Last Sunday, Zack and I picked up Anne and Ryan for an afternoon of wine tasting before having dinner at Ad-Hoc, Thomas Keller’s latest venture. Unfortunately, I rushed out of the house before grabbing the camera, so I have no pictures. BTW, if you ever want to take a trip out to Napa: Superbowl Sunday is a fantastic day for it! There’s no traffic and no crowds (we did miss out on the second half of the Puppy Bowl).
In case you haven’t heard about Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller purchased the space in anticipation of turning it into some kind of burger or sushi joint. In the interim, he decided to utilize the space and serve four course prix-fixe ($45) comfort food dinners family-style, but the concept became so popular that the formely ad hoc (pun intended- geddit?) restaurant will probably be permanent. Although I called the restaurant repeatedly and even left a voicemail message, I was never able to secure a reservation. We decided to go out there anyways, since Redd, Bistro Jeanty and Bouchon were right there (French Laundry was alluring, but you’ve got to save some serious dough and plan well in advance for that). When we arrived on Sunday shortly after 5, the restaurant was only about a third full, so seating wasn’t a problem. Although the food is not exactly cheap, the place is relatively informal (compared with the previously mentioned Yountville restaurants) – no tablecloths, and the servers wear Chuck Taylors and gas station attendant shirts. The servers do have that napkin fixation I’ve noticed at all other Keller restaurants… grabbing it and folding it as soon as you stand up from your chair.
Anyways, on to the food. Servings are pretty generous (I was so full that by the time dessert came, I could barely touch it, and wound up taking some food home) and I get the sense that the more people in you party, the more food you get. Also, it *is* a prix fixe – you don’t get a choice, so you eat whatever they serve you. It is comfort food though, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuff like tripe or sea urchin (that’s for French Laundry). I eat just about everything, so I didn’t find it to be a problem. Picky eaters, those with dietary restrictions and vegetarians might.
Our first course was New England style clam chowder. The broth was briny and flavorful, but not thick and heavy, studded generously with whole (shucked) manila clams and batons of pancetta instead of bacon. The potatoes were tender but didn’t dissolve into the soup, and shards of tarragon and scallion brightened up the soup. The tureen easily doled out 2-3 servings per person.
Our second (main) course was braised pork belly with seared day boat scallops on top of sauteed cabbage. We got about 2-3 rather large scallops each, with a chunk of pork belly. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was very rich, plus it came with a side of celery root with melted onions. The pork belly had a slightly pink tinge, with a brown cracklin skin that matched well with scallops that had been “kissed” one side with that perfect golden crust.
Our third course was shropshire blue cheese with fresh pecans and apples. The cheese made a sharp contrast against the richness of the other two dishes, but at this point, I was getting pretty full. I only wished they had given us more apple slices.
Our dessert was a chocolate silk tart with vanilla whipped cream and cream anglaise. I could barely touch it. The cookie crust was light and crisp, and the chocolate filling was creamy but not too rich and not too dark, but I think I only had two bites.
On our server’s suggestion, we drank a 2002 Vouvray Chenin Blanc ($40) with the meal, which was a nice accompaniment. Although we had a trunk full of wine, I didn’t find out what the corkage was. All in all, everybody agreed that it was a pretty good meal, and not a bad price for the quality and quantity of food.