Sunday, May 16, 2010

Restaurant Review: Ad Hoc

Posted 10.18.10 for 05.16.10

Simple yet ingenious. That's how I feel about the concept behind Ad Hoc in Yountville. Everyone knows that I'm a fan of Thomas Keller, but really, Ad Hoc is such a wonderful idea, and a very fortunate accident. In his cookbook, Keller explains that he bought the property for Ad Hoc intending to turn it into a high end burger joint. Before he could put that plan into action, though, he needed to earn short term revenue off of the property. He needed something that could be put into action quickly. What could be quicker and simpler than family meals? One fixed menu a day featuring the kind of food the staff at Keller restaurants would eat. Easy. They already did it every day, only now, they would do it for more people. (Genius, right?) Turns out, the concept was a hit. And thus, Ad Hoc was born.

Our menu that day: rock shrimp and mushroom fritters, beef skirt steak, roncal (cheese plate), beignets. One menu. One price. Served family style. Nothing to think about. But wait! What if you have a dietary restriction? We'll get to that in a bit.

While this may be a family style restaurant, it's still a Thomas Keller restaurant, so the meal is still served sort of French-style. Expect to be there a while. Our meal took almost 2 hours. Not quite as long as you'd expect at a fancier place, like French Laundry, but definitely longer than you spend in most restaurants. Don't worry, the bread is pretty good.

Course one: Rock Shrimp and Mushroom Fritters with tfl garden lettuces, fried artichokes, spiced lemon aioli. tfl = The French Laundry. I knew you were wondering. :-P Anyway, these fritters? Awesome. Everything on the plate went together so well, we were yummm-ing after every bite. I was actually sad when our FOUR fritters were gone. They were more like savory pancakes than fritters (I imagine deep fried and crunchy when I hear "fritter". is that wrong?). They were so good, I've taken to making some sort of savory pancake at least once a month at home. I was inspired.

Course two: Beef Skirt Steak with soffritto butter, white kohlrabi, carrot ragu, caramelized cippolini onions, moretti polenta with slow cooked egg. Anyone notice a problem with this being the main dish at a single menu restaurant? Right. I don't eat beef. I was worried for a bit, but turns out, it wasn't a big deal. At all. The server went back to the kitchen, asked the chef what else they had on hand, and came back within minutes saying that the chef would whip up some fish for me. So nice. The fish was really good, and A was a big fan of the steak. The big winner for me, though, was the polenta and eggs. Polenta and eggs are meant to be. This dish made me a believer. I started making variations of this at home, too. Notice a trend?

If I had any criticism for this course, though, it would be the vegetables. I'm just not a fan of barely seasoned sous vide veggies. Yay, you cooked your carrots in an immersion circulator...and they don't taste like anything. I can live without sous vide veggies. Those eggs, on the other hand, were cooked sous vide, and they were light and smooth. Dreamy eggs if there ever was such a thing.

Course three: Roncal with cripps pink apples and toasted mixed nuts. Oh, lovely cheese plates. This cheese was delicious. So delicious, I forgot to take a picture. I have a bad habit of doing that with cheese plates, it seems.

Dessert: Beignets with strawberry sorbet, creme anglaise and chocolate sauce. Beignets and sorbet? Weird right? Surprisingly, not so weird. The strawberry sorbet was smooth and played the part of a light fruit sauce, cutting the richness of the sauces and light grease of the beignets. Not that the beignets were greasy. I was actually surprised they weren't more oily. Master beignets.

I really enjoyed Ad Hoc. I expected simple with slight Thomas Keller flair. Ad Hoc delivered on both counts. Don't expect anything fancy. Remember, this is a home-cooked/family style restaurant. The menu may seem plain, but they do it well; and that's what makes the difference. If you're worried about portion sizes, don't be. I actually felt that there was a bit too much food, especially considering the courses were spread out more than the typical meal. We couldn't even finish our beignets! The tables around us (ranging in size up to a family of 5) all seemed to be pleased with the potion sizes as well. And, as I mentioned before, there's always the bread. :-P

Check out their website HERE and their yelp reviews HERE. Hint: Mondays book up quick because it's fried chicken night. Apparently their chicken is famous.

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