Ad Hoc elevates rustic Located at 6476 Washington St.
, Yountville, it will probably become permanent. He creates one four course fixed price menu a night. Chris Stewart / The Chronicle MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/ MAGS OUT less You aren't going to review a temporary restaurant, are you?" asked when it became obvious we were sniffing around Ad Hoc, his new Yountville property a few doors up Washington Street from his popular BouchonKeller created Ad Hoc to bridge the gap from the time he bought the former Wine Garden to when he will build his "burgers and bottles" place pairing hamburgers and wine. Because Ad Hoc was designed to be a six month venture, he opened it without doing much more than painting the walls and adding a few design touches. Ad Hoc is open five nights a week and offers just a single four course menu ($45) each night. Bouchon chef Jeffrey Cerciello does double duty these days and creates the ever changing menuMost meals begin with either a soup or a salad, 70 off kate spade followed by a main course that could be confit duck legs, fish what stores carry kate spade and chips, roasted sirloin or even fried chicken. That's followed by a cheese course and dessertAs might be expected, the restaurant is a hit. At first, no reservations were accepted, but after enough people complained, Keller opened the phone lines. Thankfully, the wait hasn't yet stretched to two months, as it is at his other place, the French Laundry"So is Ad Hoc really going to be temporary?" I asked Keller shortly after it opened"I don't know," he said coyly, "but if we keep it, we'll need to change the name. Maybe we'd call it Ad Lib." If I had to predict, I'd say Ad Hoc will become a permanent fixture on the Napa Valley dining scene. The menu has a Chez Panisse sensibility. I've been there five times, and the food is about as close to perfect as you can getMany people think doing only one menu is easy, and it does eliminate some of the challenges of sourcing and stocking ingredients. Yet, while the menus are loosely planned a week or so in advance, they aren't finalized until the last 48 hours. If something else interesting is available that day, the menu can change again. While that means the kitchen can respond to an ever changing marketplace, it also puts a lot of pressure on the staff. Plus, if you're doing only one menu, each course needs to hit the bull's eyeMaybe it's because I eat out every night, but I love placing the evening in the hands of the chef and letting him make the decisions. I've found that even things that might not have universal appeal such as a salt cod stew with carrots, kale and chickpeas become magical elixirs in the hands of talented chefs like Cerciello and his staffAd Hoc's rustic, simple menu belies the superior ingredients and skillful techniques. The salads, for example, might include baby endive and spinach with grapefruit, orange, pomegranate and walnuts in a lemon chive dressing a marvelous, lively way to start. Because everything is served family style, the bowl generally holds enough for twice as many people, but it's so good I end up eating it allOn another visit, when a fall chill was in the air, the meal kicked off with a tureen of cannellini bean soup large enough for seconds and thirds. The rich broth was fortified with lardons of bacon, two sizes of beans, chunks of carrots and gauzy leaves of wilted escarole, and the flavors were nurturing and warmThe soup was followed by a low sided casserole heaped with pan sauteed chicken with an intense freshness. The chickens used at Ad Hoc are small, so the seared goodness permeates every biteThe meat topped an al dente pile of mushroom risotto surrounded by beech, maitake and shiitake mushrooms. The waiter also brought a melange of steamed broccoli and broccolini cut into florets and dusted with a thin blanket of grated cheeseThe third course always features artisan cheese. Our small cutting board contained four triangles of aged cheddar along with a jar of local honey and roasted walnuts. Dessert was a smooth, rich panna cotta set on a vanilla wafer and topped with blueberry compoteOn another visit, the meal started with an endive salad with citrus, followed by the best braised short ribs I've ever had. The meat was cooked sous vide style for 48 hours until evenly rare, then removed from the On each visit, the server asked if we wanted seconds on meat; we declined, but we saw another table accept the offer on the short ribs and receive a portion so generous it kate and spade purse could have served sixOn that visit, the cheese course included Ig Vella's Monterey Jack cheese, with house made quince paste and toasted pecans. The dessert was a homey apple and cranberry crispGenerally, the kitchen puts the most thought and creativity into the main course. One recent night the chefs created Mar y Muntanya, a Catalan style chicken with spiny lobster served with mushrooms and roasted potatoes. Another night it was lightly confit duck legs on spinach with raisins and pine nuts and a side of soft polenta with tomato conserva. Wagyu beef meat loaf with garlic crushed potatoes; buttermilk fried chicken that's been brined for six hours before being battered; lobster rolls; slow roasted pork short ribs; and monkfish medallions served over leeks and tomatoes have all found their way onto the menuFor a restaurant designed for planned obsolescence, Ad Hoc seems fully realized. I don't think it's in Keller's genes to do anything halfway, temporary or notWhile the interior has stayed much the same Keller used the same inlaid stainless steel and wood tables and the stylized ladder back chairs he's freshened it up by adding a rustic butcher block table in the center of the room and five large vases. A series of paned windows brings the outside in, including the view of barren vineyards across the roadThe long eight seat bar, backed with bottles of wine displayed on their sides is always filled with spur of the moment diners and people waiting for their tablesEach tabletop is set with nicely weighted Christophe Hotel flatware, a small dish of salt and a pepper grinder. Service is relaxed and smoothStill, given the care taken on so many fronts, a few elements don't jibe. While I understand the casual family style atmosphere, it seems inhospitable that when the wine or water is brought to the table, the waiter doesn't pour the first round.
The staff will pour a taste of the wine for the host, and when it's accepted, he plunks the bottle in the middle of the tableStemmed glassware has been replaced by crystal tumblers, yet the meal cries out for more refined wine glasses. I'm sure these decisions were made to signal to diners that Ad Hoc isn't a pretentious place, but that feeling is already relayed in better and more subtle ways, such as the music and the family style platingStill, the food exceeds expectations, and the experience is low key and kate spade outlet online store fun, cool and casual. If Ad Hoc really is temporary, it will be a lossAd Hoc wine list doesn't match up to food.
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