A few weekends ago, we dined at Thomas Keller’s third restaurant installment, Ad Hoc. The restaurant was originally going to be open temporarily and then replaced by a low key burger joint. Fortunately for us, as of September 2007 Ad Hoc became a permanent fixture in Yountville’s “restaurant row”.
Described as “home-style American” cuisine, the food is served family style and the prix fixe menu changes daily. If you’re fortunate enough to live in the Valley, you can get a glimpse of the evening’s menu if you grab a delicious cup of coffee and pastry at Bouchon Bakery. With servers wearing brown Dickies shirts and regular black pants, Ad Hoc skips on the formal dining experience and replaces it with a more casual, approachable setting.
The dining room: In a word, Ad Hoc’s dining room can be described as “comfortable”. Unlike Keller’s two other Yountville restaurants, Bouchon and French Laundry, there were no white linens covering tables and no servers in formal black vests. Instead, you find the evening’s menu filed inside a plain manila folder alongside a modest and approachable wine list.
The main wall behind the bar was lined with wine bottles and a chalkboard artfully displayed the menu for the evening. Wines were served in elegant but understated stemless glasses. In the middle of the back dining area rests a wooden table with extra plates, utensils, and a charming little pig statue greeting guests. It was easy to see that patrons were both locals and visitors alike and most were dressed casually (lots of jeans).
The service: Along with a more relaxed atmosphere in the dining area is an equally relaxed approach to service. With a four course prix fixe menu, the chances of making a mistake on a food order are fairly slim. Our server was approachable and was knowledgeable enough about the wine list to recommend a muscat from Spain to pair with our dessert (it was wonderful). There is one detail that might not be a big deal to some diners but to others is a litmus test of good service: whether or not a guest’s glass or carafe of water is constantly replenished. Despite several visits from our server to see how our food was, she did not take note of our table’s empty water carafe. Perhaps most diners who eat at Ad Hoc are more apt to have a cocktail or wine with their dinner rather than a simple glass of water. Regardless of this oversight, the service was overall just fine.
The food: On March 1st, the menu for the evening included a first course of salad of baby mixed greens with pickled carrots, red onions, watermelon radishes, Mt. Vikos feta, black olives, served with sherry vinaigrette, a second course of braised kurobuta pork short ribs with scarlet runner bean ragout, Hobb’s bacon lardons, roasted red bell peppers, wilted arugula, and a side of pencil asparagus. The third course was Cowgirl Creamery’s Pierce Pt. with Marshall’s farm honey, and herbed walnuts and finally a mouth-watering fourth course of pear cranberry crisp with vanilla ice cream.
The menu is priced at $48 per person. Since people eat with their eyes first, it must be noted that the food’s presentation further enhances the feel of “home-style” dining. Our salad was brought out in a wooden bowl and the main course was served in the All Clad pan where it was cooked. Even our crisp was served in its own baking dish big enough for two!
Looking around the room, tables with larger parties had proportionately larger dishes and larger servings. Despite the fact that everyone in the restaurant was eating the same exact food we were, having the food presented this way still made us feel as though it was prepared especially for us. Keeping up with KellerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reputation, it should be no surprise that the food was mouth-watering!
Since the menu changes daily, it would be futile to describe each course of the meal, but it is worth it to note that this dining experience will definitely bring us back. We were initially disappointed that there didn’t seem to be enough short ribs in our second course, however, by the last bite of our absolutely delicious pear cranberry crisp, we were convinced that the portions were perfect.
The Cork Board Rating: Overall, Ad Hoc is a wonderful addition to the Valley’s culinary tapestry. The restaurant is perfect if you want a casual dining experience without sacrificing the quality of the food. The service was slightly less than perfect, however, the experience as a whole is well worth a second, third, and fourth visit. We rate Ad Hoc a strong 4 out of 5.
If you’ve dined at Ad Hoc recently, please share your experience with us! Also, be sure to check out our previous restaurant reviews.