I have wanted to visit Ad Hoc for a really long time. I even bought the Ad Hoc At Home cookbook many years ago in hopes of experiencing a little bit of Thomas Keller’s culinary genius in my own kitchen. Alas, some of the recipes can be a bit complicated and sometimes it’s a lot of effort to feed just myself. They also rely heavily on fresh high quality ingredients, which isn’t always practical for me. It’s hard to shop and cook on the same day. So it was exciting to finally have the real Ad Hoc experience. The family style dining format meant our party of 4 shared an appetizer, entree and 2 sides, and a dessert. There were supplemental options that, of course, we had to try.
TFL Garden Lettuce & Barley Salad cara cara oranges, poached figs, beets, prosciutto, mint, sherry vinaigrette
We were all unanimously pleased with the salad. It had varying textures and flavors. Overlord kept reiterating how fresh it all tasted. It all came from The French Laundry garden. It was probably picked that day. I can’t say I’m a fan of figs, but its sweet stickiness balanced out the tart tang of the vinaigrette. The beets were a great counter to the oranges. None of us are experts on barley. We’ve seen it commonly in soup, but this was our first time enjoying this underrated grain in a salad. It certainly added to the heft of the salad, but we loved it.
Scallop Ceviche house fermented hot sauce, tamari, shallots, garlic, parsley, cilantro, tortilla chips (supplement)
We were more divided on the ceviche. The Annoyer, loving almost all things raw, enjoyed it with only mild reservations. I don’t think Overlord liked it much. I was torn. There was just something off about the whole thing. It was slimy in an unpalatable way for scallop, but there was something rather tasty in the seasoning I appreciated.
I found the vegetables to be the highlight of the meal. They were fresh and simple. A little bit of char and well seasoned.
Lobster Mac & Cheese black truffle mornay sauce, breadcrumbs (supplement)
The mac n cheese was quite the departure from the classic cheesy, creamy, rich American classic. It was more like a creamy pasta with elbow macaroni. The lobster dotted the dish, with very subtle truffle flavor throughout. It was very light. I would have appreciated a touch more salt and cheese.
Smoked Beef Short Ribs
The main course for the evening was smoked short ribs. When I hear “smoked beef” I think of something that takes 16 hours to make. Apparently, these were just smoked for 8 hours. So not only was the smokiness a bit lacking, so was the flavor. Maybe some more salt would have been nice.
Cypress Grove Purple Haze mustard fruits, marcona almonds
We were so full at this point. Overlord kept complaining how he just ate way too much. I wish I had more space to enjoy the cheese course, which was really nice. The fruits were a nice balance to the cheese and nutty almonds. Still, cheese as a primer to dessert is something that will always be hard for me to truly enjoy.
German Chocolate Cake toasted coconut & pecans
These looked like they would be an insane sugar overload. Surprisingly, the frosting wasn’t excessive, and the coconut brought some wonderful texture to an amazingly rich chocolatey and moist cake. I could have easily finished my serving, despite being so stuffed. I had to hold myself back from over eating on the sweets.
Not everything was a success. The short ribs left me feeling sorely disappointed. The scallops were not a win. All the other dishes were fairly solid in their own right. You can’t come in expecting fancy techniques or over the top anything. The food finds its success in the fresh seasonality of its ingredients and the simplicity of its preparation. That much I could really appreciate. The vegetable dishes, in particular, were my favorite. So Ad Hoc didn’t really wow me as I had hoped. I heard the success of it’s no frills approach can really be dependent on the dishes they are serving that day. So I would be willing to return to try a different menu, maybe one including their famous fried chicken.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here