very very good.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Will I go back again? Yes, absolutely.

178 Townsend Street
San Francisco

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Bar Tartine, SF

Drawing influences from Eastern Europe and in particular Hungary, Chef Nick Balla assembles a Californian menu that is spiked paprika, sour cream, savoury seeds and pickles. This meal was interestingly different in a good way. We don’t get much of these Hungarian/Eastern European flavours in our part of the world, so this was a delectable introduction into this spectrum of flavours.

The dining is casual and communal. The plates are all meant to be shared and bread is meant to be enjoyed on its own, slathered with lard, tapenade, dipped and eaten with pickles.

We started with the roasted kale and rye seeds and yoghurt, which was a good start but were quickly distracted by the next dish, the potato flat bread. When you do come, you have to order the potato flat bread, it is ridiculously delicious – fried dough + fried potato, a crunch and squish, then spread some cool tang with sour cream, altogether is very good. The meal continued with pickles, more bread and we finished off the green chili fisherman stew that was surprisingly greener and lighter than I thought it would be and the very heavy handed paprika spiced tripe. All in all, some of the flavours were unfamiliar to me but it was all good in a new exciting way.

What we ordered:
Mangalica Lard with onion and paprika

Assortment of pickles – creamed beets with green horseradish, brine dill pickles, green beans with aspic and herbs

Potato flat bread with garlic and sour cream

Beef tartare on koji toast with bottarga

Smoked potatoes with ramp mayonnaise

Roasted kale with rye, seeds and yoghurt

Grilled tripe in paprika broth

Green chili fisherman’s stew with collards

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia Street
San Francisco, California

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