Super Disappointing Meal at Ad Hoc
On Thursday night four of us ate at Ad Hoc. Three had eaten there before, a year ago, and loved it. The menu was a composed salad, beef chop, cheese and dessert. Chef Cruz was in command.
Where to begin. Let's start with the wine list. Struggling to select the appropriate bottle of red, we asked the waiter for advice. Here we encountered our first taste of things to come. He was willing, but basically not able. He was untrained in the wine list or how to match it to customers' preferences. On our last visit, we were offered a taste of the two wines being considered, not this time.This lack of training coupled with eagerness to help was a theme throughout dinner. On his advice we selected a wine which was not worth the $78.
The salad had potential but fell flat with too many ingredients searching for a unifying theme. Lettuce, garbanzos, carrots, olives dressed in insipid olive oil and no discernable acid to balance the oil. The best element was a cauliflower tapenade, but even that desperately needed salt. It was served on a very oily slice of fried bread (probably called something else.
The meat was well prepared, but cold. The accompanying Spanish Torta was so bland and cold, we left it on our plates after one bite. The high point of this course was the rice, deliciously tasting like Spain, including pequillo peppers and broccoli rabe.
True to other Chowhounders, our table discovered that the "alternate' meal of fish was the best thing at dinner. Except that only one of us tasted it. The portion of petrale sole was so small (less than 2 ounces) that even when seconds appeared (an embarrassing one ounce) we felt it too cruel to ask for tastes.
The cheese course was a major amateur production. The Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert was not ripe and served straight from the refrigerator. After one bite each, again we left the rest. It was served with homemade sweet potato chips which were all eaten and a lackluster grated radish compote which was left.
The gateau Basque for dessert was serviceable and delicious. It was something I might serve for breakfast, or with tea or coffee in the afternoon, dense and moist , not really appropriate after a big meal. With it were a few pieces of grapefruit, I suppose to offer contrast and cut the richness of the cake. Any way, there were so few pieces that I only had one small segment. The accompanying whipped cream was fresh, almost overwhipped, and sprinkled with coconut (why?). It just added to the rich blandness of the cake, offering no new dimension.
The service was awful with fits and starts and lags between courses, for no reason that we could see. The restaurant was not crowded, there were several empty tables. Our table was bussed while we were still eating, as well as the check being presented before we were finished with our dessert. There was a limit to how many things we were willing to complain about, and the complaints we did make were so poorly handled that we gave up.
With two teas and one coffee, the bill came to $95 each. I left thinking, exactly how is this place related to the French Laundry? Must be a very distant cousin, many many times removed.
Too bad. My truly mediocre meal there involved a big cut of beef, which was criminally overcooked and served slightly above room temperature. It was served atop slices of carbonized bread that, according to the super enthusiastic servers, we shouldn't forget to eat because it would be drenched in delicious juices from the meat. Their insincere inquiry about our happiness with the meal was met with a comment on the well-done state of the beef, which in turn was met with a statement that "we cook our meat medium-rare." Huh? Perplexing, as piles of gray beef remained on our plates and in the serving dish with nary a hint of rosy flesh.
Seems like they know fish and poultry are delicate enough to require attention while cooking, but think beef is somehow so forgiving that they can do anything to it during or after cooking and people will still like it.