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Sep 19, 2006 05:38 AM

Ad Hoc (long)

So I'd been rather excited about the prospect of Ad Hoc ever since I heard about it a few months ago. Seeing rumors of a September 16th opening on chowhound, I found their number and called to check. Sure enough, they were to open on the 16th. I decided that this weekend
would be the best time to go since it hasn't been publicized very much yet. So with much excitement, I went up with two friends for an early Sunday dinner.

Ad Hoc is open from 3-8 for supper on Sundays. I had been a little concerned that there would be a long wait, being opening weekend and all. But when we arrived at 5:30, there were a number of open tables and we were seated right away. The interior is very bright and open
and the decor is stylish without being pretentious. Actually a bit classier than I was expecting for a 'casual dining' establishment. All of the staff was very friendly and unimposing. They make a conscious effort to make things low key. All of the waitstaff wears Dickies workshirts with the Ad Hoc logo across the back and sneakers. So the overall atmosphere was very laid back.

On to the food. Ad Hoc does a 4 course prix fixe menu that changes each night. Everything except dessert was served family style. We started out with a Big Ranch Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad. It was very flavorful, but it's pretty hard to go wrong with an heirloom tomato salad.

Our main course was the Fra 'Mani Italian Sausage with peperonata rustica, rice pilaf, and fried summer squash. It was definitely tasty, a solid dish, though nothing out of the ordinary. It was very hearty, and maybe would have been better suited as a winter dish. The roasted peppers and sausage was a great combination, but not unexpected. I suppose I was expecting a bit more inventiveness from a Thomas Keller establishment, even if it's meant to be homey comfort food.

The cheese course was a St. George Matos served with toasted walnuts and fresh figs. The waiter described it as somewhere between a cheddar and a jack and I think that's about how I would describe it as well. The cheese was incredibly tasty when combined with the texture and sweetness of the figs.

Dessert was panna cotta with macerated strawberries on top and a thin sugary crust underneath. This was pretty spectacular. There was a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. The crust underneath was unexpected and gave it a great texture as well as enhanced the flavor of the panna cotta.

All in all, it was a great experience. Very fun, low key atmosphere (plus they play pretty good music), solidly good food, friendly, unimposing service. So the final verdict is that I would definitely go back. Not sure I'll drive 100 miles each way just for dinner next time, but I'd consider it.

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  1. If you don't mind my asking, how much was the prix?

    Should you ever be over Santa Rosa way, you can stop at Joe Matos' farm and buy direct. The raw milk cheese is $6/lb.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      You can also buy their St. George in the city at Bi-Rite and Cowgirl Creamery (but more like $15 a pound). Best a little warmer than room temperature.

      1. Thanks for the review. Hopefully the lines won't increase, well we can hope.

        Given the meal is prix fixe and served family style, does that mean the menu is set for the whole table gets the same thing, right? In other words, on the day you went they served you the salad course, the main course (Fra 'Mani Italian Sausage with peperonata rustica), the cheese course and the dessert and that was basically it, no options?

        Just wonder, you know, say in a party of 4, one person is veggie or someone doesn't like lamb or beef...then that's it, right?

        3 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          Yeah, the menu is set and there weren't options. We actually asked our waiter what would happen if one of us was vegetarian. He wasn't sure (2nd day and all), and we didn't bother having him go back to ask. I imagine they'd find some way to accomodate, but I can't say for sure.

          1. re: ghettogourmand

            Thanks for the heads up. Might be difficult set up for a few people with particular likes, dislikes or standards.

          2. re: ML8000

            What's on the menu is what's in the kitchen that day. They could give you a larger portion of one of the apps or one of the sides, but they have nothing to use for subsitutions. I would not bring a vegetarian to Ad Hoc.

          3. I was there on Sunday as well! Well, only sort of. We had eaten a very large awesome dinner up in St. Helena but drove by ad hoc to check it out since we were in the neighbhorhood. We looked at the menu and then decided to have a drink at the bar.

            It turns out that if you sit at the bar you don't have to do the whole menu, you can order single items. So even though we were bursting from our dinner, we ordered the tomato salad. I have now sworn to "steal" his croutons and never make standard cubes again - they were torn instead of cubed and brushed with a lovely garlic infused olive oil. ($9)

            I think that's what I like about ad hoc over French Laundry - the stuff he's doing at ad hoc is simple stuff that I can do but just hadn't thought of doing.

            The bar staff with very nice, very well trained and chatted quite a bit with us. We quizzed them on all sorts of stuff - apparently the longest wait on Saturday was 1/2 hour while Sunday was pretty much a "no wait" day.

            The wine selection seemed nice. They don't have any beer on tap, but had six bottled beers - one of which was Shiner Bock!

            We'll definitely go back.

            4 Replies
            1. re: larochelle

              Good to know about the bar. I'm headed to Napa next month and I was worried that Mrs. Mousse's shellfish allergy would get in the way of a fixed meal. Worse case scenario, we'll custom order at the bar.
              Bummer that there's no beer on tap. I was hoping they'd have meteor - the incredible French Pilsner that Bouchon has on tap. Oh well. Maybe I'll just drop by Bouchon for a drink.

              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                ad hoc is literally next door to Redd so you could do some variation of a progressive dinner (have your salad & cheese at ad hoc and your main at Redd) or use Redd as your backup if the ad hoc menu doesn't excite you.

                We actually had a "nightcap" at Redds after ad hoc.

              2. re: larochelle

                Tangentially, where did you have the "awesome" meal in St. Helena? <vbg>

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I was a guest so I'll let my host post about it separately.

              3. Are the plate sizes sufficiently sized? Is it tasting menu size or prix fixe size? If I understand you correctly, it's $45 per person for 4 dishes that are shared, seems like it's more worthwhile to go as a smaller group.

                What's your opinion?

                3 Replies
                1. re: Problem Child

                  My mistake. I need to read more carefully.

                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    According to ML8000 the dishes are served family style which lead to my question.

                    1. re: Problem Child

                      Family-style service doesn't mean that a party of four will get only half as much food as a party of two.

                2. The dishes are served family style, but the portions are appropriate for the size of your party. We saw some rather large tomato salads heading towards the bigger tables. Our main course came with 6 sizeable Italian sausages to share between the three of us. We ended up taking three sausages home and were still stuffed after dessert.