So, here we go again. In the best possible way, of course. 😉
The last time we visited The French Laundry, I swore that if I ever went back, I’d get an earlier reservation so that I’d have more light for photographs. And then I saw a table for a 9pm seating…and took it. No light for me. Seriously, though. Next time, it’s early seating for bust. Hold me to it.
Daaaarrrkk. Can we just pretend that the grain on all these photos isn’t really there? Deal.
The extensive wine list is shown on iPads. Kind of whatevs today, but four years ago I thought it was super cool. Technology advances and becomes commonplace so quickly, doesn’t it?
If you were wondering, I didn’t just randomly decide, “okay, I’m going to The French Laundry for dinner on Wednesday.” Though wouldn’t that be a nice life? 😉 I caught the open table (on Open Table, teehee) while planning to make one for a bit later in the year to celebrate my brother’s marriage. I nabbed it, and we celebrated a bit early. Pretty sure they’re not complaining.
My brother is a fellow foodie and cook and one of the people I like to bounce recipe ideas off of. Many times we’ll be eating some place and will dissect the dishes we’re eating, trying to determine its components. You know, for funsies. I thought he and his wife-to-be would love a dinner at The French Laundry, and when I found a table for four instead of two…well, perfect excuse to tag along, right?
“Oysters and Pearls”
“sabayon” of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar
To be honest, when people have asked me where I’ve had my favorite meals, I never mentioned The French Laundry. It’s not that I didn’t love our previous experience. I did. It’s just that it was (or feels like) a long time ago, and it was one of the first Michelin starred restaurants I experienced. Since then, we’ve had plenty of fine lunches and dinners, and I admit to wondering whether TFL would still impress me if I went again. Was it really as awesome as I remembered? Is The French Laundry worth a second trip?
Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck “Foie Gras Au Torchon”
burgundy mustard, royal blenheim apricot puree, maracona almonds and watercress
For me, yes on both counts. And I’d go a third and fourth if I can wrangle more reservations. 😉 I was actually happier with my meal this time around than last time. Part of this is probably due to the fact that the menu this time around was more to my personal preferences. I’m not a big fan of raw tomatoes and greatly prefer any other seafood to lobster (I still “like” lobster, but it’s not my favorite), and both were part of the meal last time. Aside from that, I’m happy to say that the flavor profiles and sheer on-pointness of the technique still impressed me, and dishes I remember loving (the salmon cornets and oysters and peals in particular) were still pretty awesome.
Sauteed Fillet of Mediterranean “Loup de Mer”
bouchot mussels, garden leeks, young fennel and “sauce bouillabaisse”
Another thing that made this visit more impressive than the last was the service. I remember our server being very friendly four years ago, but this time everyone – maitre’d (the awesome Lawrence Nadeau who I’ve discovered has since left), our server, everyone who brought anything to our table – was super friendly and constantly joking with us and making us laugh. They were attentive to our drinks and the state of our table without being intrusive at all, and all the while being super friendly. We felt like regulars. (Maybe one day? :P)
Alaskan King Crab “Poelee”
glazed fava beans, wilted ramps and “creme de morilles”
If I had to pick one negative it would be that the plating was not as impressive as I remember. I’ve definitely seen more intricate plating. I will let it slide since everything tasted awesome. 😉
There were a few sauces they poured table side (not a negative, I like those) that I caught in series and turned into gifs. If I can figure out how to post those, I will. 😛
Wolfe Ranch White Quail
anson mill’s polenta, petite turnips, stewed blueberries and pearson farms pecans
My favorite dishes of the night:
– Oysters & Pearls – It’s been on the menu since opening for a reason! I used to tell people that I craved this dish…and I still do.
– Alaskan King Crab “Poelee” – Crab over lobster any day. But even then, this was pretty perfect. I loved the morel cream, and the wilted ramps were slightly pickled and added the perfect amount of acidity.
– Andante Dairy “Acapella” – I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve ever tried from Andante, but the pretty lines of crushed pistachios and the reisling gelee topping put this one over the top for me.
A few tips I have on getting a reservation at The French Laundry:
– Reservations are taken two months to the calendar day. The reservation line opens at 10am (PST), and you can bet your bottom dollar (not entirely sure what a bottom dollar is, honestly) that they book up within minutes. If you’re going the phone route, I recommend you start dialing at 9:59 and just keep hanging up and pressing redial until you get something other than the busy signal.
– If you get through, but the night is fully booked, wait list yourself. Also get on the wait list for any other day you might be able to go (within the two month booking window, of course). I’ve made reservations for friends by utilizing the wait list this way.
– Do you happen to be an Amex black member? I heard a rumor that the Amex black concierge has pretty good luck with grabbing tables at The French Laundry. I’ve tried the regular Amex concierge as well as the Visa Signature concierge with no luck.
– Don’t want to do the phone thing? They reserve three tables a night for online reservations through Open Table (these can also be accessed through The French Laundry website). These go live at midnight PST, so be ready to pull a Cyber Monday and stay up to grab one. These tables tend to be for the first seating (5-5:30pm) or the late seating (9pm), so know you’ll be limited to those times.
– If you’re semi-local and flexible, I’d recommend stalking Open Table and just grabbing whatever table you can.
TFL posts the daily menu on their website the next day (ie. They’ll post the June 4th menu on June 5th), and the day we went, my brother saw an A5 Wagyu dish offered as a supplement. It wasn’t on our menu, but he asked if they still had some. They did, and they cooked one up just for him. Never be afraid to ask.
Andante Dairy “Acapella”
riesling “gelee”, garden beets and sicilian pistachios
Other random tips:
– Jackets are required for men. This means you can’t take it off during the meal. I may or may not know this due to seeing the rule personally in action. 😉
– There’s plenty of street parking across the street from the restaurant right in front of the garden.
– Speaking of the garden, try to arrive early (when the suns out, hopefully) and take a few minutes to walk around the garden. I love checking out what produce is growing and what ends up on my plate that evening.
– They’re currently in the process of building out a new, larger kitchen. In the meantime, the temporary kitchen can be viewed from the courtyard through large windows.
Assortment of Desserts
A gorgeous (and delicious!) strawberry thyme tart, tutti fruitti ice cream, their infamous “coffee and doughnuts” (coffee semifreddo and sugared brioche doughnuts) and a selection of chocolates. I’m not going to say how many chocolates I picked out. 😉
Have you been to The French Laundry? Would you go again?
Check out some of my other favorites! I promise the lighting was better. 😛