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Fried Chicken at Ad Hoc

My favorite food in the world is fried chicken, and since moving to the Bay Area three years ago I've been sorely disappointed in my quest to find a replacement for my much-beloved chicken shack in upstate New York.

I'd read numerous positive reports about chicken night at Ad Hoc, especially the tantalizing report of Morton the Mousse, and finally made the trip last night.

The menu of the day was...

Salad of mixed baby greens with iberico ham, pickled vegetables, roasted red beets, julienne endive and sweet pepper vinaigrette

Buttermilk fried chicken with green beans in a mushroom cream sauce and yukon potato pave

Redwood Hill Farm's Crottin with satsuma mandarin jam and buttered toast

Pecan bourbon tart

We started off with a sliced bread from Bouchon, both white and a wheat. I tried a little bit and enjoyed the crust, but who's kidding who? I was there for chicken and didn't want to waste any real estate on bread.

The salad was delectable, very similar to the one I tried there during a visit three or four months ago. I loved the pickled vegetables and only wished there were a bit more ham.

The star of the show, buttermilk chicken, arrived at the same time as the haricots verts with a mushroom cream sauce and potato pave. I could not believe the amount of chicken they supplied for our table of three; probably I should have counted the pieces, but instead I dove in for a drumstick before my fellow diners could nab one. Someone else did likewise and one unlucky pal was left stick-less. It's a credit to our friendship that no blood was spilled.

And the verdict? The chicken was delicious, by far the best I've had in the Bay Area. The crust was expert, quite thick, crisp but not cracker-like, and with a lovely blend of spices--onion powder, garlic powder and rosemary stood out. They fried it in peanut oil, I think. It sounds derogatory to say that it was the second-best fried chicken I've ever had, but my quest has been long, my favorite is long established, and I was honestly stunned by how delicious Ad Hoc was.

The sides...I'm not sure if my appreciation was lessened because I was busy with the chicken, but both the potato pave (thinly sliced potato layered into a tall chunk) and mushroom dish seemed overly rich and one-dimensional. I would have appreciated some other touch of the palate to cut the very rich, very fatty hit of chicken--an interesting take on cole slaw would have been nice. Amazingly, we ate all the chicken; I took only two bites of the potato pave and we had more than half of the mushroom dish left.

Then there were two more courses. By this point I was half-slumped, drowsy, and relegated to breathing out of my mouth. The piquancy of the mandarin jam served with the cheese was nice, but I wasn't able to get through much of the crottin or any of the bread.

Next up was the pecan bourbon tart. Luckily we had grown second stomachs for dessert by this point, because the tart was great--a flaky crust, lovely pecans without too much sweetness, and pillowy whipped cream infused with vanilla.

Total bill, with two beers and a glass of wine, was a little over $200, and well worth it. I can't wait to return.

Of note: I thought fried chicken was served every Monday, but it turns out that it's every other Monday. For the past three weeks they've served it every Monday, according to my server, because so many people drove a distance and were disappointed that it wasn't chicken night.

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

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  1. Great report. Love that fried chicken. Wish I could afford it more often, but T-Rex serves as a decent substitute at 1/3 the price. FYI - you can order seconds free of charge and take them home with you. My server told me people often ask for thirds.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      From Ad Hoc or T-Rex (or is that a stupid question..)?

        1. re: chemchef

          Ad Hoc is always all-you-can-eat. How anyone could eat more than one portion is beyond my comprehension.

          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            You can always eat more...you just pay for it later. Once there they offered another serving of tri-tip and we asked for half order...that was about right for 6 people. More however would have been pushing it.

      1. I'm curious how you planned your dinner on the night fried chicken was served? Did you check every night and then went when you heard it was chicken? Or did you just make a reservation and was pleasantly surprised when it was chicken? I'm always curious how people plan dinners at a place where it's a fixed chef's menu.

        2 Replies
        1. re: singleguychef

          "Of note: I thought fried chicken was served every Monday, but it turns out that it's every other Monday. For the past three weeks they've served it every Monday, according to my server, because so many people drove a distance and were disappointed that it wasn't chicken night."

          1. re: xanadude

            thanks, read over that to get to the photos :)

        2. Fantastic report and delectable photos of the chicken. We've tried eating at Ad Hoc on each of our last three visits to Yountville, but we keep getting sidetracked by our other favorite restaurants in town. It's always a struggle to choose between Bouchon, Jeanty, and Redd and Ad Hoc always gets later billing. I'm not sure when our next trip might be, but if the every-other Monday scenario for fried chicken night is still in play, I might have to plan around that.

          R. Jason Coulston

          1. I can't believe Bouchon and Jeanty take precedence over Ad Hoc!! While we like both of those, Ad Hoc wins hands down. We also love Redd, but it's a whole different animal with NY style food rather than comfort food. We actually like Redd better for lunch since they have a great patio (we do stop there for a martini on our way to Ad Hoc since it's wine/beer only).

