Perhaps I visited Thomas Keller’s restaurants in the wrong order; starting off with the best was probably not a good idea, tactically.
Last October, we made our way to the Foodie Mecca of the West, The French Laundry, and it was one of the best and most expensive dining experiences we’ve ever had.
This past March, I ate at Keller’s less expensive, more casual restaurant, Bouchon. The cooking techniques exhibited were superb; my duck breast was beautifully seared. The flavors, however, did not come together for me. So overall, the meal wasn’t necessarily bad, but I left unimpressed.
With these two restaurants down, that only left one more Keller restaurant to try on the West Coast: Ad Hoc.
Ad Hoc is located in Yountville, along with a few of my favorite restaurants: Redd, Bottega and of course, The French Laundry. Opened Thurs-Mon, Ad Hoc offers a daily changing 4-course dinner menu, served family style; brunch is also offered on Sundays.
Now, listen carefully folks!! Each night there is only one menu, only 4 courses offered, so if you don’t like what’s on the menu, you’re shit out of luck. I already knew that this was the concept of Ad Hoc, having done my research, and I was actually excited about going to dinner and not having to fuss over what to order. However, there were many people dining at Ad Hoc that night that just didn’t have a clue. I can’t believe how many times I overheard the waitstaff having to explain to diners that there was only one menu offered and that they would be happy to call another restaurant to help secure a reservation if the menu wasn’t to the diners’ liking. Moral of the story: do your research!
The appetizer of the night was a white shrimp and cucumber salad, dressed with a tomato vinaigrette. The dish was very refreshing and I would have raved about it, if it weren’t for the shrimp. I don’t think I’m being ridiculous by saying that peeling shrimp is a basic skill that every cook/chef should have, especially when you’re a chef at one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants! It was very disappointing to have to pull out pieces of shrimp shell as I was chewing. This just shows poor execution and attention to detail, something I’m sure Keller would have disapproved of. What a bad start!
For our entree, we were served steak with onion rings and roasted broccoli rabe in an All-clad braiser pan along with a side of grits. I was surprised by the tenderness and juiciness of the steak considering it was a hanger steak. The onion rings were perfectly fried with the right amount of batter and I especially loved the crispiness of the broccoli rabe. Not only did the grits have great flavor because of the bacon and parmesan cheese, it also provided a great contrast in texture from the steak, onion rings and broccoli rabe.
At Ad Hoc, the third course is always a cheese course. We had Cowgirl Creamery’s St. Pat. The edible green rind comes from the cheese being wrapped in stinging nettle leaves (the stinging hairs are removed prior to wrapping). The cheese was soft and creamy with a mild flavor. I usually like stronger cheeses so I wasn’t too fond of St. Pat, at first. But when I paired it with the red onion marmalade, it was delicious! The sweetness of the marmalade really brought out the natural sweetness of St. Pat. Henry didn’t like the taste of the cheese so I basically ate everything!
Our final dish was a tres leches cake. Moist without being “soggy” and just the right amount of sweetness, this was a perfect end to a meal that started out imperfectly.
Even though the meal recovered from the shrimp mishap, I had to decrement Ad Hoc’s rating from 4 stars. It wasn’t something I could easily forgive or forget.
6476 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599