Ad Hoc Review - March 2012 [Yountville]
Dinner at Ad Hoc on Friday night was disappointing and although I've eaten there a half dozen times before, I'm not sure I will be back.
We were seated promptly at a great table. Our server, however, seemed to be very unsure of herself, and I got the feeling she was pretty new. She apparently did not know the wine list because she asked me to point on the list to the bottle I ordered (a Crozes Hermitage) since she didn't recognize what it was (and I did pronounce it correctly). She was a little tentative in opening the bottle as well as if she was uncomfortable with her skills with the wine key.
Our first course asparagus salad with poached egg was brought out by the runner without one of the salad elements in it, which was shaved mushrooms. After it was placed on our table, another runner came by and told us what happened and said they were running out the shaved mushrooms separately. At this point I did not want to make a scene by rejecting the dish, so we accepted it; I think the proper thing to do would have been for them to remake the entire salad.
The main course was New York strip steak, and a "ragout" of peas, cippollini onions, spring onions, and spiced aioli. There were four coins of "crispy baked potato" in the ragout as well. Portions on the main were pretty skimpy compared to my recollections in the past. The steak was overdone. Most of the slices were medium to medium rare; none were rare and we weren't asked how we wanted the steak. The steak was undersalted. The peas in the ragout were much too undercooked, and not tender at all. They also had very little flavor and given that I am not seeing peas in the SF farmers market at the Ferry Building, I'm not sure where they came from, but don't think they should have been served. I asked our server what the spices were in the spiced aioli that came with the vegetables. She said she did not know, but she would ask and report back. She never did, and I didn't care enough to follow up.
The cheese course was fine. Dessert was a bread pudding that was very good, but would have been better if they had let it sit for a few minutes to allow the custard to come back together, instead of creating a soupy mess.
We were in and out of there in less than 90 minutes; they are very efficient (too much so, in my opinion) at moving people through. Fine if you are a local, maybe not so fine if, like me, you are taking a weekend away from the city to relax.
All in all, the concept still shines at Ad Hoc, but execution (both in the kitchen and the service) has really gone downhill. I'm sure if I had spoken up at some point during the meal to a manager about all the missteps, they could have corrected them, but frankly, given all the great restaurants in the Napa Valley, I lost interest in trying to do the right thing and just wanted to get out of a lackluster experience. I don't need to go back anytime soon.
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
The last time I ate there was not long before they closed for renovations, but my experience was much the same. I approach eating there is a special occasion--I'm spending more than I usually would, and I have driven 1.5 hrs to get there, so I admit that my expectations are higher than for most meals. We were there for a fried chicken night, and I was really looking forward to trying the chicken that has gotten so many raves (not just on Chowhound, but the opinions of the folks on this board were certainly a major motivator).
The serving pace was rapid fire, and they removed our first course before we were completely done with it in order to bring our mains. Because I was most interested in the chicken, I didn't complain. But the chicken was a. a skimpy portion, and more importantly b. not that special in taste or preparation. My dining partner and I really loved the side dish, which was a jerusalem artichoke mash that was buttery and smooth. The next time we saw the waiter wasn't until he attempted to clear the table. Both of us wanted more of the side dish though, and I decided to ask for more of that even though the waiter made it uncomfortable to do so. My dining companion actually wouldn't have minded another piece of chicken but we both felt as though the response to asking for more of the side dish was met with such awkwardness that he didn't want to take the risk of further scorn.
Both of us left that night feeling both disappointed in the meal itself, but also a bit ripped off. I have trouble imagining a scenario where I would go back.