            Ad Hoc now serves fried chick every other Monday or Wednesday (once a week on either Monday or Wednesday so once you figure out "which" Monday or Wednesday you can do the math). I think they may be closed Tuesday/Wednesday during the winter so you'll need to check with them on how chick will be handled. We love their salads as well and also the main courses. Regarding the pecan tart - hate it (because it has nuts, not because it's bad). I'm a weekender and they have my profile flagged as "hates nuts in desserts" and they gave me a pound cake last night without nuts (all others had nuts). That tells you how they are about the customer service. Can't speak highly enough about service and value and food. Enjoy!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: teejaymoore

              Jeanty just got major league slammed by Michael Bauer, quite possibly the most negative review of his I have read. Anyone go lately that can agree or disagree with his review?

              1. re: realspear

                I personally don't think it deserved his slam (agree it was one of the worst I've read of his). While I don't think it deserves a Michelin star, I do think there are some good items on the menu and while service is spotty, it's generally friendly. Went at Thanksgiving and stuck to my standbys - the spicy tomato soup and the steak tartare. Both were good. While Bouchon has better food in my opinion, I like the space and crowd at Jeanty better (Bouch crowd always seems like the wannabes who couldn't afford or get into the laundry).

            2. >Total bill, with two beers and a glass of wine, was a little over $200<

              Their website says the price of the dinner was $48, so I'm curious how it got to a little over $200 for (I assume) two people with two beers and one glass of wine.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Mick Ruthven

                > I dove in for a drumstick before my fellow diners could nab one. Someone else did likewise and one unlucky pal was left stick-less. It's a credit to our friendship that no blood was spilled. <

                This indicates 3, tax would be around $15, leaving about $30 for drinks. Was gratuity added in? Edit: remembering my visit earlier that sodas were $4, I assume that the beer & wine did make up the difference and gratuity was not added, just the tax.

                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                  It is $48 per person so by the time you add tip ($20) and alcohol it adds up. We tend to spend around $200 for 2 people with wine, etc. You can also bring a bottle and pay the $20 (I think) corkage which we do quite a bit.

                  1. re: teejaymoore

                    My husband and I spent over $200 after tax and tip for our fried chicken dinner at Ad Hoc in July 2008. Our tab included two chicken dinners, one beer, a half bottle of wine and two coffees.

                    1. re: cvhound

                      That is one whopper of a tag for 2 fried chicken dinners ~ strange to put fried chicken in the special event by cost category! As I said in another post, while I liked the food overall, I would never order all those courses on my own which would let me be closer to what I feel comfortable eating and paying. I know you can eat at the bar and order by course but although I am a fan of bar chow, if I drive up from the Bay Area, I would rather sit at the table and enjoy the atmosphere there with the same pick and choose option.

                      1. re: tomatoaday

                        Don't disagree tomatoaday. I think the reason they do that at Ad Hoc is Yountville real estate is expensive and given how small Ad Hoc is, I think they have to pretty much guarantee a certain level of $$ per table since they don't turn the frequently and they don't serve that late.

                2. "It sounds derogatory to say that it was the second-best fried chicken I've ever had"

                  Pane, what was the restaurant that served the best fried chicken?

                  1. hey! i cooked the buttermilk fried chicken according to the recipe of the cookbook ad hoc at home, without ommiting any procedure and fresh ingredients such as fresh herb.
                    the result wasnt bad. meats inside was succulant. i think it is due to 12 hours of brining the two chickins. only minor was that mins were bit darker than those from the photo of the cookbook. but i am not saying it was burnt. no, it was fine. when it came to taste, i do not know what i ate was really incredibly good and delicious. yes, the process of the cooking takes a little time and effort. i paid much more fortunes in cooking this than just buying cooked ones in some others. even though i raerly eat fried chicken nowdays, it isnt because i do not like it. rather due to some calories and collesteroll concerns. i am big fan of it.
                    but after hearing people's review about ad hoc, especially the buttermilk fried chiken i m not sure if it distinguish itself from those of other restaruant.
                    sorry! i am not trying to be critical. but are all these generous reviews due to thomas keller's fame or his way of marketing and presenting his foods? i think maybe many of you think i screwed up this cooking. but i think i didnt.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: hae young

                      On the Home Cooking board you said that you could not get fresh buttermilk. Did you find some to make this recipe?

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        i contacted ad hoc web site. i got response form them that about dupicated buttermilk recipe.

                        1. re: hae young

                          Hae young
                          where do you live that your having trouble finding ingredients?

