Wine Country: Ad Hoc Vs. French Laundry
This is an apples to oranges comparison. If you want a fine dining experience in Napa Valley, TFL is tops. Is it worth $240 per person? That is a very personal decision. I think to go once is worth it, but there are other excellent choices that are slightly less expensive such as Redd or Terra (haven't been to either so I can't comment). Ad Hoc is very casual (served family style, as you noted) and is prix fixe $48 per person for salad, main + sides, cheese course and dessert. Not in the same genre as TFL at all - completely different experience. I have been to TFL several times and won't go again, but everyone should go once if they have the opportunity and the means. It's a great experience. Personally if someone asked me which restaurant I'd rather go to, I'd take Ad Hoc every time. I've been there three times and have had great meals each time. The food is made up of all "crowd pleasers" - no strange dishes for those who are less adventurous, but excellent quality for those who like good food, and there is plenty of food (they will bring more if you ask).
Based on recent reports, particularly those from people who had eaten there previously, I'm not sure the French Laundry is necessarily still tops except in price:
I went to Ad Hoc recently, for the first time, and was prepared to have it not live up to my expectations. Surprisingly, it totally did live up to my expectations - it was a fun, casual meal, with great food and a nice setting. Service wasn't fantastic, I would have preferred that the beef be sliced a little thinner in the entree, and it wasn't cheap, but I really enjoyed it and wasn't disappointed. The appetizer was fantastic, the entree have a nice combination of flavors, the cheese was out of this world, dessert was good enough that we didn't leave any behind.
That said, if you're choosing between it and French Laundry, you need to define your expectations appropriately. If you just want to say you've eaten at a Keller restaurant, pick up a sandwich and a pastry at Bouchon Bakery and be done with it.
There are numerous recent reports in the archive.
I've never been able to get into French Laundry, but went to Ad Hoc last month. Despite rave reviews, I was underwhelmed. My favorite part of the meal was the appetizer salad. The pork entree and the dessert were not great - and I noticed most tables had plenty of the entree left at the end of the meal. Maybe we hit it on an off night, but even on a good night it would be unfair to compare the two - the experience at French Laundry is fine dining, while Ad Hoc is bistro. Personally, I'd go to Mustards or Rutherford Grill over Ad Hoc next time.