Chow Down with John Batchelor at The Prescott
Elegant, using ingredients of exceptional quality, sourced nearby when feasible.
Similar to a den or home library, you can actually carry on a conversation here.
Knowledgeable, well-paced, cooperative.
Prices strike me as quite reasonable for this level of dining.
Ratings range from Not Recommended or Acceptable to one (satisfactory), two (good), three (very good), four (excellent) or five (truly exceptional) stars. Most recent visit: Nov. 21
The Prescott occupies a cozy space in downtown Kernersville. The interior feels rather like a home library or den, one of the few restaurants in the Triad where you can actually carry on a conversation. Even during Wake Forest homecoming weekend, when the place was packed, we could hear each other without yelling. On balance, this is one of the most civilized dining venues in the Triad.
Executive chef-proprietor Trey Prescott earned a hospitality degree from Appalachian. Previous stints include Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock and The Umstead in Cary. Daniel Dyson is the manager, and he came over from J.Pepper’s in Kernersville, where he worked with Prescott. Both are Kernersville natives.
Farm to table is a central theme, and sources are identified. Sliced bread from Camino bakery in Winston-Salem is served with kale pesto and olive oil plus sorghum molasses butter.
Most starters look and taste elegant.
In the Truffle Lobster Dip, bright red lobster claw meat contrasts with green spinach leaves, hosted in a blend of goat cheese and white cheddar drizzled with truffle oil. This is best shared, given the level of richness, spread over crisp crostini, drizzled with olive oil and toasted.
Two large, perfectly seared, buttery-tender Scallops are presented over Corn Pudding, a naturally sweet concoction that marries well with the flavor of the tender scallops. Bacon-onion jam flanks the main ingredients.
Two others fared less well. Farm Fondue places radishes, broccoli and carrots, along with bread pieces, alongside a bowl of warm white cheddar cheese spread. The spread is quite tasty, and we liked it with the bread, but the vegetables, still chilled, seemed a mediocre match. Fried Kale suffers from tough stems, and the texture is a little greasy, albeit from olive oil, so the flavor is OK. If I had never had fried kale before (unfortunately in a restaurant that does it exactly right), I might have given this rendition modest praise.
Pamlico Shrimp, on the other hand, represents an original take on a perennial favorite. A blend of black walnuts and just enough horseradish to add gentle bite coat the deveined, jumbo shrimp, fried as crisp as a nut crust can be. Everyone gave the nutty flavor high marks.
I liked the food here so much I started inviting friends. Consequently, I have tasted almost all the entrées.
Wild Sockeye Salmon is dusted with smoked paprika and pan-seared, enhanced with horseradish butter. The salmon itself tastes pleasantly fresh, joined on the plate by puréed Yukon Gold potatoes and bright green spinach. The salmon came from Alaska- obviously, some ingredients don’t exist locally. Quality, cold water farmed North Atlantic salmon, is provided when wild is not available.
Chilean Seabass is very flavorful, a firm, thick white fish, well treated with lobster butter. It is presented over wild rice, flanked by broccolini and carrots, their freshness evident in flavor and texture. Seafood Risotto is based on flavorful, well-executed risotto prepared with Carolina Gold rice (an heirloom variety), enhanced with dried tomatoes and spinach. Large shrimp are arrayed around the edges, a strip of salmon on top, plus two slices of tender scallop alongside.
The Double Cut Pork Chop is thick and juicy, providing pork flavor that I would rank as high as any I have ever had, swirled with seasoned natural jus, baked apple and plum slices, plus toasted pecans. The sweet potato hash is interspersed with goat cheese, which is a lovely combination. Firm Brussels sprouts round out this stellar conception.
Venison Meatloaf captures the inherent flavor of the meat itself. Incorporating it in meatloaf avoids the tendency of venison to be dryish and overly firm. The preparation utilizes unusually flavorful mushrooms, flanked by collard greens and rosemary-pomegranate bread pudding. Braised Short Rib is thick and moist, fork-tender, exuding excellent depth of flavor, flecked with hazelnuts, presented over puréed butternut squash. Spinach and carrots are the other vegetables.
The plate du jour on Saturday is Fried Chicken and Gravy. The chicken itself is especially fresh tasting, well served with exceptional braised collards. On Thursday, Beef Bourgignon is the special. The beef cuts are tender and deeply flavorful, even though they are virtually devoid of fat. Risotto is ladled with beef gravy.
If you want something more casual, the Burger uses prime beef, deeply flavorful, in a brioche bun with Bibb lettuce. Hand-cut fries are the real deal.
Most presentations include microgreens and shaved radish, adding nutrition as well as a variety of colors.
The Apple Brandy Bread Pudding incorporates toasted oats and brioche bread, topped with homemade maple-bourbon ice cream, all resting in an orange-caramel drizzle. Excellent as served, it would have been stellar with more sauce. I’m sure more would have been provided if we had requested it, but we ate the entire serving before our waiter had time to check back. Honey Almond Cheesecake was too cold upon arrival- firm in texture- but it didn’t last long enough at our table to bloom properly. The Lemon Mousse, however, needed no accommodation. As served, with brightly colored blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries on top, the flavor of the mousse itself is simply exquisite.
Management tends to make itself known in restaurants more often by omission than commission. Patrons are likely to notice errors, whereas it’s not obvious when things just flow smoothly. That’s the way it is here. Servers know the menu. Deliveries are accurate and paced appropriately for this level of dining. The wine list is large enough to offer attractive choices, and vintages are included. Prices are reasonable. You simply can’t go wrong no matter what you decide, and you can find selections that are rarely available in other restaurants, if at all. Of course, if wine isn’t into you, other quality beverages are available, as well.
Open about a year, The Prescott already ranks among the Triad’s elite.
John Batchelor has been writing about eating and drinking since 1981. Over a thousand of his articles have been published. He is also author of two travel/cookbooks: Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast, and Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or see his blog, johnbatchelordiningandtravel.blogspot.com.
The Prescott, 126 S. Main St., in Kernersville, (336) 310-4014, theprescottrestaurant.com. Hours: 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Appetizers: $9-$18, Salads: $5-$14, Soups: $8-$10, Burger: $14, Entrées: $17-$42, Desserts: $6-$8