                      2. re: hae young

                        Really not a fair comparison . How would you know if Ad Hoc distinguishes itself from other restaurants since you havent been there ? I guess you're reviewing your own cooking and the quality of the ingredients you used plus the quality of your equipment. The only thing I get out of your post is that your fried chicken does not seem any better then any other restaurant's.

                        1. re: celeryroot

                          Ad Hoc is doing fried chicken and waffles for Christmas Eve 12/24/09!

                          1. re: hhc

                            I just got that , sounds great with peppered creamed gravy. Id love to go, but the trek across from Healdsburg at this time of year is bad. We had below freezing last night.

                          2. re: celeryroot

                            ok! i think youre resonable! but i assumed the cookbook they wrote supposed to tell much about duplicating their foods evn though that much is not definitly whole. and i think i must consider ( iam not saying it was bad. just didnt make me particulary impressed) the variations of how i handle the food, possibly clumsily. yeah! i cannot compare well because i have not been there yet. youre reasnable about that too i think.and about the quallity issue, i really expect their ingredients qualities are much better than mine.
                            i ordered my frsh herb and the spices of the names in the cookbook. , but i have to guess how much "significant" (not subtle) diffrence might be there between mines and his(tk). i mean i assumed , say, at least cayen pepper and onion powder, so forth still should have at least tasted like caeyen and onion. but i got it. premium quality ingredients they use will definitly make their food better than mine.

                            1. re: hae young

                              I would guess that the most significant ingredient difference was the quality of the bird itself, unless you purchased a fresh, pastured chicken.

                              1. re: lexdevil

                                That was my thought as well. There's a huge variation in the taste/texture of chickens depending on what breed they are, how they were raised and how they were slaughtered.

                                1. re: lexdevil

                                  The other possibility is that hae young may not be that familiar with American fried chicken, which ad hoc is an example of. Fried chicken is wildly different in different countries--American South vs. Korean, for example. This could simply be a matter of American fried chicken not being to hae young's tastes.

                                  I recently had an interesting conversation with Indian and Chinese immigrants in which they insisted that the KFC back home in their respective countries was much tastier than ours. I suspect that the Colonel is tweaking his secret seasoning to fit with different cultural palates.

                                  1. re: sfbing

                                    i think the birds i bought in costco was very meaty and joyful to eat. but come to think of it, i think i was probably too hasty to conclude that this b fyed chiecken "not" to be "partuculary" impresseive. i tend to be enjoy my steak when seared with peanut oil. i dont know why yet if it is due to peanut oils some character having some specific nuttiness in it. in the recipe of the cookbook ad hoc, tk listed two oils : peanut oil and canola oil. also in other cookbooks of diffrent chefs seem to prefer peanut oils at most to other kinds of oil for frying of their foods. eve though tk listed canola oil in the list of this recipe, in some demonstrations of sevral medias, he mentioned that he use penut oil in those places. i ll give it a shot for peanut oil next time.

                                2. re: hae young

                                  where do you live ? You seem to have problems gettng iingredients

                                  1. re: celeryroot

                                    i live in seoul, south korea. but i didnt have difficulty finding ingrediendts except buttermilk(i got response from ad hoc chef dave cruz about closesly DUPLICATED buttermilk recipe depite much more fat in the one). fresh lemon and herb brine was so medicinal (but less than the brine of roast chicken in the cookbook bouchon.) that our rooms were filled with the medicinal smell. i like it but my parents said to me its a little too strong to them. and i bought a big plastic jar of clover honey from usa in costco, two chicekns as well.
                                    and about the taste of the b fried chicekn, i kind of like it. but in considering i tasted other less pricier fried chikens in diffrent fried chicekn houses, it were bit similar to me evn though i suspect those fried chicekn i ate before was kinds of un-comparable in terms of the cost i sepnt in duplicated (possibly clumsily)ad hoc's fried chicken. i watched tk advertising his book ad hoc at home in sevral medias. except his borderbook.com' demonstration, it seemed to me tk tend to focus the cookbooks advertising usually on the buttermilk fried chicken recipe. and i felt even in the cook book thomas keller place very high emphasis on his bf chciekn. so i was expecting a little too much.
                                    once i was in usa, i tasted the kfc. fried chiken. taste was not reaaly diffrent to me except mostly the same food in usa was a bit saltier than those in seoul korea. i nowdays rarely eat junk food. but i still kinds of like it depite some calories and collesteroll and msg isuue. again i not saying my duplicated tk's ad hoc buttermilk fried chiken was bad. i like it. but didnt make me particulary impressed as opposed to my so much high expectation

                                    1. re: hae young

                                      I know it's a lot of work to make this; I, so far, have not attempted it. But, twice I've made the trek to Ad Hoc for the fried chicken night and I think it's the best I've ever eaten.

                            2. Attention Kmart shoppers - tomorrow night is fried chicken night for you addicts (I'll be elbowing my way up to the bar)