for temporary relief from hunger
6476 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599-1294
For my 22nd birthday, David and I (on a last minute whim) decided to visit Ad Hoc in Yountville. After falling soo in love with Keller’s other creations, we just had to try the (relatively) newest addition to the Keller family.
Ad Hoc claims to be a homey, comfortable, down to earth establishment that serves family friendly meals. The earthy tones, long benches, wood tables sans fancy linens, and unlimited family portions are meant to encourage long dinners, communion and conversation. However, my experience was quite the contrary. From the hostess’s solemn welcome to the fastidious way our server had to place every item on her tray (from single fork to singular empty beer bottle) to how our dining plates and utensils were replaced after every course, it was clear to me that Ad Hoc fell short of delivering a truly familial and comfortable dining experience. I found Ad Hoc too pretentious, a poor attempt at making Thomas Keller more accessible to the masses. Or perhaps I am interpreting the Ad Hoc motto incorrectly… perhaps Ad Hoc was intended for only the exclusive hoi polloi. Someone care to correct me?
Setting and ambiance aside, we move to the meal itself. The starting dish consisted of hearty Parmesan meatballs served a top sun dried tomato vinaigrette and alongside fresh mostaccioli pasta coated with basil pesto. Now, meatballs are not particularly difficult to make, and they do meet the requirement for a homey, comfort food. However, David and I both found the meatballs sub-spectacular and a little too dry, most likely from too lean ground meet. They were definitely good, but with room for improvement. Also, we would have appreciated more sun dried tomato pieces to contrast and brighten the meatballs. The basil pesto was nothing out of the ordinary, and I found the mostaccioli pasta cooked a little shy of al dente.
Our main course consisted of a crisp roasted chicken over a bean, morel mushroom and bell pepper salad. This was beautifully presented in a stainless steel skillet and the amber brown skin of the roasted chicken glowed against the cream colored cannellini beans. The garnish of romano beans provided the color contrast in the dish. The morel mushrooms were tender and succulent, and absolutely delectable! The chicken (both light and dark meats) was moist and not overcooked, and the salty crispy skin provided excellent flavor. In terms of taste, the bean salad really complemented the chicken – creamy beans with subtle flavors that did not overwhelm one’s palate.
To cleanse our mouths before dessert, a plate of Italian roccolo, peaches, honey and watercress was presented to us. To my surprise, I really appreciated the richness of the roccolo, and I could not stop drizzling the delicious wildflower honey on top of each bite of cheese. The sweet peaches and the peppery watercress provided excellent contrast.
My favorite course, dessert, was unfortunately a disappointment. Here David and I disagree, as he really appreciated Ad Hoc’s take on the (cliche) tiramisu. This very adult take on tiramisu reeked of liquor – if correct, I sensed copious amounts of brandy or rum, and most likely also coffee liquor. The other flavors were drowned out by alcohol, and I could not appreciate the sweetness of the rich mascarpone or the light airy ladyfingers. It was all too alcoholic for my liking.
This particular trip to Ad Hoc was less than satisfying. I should have come in with no prior expectations so that I wouldn’t have a laundry list of standards to evaluate the restaurant. To be fair, perhaps I am prematurely judging the restaurant. If that is the case, I am certainly open to a 2nd tasting of Ad Hoc… so long as you pick up the tab 🙂
PS. The Ad Hoc garden is very charming! You must take a look if you visit Ad Hoc! Most of the produce is used in the kitchen on a daily basis. When I went, there were bushes of strawberries, squash, lots of lettuce, a nectarine tree, and plenty of herb plants.