I was catching up on my podcasts today, listening to one of my favorites, KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleiman. I’ve been listening to Good Food for a few years now, and it’s exposed me to lots of new and different perspectives on food and eating, and influenced where I eat when I go home to Southern California. Kleiman also owns Angeli Caffe, a cozy Italian restaurant on Melrose Ave. in Hollywood, and I really wanted to know if Evan the chef was as good as Evan the radio host. I’m happy to report that she is!
On our first visit, we were seated by the front window and throughout the meal, I could see my wife’s darting back and forth, watching everyone that walked by. The guy at the table next to us said that sitting facing Melrose is like watching television.
When you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you notice is the open bread station and oven. It’s always comforting to know when a restaurant is making things in house. As we perused the menu, a plate-sized loaf of hot, freshly baked bread was immediately brought to our table. The bread was amazing…a bit salty, which was nice. It went well with the olive oil but was also wonderful on its own. I was tempted to order one of the pizzas after devouring the bread, but I’ll save that for another visit.
In honor of tonight’s biweekly fried chicken night at Ad Hoc, I thought I’d share the amazing New Year’s Eve brunch Ad Hoc offered to close out 2007.
The menu was centered around one of my favorite foods—fried chicken and waffles—and it’s something I’ve always wanted Ad Hoc to offer as a regular meal. I don’t know if they’ll make it a New Year’s fixture, but I was just glad I had the opportunity to experience this glorious meal. Pictures of the full spread follow the menu, and I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Salad & High Tea Sandwiches
baby mixed greens with sherry vinaigrette
ham and cheese, cucumber mint, lobster salad sandwich
Fried Chicken & Waffles
spinach and poached eggs, hoppin’ john
fingerling potato hash with hobbs bacon
cara cara orange marmalade
and candied pecans
Ord Noodles is the name you’ll see on the storefront, but its Thai name is Kwayteow Hoi Ka, which means Dangling Leg Noodles. The owners previously had a restaurant in Northern Thailand along a river bank, and people would sit and eat with their legs dangling over the water.
Not surprisingly, Dangling Leg Noodles is also the name of their signature dish (#1 on the menu). It’s an amazing sweet/spicy soup filled with ground pork, red pork ball, dried shrimp, pork liver, and your choice of fresh noodles (rice stick, chow mein, or thick rice noodles). You can see the chili flake floating around the vinegar-based broth, so you know it’s packing heat. Adding Chinese-style char siu makes this a #4, which is what we ordered. The three of us split a large bowl for $5; small bowls are $3.
We also ordered the rice plate with spicy crispy cicerenes (#21), which is basically chicharrones in a spicy sauce, and you can’t get much better than that. Our waitress said this was one of their most popular dishes and I saw at least three more orders go to other tables while we were there.
We rounded out our order with some Thai-style sausages, which fall somewhere in between Chinese lap cheung and Filipino longanisa, and a mint leaf chicken dish that was good but had a bit too much cilantro in it for our taste.
If someone out there can direct me towards a Thai restaurant that’s more authentic, delicious and cheap (nothing on the menu is over $6), then by all means, point me in the right direction. If not, I’ll be happy eating at Ord Noodles whenever I’m in town and lament about not having a place like this in the Bay Area.
5401 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027 map
The next stop on our second anniversary dinner tour was an impromptu booking at Ad Hoc in Yountville. We were just in Yountville two days before eating at Bouchon, but our actual anniversary was on Monday, Sept. 17, and we hadn’t made formal plans for that evening yet. I told my wife that if the Ad Hoc menu was compelling enough, then I would get us a reservation, and we would drive back up to Yountville for our “real” anniversary dinner.
Now, we’ve been to Ad Hoc a lot the last three months (five including our anniversary visit), and well, it’s starting to look like an obsession isn’t it? But I wonder…how many times in three months do you go to your favorite restaurant? Would it make a difference if it was 75 miles away?
I called Ad Hoc a little after midnight the night before so I could hear the menu, and it was compelling, to say the least. Let’s just say the word “Wagyu” jumped out at me.
Brentwood Pole Bean Salad
yellow wax and romano beans, haricots verts
toybox tomatoes, red radishes
and walnut vinaigrette
Texas Style Barbecue
snake river farms wagyu beef brisket, pork spare ribs
andouille sausage, creamed corn and baked russet potatoes
Chocolate Ice Cream S’Mores
house marshmallow, caramel sauce
Salad is almost a throwaway course in a prix fixe setting, but at Ad Hoc, sometimes the salad can upstage the main course, especially when bacon lardons are involved. The bean salad was great despite the lack of lardons, but I will say that Ad Hoc is the one place where I actually love to eat my vegetables.
Even though everything’s family style and the menu is prix fixe, there’s still usually a bit of a wait between courses, and I actually enjoy and usually need these gaps. It not only helps my body process the previous course so that it’s ready to accept more food, it allows you time to have a conversation, maybe drink a little wine or beer, and most of all relax. This concept can be confounding if you’re used to eating at restaurants where turning over tables is a priority and the food is served as fast as possible, but I’ve never felt rushed eating at Ad Hoc, and the slower pace is nice because it prevents you from gorging yourself.
The main course was a trifecta of amazing meats—Wagyu beef brisket, spare ribs, andouille sausage—served with creamed corn and baked russet potatoes (bacon makes its lone appearance here as super salty and crunchy bacon bits). The brisket, from Snake River Farms, was cold smoked for 14 hours and finished with a nice, peppery crust, and well…they had me at first bite. The extra marbling of the Wagyu beef helps give this brisket a little more fatty flavor to enhance its inherent beefiness and set this apart from any other brisket I’ve tried. I really need to go to Texas for some traditional barbecued beef brisket to have a proper reference point so I can compare it to Ad Hoc’s ridiculously good version of it.
The spare ribs were prepared sous vide in duck fat for 20 hours or so and then lightly glazed and finished on the grill. Now, I’m not fan of spare ribs because most of the time, they’re not trimmed properly and I find them difficult to eat. These spare ribs were awesome. The meat had a nice bite but was still easily removed from the bone, and the rich flavor was a mystery until I found out about the duck fat. The andouille sausage was good, too, but since the focal point for me was the brisket, it was sort of relegated to stepchild status. The meal was served with a nice house barbecue sauce that was sort of sweet with a subtle kick to it. It was really nice because it complemented the meat without overpowering any other flavors, but I didn’t really use much because the meat was so good that it didn’t need it.
The cheese course was my least favorite of all the cheese courses I’ve had at Ad Hoc. (The best included some charcuterie and cryovacked cantaloupe). I didn’t mind though as I was still coming down from the meat high I got from the brisket and started looking forward to dessert.
The Chocolate Ice Cream S’mores were a refined take on an American campground classic. A housemade graham cracker serves as a foundation for a delicious marshmallow “brulee” with chocolate ice cream taking the place of the traditional Hershey’s squares. The staff at Ad Hoc was nice enough to put candles in our desserts and wish us a Happy Anniversary. If you go to any restaurant enough, they’re going to remember you, especially if you give them glowing reviews at places like Yelp.com. Ad Hoc is no exception; they’re really good at taking care of their customers and remembering the ones that return.
Thanks, Ad Hoc, for a wonderful anniversary dinner, and I’ll see you again on another Monday in October for my birthday and fried chicken night!
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599 map