While in San Francisco, we decided to drive to Napa and of course, the main goal was to eat at la creme de la creme! Among them is Ad Hoc, a Thomas Keller establishment. Thomas Keller is a world-renowned chef with 3 Michelin Stars for The French Laundry (review coming soon). Now, The French Laundry requires a reservation at least two months in advance for a 9-course tasting menu and we were able to get a reservation! More about that later…
As for Ad Hoc, imagine Thomas Keller’s refined palate but family-style. It’s great for a casual dinner and reservations can be made a couple days in advance or even on the day depending on how many people are in your party. We had a group of 4 and easily booked a reservation 1 day in advance.
The menu that day did not sound as exciting at first glance, but what came out far surpassed what you could imagine being on that plate…
Bread and Butter.
Roasted Beet Salad. Mizuna. Tatsoi. Crispy TFL sunchokes. K&J orchards satsumas. Winter Radishes. Sesame Dressing.
Every element of this dish was well-thought out and very reminiscent of the beet Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Palm from The French Laundry, but more wholesome and hearty. The beets were sweet and perfectly roasted.
(+) Crispy Pork Belly & Clams. Red Miso. Ginger.
Unlike TFL, there’s a prix fixe menu, but with add ons. At TFL you have the choice to substitute for an upgraded menu item at a significant cost. “No substitutions here! We only do add-ons at Ad Hoc!”, said our waiter. There were definitely asian tones to this menu and it was executed so perfectly. The pork belly was perfectly crisped on the outside and the miso sauce was so well-refined that it even had some exquisite French influences, hence the clams. The Meyer lemon zests added a sweet, lemony citrus burst of flavor that really can only be understood if you’ve had Meyer lemons.
We actually ordered two of these…it was that good…
Kung Pao Chicken. Charred Cabbage. Minuet Onions. Blistered Broccolini. Scallion rice. Pickled TFL peppers.
We hear Kung Pao Chicken all too often from small and even commercial Chinese restaurants. This was not your ordinary Kung Pao Chicken. Imagine a rotisserie chicken roasted to perfection to the point where white meat become dark meat. It was the juiciest and more flavorful rotisserie chicken I have ever eaten. I had no idea chicken could reach this point of perfection. As for the Scallion rice, I couldn’t have enough. It was savory and meshed so well with the Kung Pao Chicken. Perfection.
Vella Cheese Company’s Mezzo Secco. “Looney Bin” Crackers. Marshall’s Farm Honey.
Wow.Who’s genius mind said that I will choose this particular honey to go with this specific cheese and place it on this cracker and it will make the perfect bite? I really want to order some Marshall’s Farm Honey. I’ve never had a more rich and flavorful honey.
Apple Cake. Walnut Caramel.
Now, down to the final dish. Apple Cake. Sounds so plain, but how does this little slice of cake pack so much flavor? The outside crisp was perfect. It ranks probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. It had the perfect amount of toastiness and sweetness and was smoothed out with the creamy, rich whipped cream. Our friends felt it could use some ice cream, but I felt the whipped cream balanced it out quite nicely.
It’s all a food lover could ever dream and hope for. Thomas Keller definitely has your mouth watering with every bite and doesn’t leave you feeling overstuffed or unsatiated. You leave well-nourished…
If your travels revolve around food, this is a destination that cannot be missed. As simple as the menu may sound, you’re in for a surprise as each dish is brought out and then enters your mouth. Enjoy!
The French Laundry
Crab House @ Pier 39