NOTE: For a version of this review illustrated with my photos, please see http://mavjop.livejournal.com/115102....
Yesterday, my wife and I drove to Yountville, CA (from San Jose, CA), for dinner at Thomas Keller's new (well, not very new, but new-ish, and new to us) restaurant, "Ad Hoc".
"Ad Hoc" has a different prix fixe set menu every night. That is, each night there is a set four-course menu. You don't get any choices. It's $45 per person. Very simple. You have to trust that it will be good, whatever it is.
The meal began with absolutely wonderful bread from Bouchon Bakery, another Keller establishment just down the road. There were two kinds of bread. A multi-grain wholemeal (not whole grain) bread, and a white crusty bread. Both were fantastic. I do love good bread.
While I was tearing into the delectable bread, our salad course was brought out.
The salad was an amazing haricots verts and potato salad. Blanched, al dente green beans, sliced boiled fingerling potatoes, toasted walnuts and thinly sliced radishes in a sherry vinaigrette. Now... salads are not normally my thing, and I prefer my beans hot or at least warm, and generally without much crunch to them, but this was just ... amazing. It was delicious. The ingredients were clearly extremely fresh and of outstanding quality. Along-side the salad was a plate with some Serrano ham. It was excellent (as Serrano ham should be), and what was best about it was that it went beautifully with the beans, walnuts and the rest of the salad.
After the salad came the main course: Osso Buco with a broccoli rabe and tomato sauce, with pappardelle pasta on the side. The Osso Buco was the best frickin' Osso Buco I have ever tried. Braised for 36 hours, the meat was rich and full of flavour -- firm, not dry, not stringy.
It was rich and wonderful, but even better was the marrow! The bone marrow (which I scooped from inside the bones using knife, to separate it from the bone, and fork) was the most truly delectable bone marrow I have ever had.
It was divine. It was a thing of wonder. Cooked perfectly, it came right out of the bone, but didn't fall apart. I was able to slice it like butter. Like the best foie gras, it was subtle yet rich.
After the main course came the cheese course. The cheese was "Old Kentucky Tomme" goat cheese from Capriole Farms, which was really outstanding -- creamy and firm. It was served with the best candied pecans I've ever had and sliced compressed persimmons. The pairings were very good. The cheese combined wonderfully with the candied pecans and the persimmons, bringing out the flavours more strongly than when eaten alone, especially the persimmons.
The final course, the dessert course, was lemon pound cake with mascarpone cream and dried fruit compote. The cake was almost dry, but moist enough to be tasty. I am not a fan of dried fruit or fruit compote of any sort, so I didn't eat that part, but I salvaged the cream from on top of it to eat along with my lemon pound cake. The cake was drizzled with a solidified strongly lemony icing which I think may have been the bit which involved mascarpone. If so, it was not a lot of it. It was sugary and tart (the lemon), and I think there was just enough mascarpone to keep it from become hard/brittle, instead just solidifying to a paste-like consistency like the contents of a peppermint patty. It was tasty but not transcendent.
To finish up the meal, ordered and delivered before the dessert but I did not drink it until afterwards, I had a cappuccino. It was a good cappuccino, served with brown sugar "rocks" to sweeten it, and it tided me over well for the hour and a half drive home afterwards.
The bill (check) was brought out topped with an "Ad Hoc" beer mat. An amusing way to present it. A nice little touch a bit like the "French Laundry" clothes pegs one gets when eating at his more famous Yountville establishment.
All in all, it was a fantastic meal, and well worth the 2.5hr drive out (in traffic) and 1.5hr drive back home.