The French Laundry

The French Laundry is arguably the most iconic restaurant in the country. It’s so famous amongst the food circles that it’s ridiculously difficult to get a reservation there even though they serve both lunch and dinner. So when I miraculously saw an opening a few weeks prior to my SF trip last year, I jumped at the 8:30PM opportunity despite having already planned a dinner at Quince the following night. You only live once right? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Naturally, expectation was sky high because of the restaurant’s accolades and since I never had to work so diligently, with the exception of N/Naka post Chef’s Table premiere, to secure a reservation. So how was the meal?

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Their signature clothespin

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Complimentary house Champagne upon walk in. Nice gesture!

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Since I’m not much of a drinker, I opted for their non-alcoholic pairing. It’s one of the few things they don’t charge you extra for.

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Unfermented Chardonnay

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Amuse Bouche #1: Corbia tartare “Cornet” with red onion creme fraiche and black sesame tuile

First bite! How was it? It was whimsical-ish and tasted good but not very inspiring. Variations of this “cornet” has been imitated to death at lesser restaurants at this point of its life cycle.

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Amuse Bouche #2: Potato Croquette

It tasted like any other potato croquette. I’m worried at this point since Providence in LA typically knock my socks off with a variety of their amuse bouche. :sweat_smile:

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Course #1: “Oysters and Pearls” | Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

HOLY CRAP. Best caviar course I have ever had. Now we’re talking! I was first hit with the variety of texture of this dish. You got the popping of the caviar, the slightly chewy tapioca, the creaminess of the oysters, and the sauce had perfect consistency coating each ingredients. The flavors of all the ingredients combined to accentuate the briny ocean goodness of the oysters and caviar.

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Course 2A: Garden Sunchoke Salad | Hadley Orchards Medjool Dates, Meyer Lemon Mostarda and Wild Arugula

The salad tasted fresh and fine but I was quite disappointed. I get that TFL wanted to showcase the fresh produce of its farm but is it wrong for me to expect more than a simple salad at the price I’m paying? Maybe something like Manresa’s enjoyable and unique garden salad?

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Course 2B: Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras “Torchon” | Compressed Sour Apples, Garden Turnip Puree, petite Lettuces and Whole Grain Mustard - $30 supplement

To sample more courses, we opted for this supplement. It tasted fine like any other good foie. The compressed sour apple was sous vided to give it a more translucent appearance and a slightly different texture. It acted as a good counter balance to the rich foie. Not a very exciting course.

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Sesame Epi bread - Exemplary

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Sourdough Brioche - Another perfect piece from TFL. Way better than anything from B Patisserie or Tartine. At this point, I asked the waiter how is it possible that their bread is so good. He explained that Bouchon down the street makes 2 deliveries to TFL nightly. They bike down from Bouchon slightly before the first service and again at around 8 so guests can get the freshest possible stuff. All bread and pastries are slightly undercooked so TFL can finish cooking them to the proper temp RIGHT before serving them.

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Course #3: Slow Cooked fillet of Wild Scottish Sea Trout | Persian Cucumbers, “Salade Bearnaise,” Brokaw Avocado Mousse and Garden Sorrel

This was a hit! Salmon was sous vided which meant perfection. It was barely cooked and I would describe it as a cross between sashimi and medium rare. The fattiness of the salmon was countered with a cucumber marmalade of some sort. The creamy avocado mousse added another dimension to the dish when paired with either just the salmon or with both the marmalade and salmon.

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Nectarine Juice with ginger ale

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Course #4: Sweet Butter Poached Stonington Maine Lobster | Wild Oregon Morel Mushrooms, La Ratte Potato Puree, Creamy Lobster Broth

Another great dish. Juicy and snappy. Lobster was cooked perfectly. The shrooms added earthiness to the pool of broth filled with oceany goodness. Potato puree was very very rich with butter.

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Strawberry puree

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Course #5: “Bread & Butter” | Bitter Cocoa Laminated Cornucopia Brioche and diane St. Clair’s Animal Farm Butter

This was probably THE most amazing bread I’ve ever tasted and the only time where I was glad that bread is an actual course. Rich buttery flavor. Impossibly fluffy. Tremendous. Amazing. Bigly. Big League. Pick your adjective. Here’s a little test that I did. I squeezed the bread with my fingers and the dent bounced right back to the original state. :scream:

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Course #6: Wolfe Ranch White Quail “A La Broche” | Rhubarb “Pate de Fruit,” Toasted Sicilian Pistachios, Miner’s Lettuce and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Terrific. Tender with rich flavor with the complex tasting aged balsamic and slightly sweet fruit gelee offering balance.

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In case you didn’t notice, the glasses just get bigger and bigger :joy:

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Unfermented Merlot with a touch of club soda

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Get that saucing game on!

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Course 7A: “Degustation” of Quebecoise Porcelet | Creamed Arrowleaf Spinach, Pickled Pearl Onions, Crispy Shallots and Hobbs’ Bacon Jus

Another great course! The pork was from a milk-fed pig with different cuts plated alongside sausage made from the very same pork. The taste and texture were very unique. Imagine the most intense porky flavor possible as well as being the most succulent and tender pork ever.

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Course 7B: Almond Wood Grilled Miyazaki A5 Wagyu | Romaine “Paquet,” Garden Radishes, Crispy Parmesan, and Crushed Caper Mayonnaise - $100 supplement

Final savory course didn’t disappoint in flavor. The A5 wagyu was grilled over almond wood which imparted a intense amount of smokey goodness. However, the course was way too rich. It was too much of a good thing on a plate since even the caper mayonnaise was super rich in nature even though it was meant as a a sort of balancing acidic element of the dish.

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Fitz’s Root Beer to go with desserts

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Course #8: Garden celery salad with sour apple

We opted out of the cheese course since our noob palates don’t care for them in general. However, we weren’t any happier with this salad. It tasted fresh and light acting as a palate cleanser but I can probably whip this up at home without much trouble…

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Course #9: Assortment of Desserts

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9a: Vanilla ice cream with cherry blossom syrup

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9b: Forgot what it was…

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9c: Forgot what this was too…I remember a layer of red velvet cake on the bottom and the rest tasted like chocolate fondant

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9d: TFL’s “Coffee & Doughnuts” - Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts
AWESOME. The hot and cold contrast of the cappuccino semifreddo was very nice. Doughnuts were fluffy and on point.

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9e: Macarons…forgot the flavor

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9f: Chocolate covered macadamia nuts
Can’t go wrong with these things!

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7 choices of chocolate truffles…can’t recall all the flavors, but they were really good and of course we asked for 2 of each! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.

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Our goodies bag with signed menu, our chocolate truffles and a goodbye gift of some amazing shortbread cookies in a French Laundry branded metal tin.


This meal definitely had its ups and downs with the highs were really high and the lows were just a-okay. Thankfully, only 2 of the 9 courses were a-okay ones, the rest were great and 2 was mind-blown materials. However, shouldn’t such an iconic restaurant achieve perfection? That’s for you to decide.

I came away with a good impression of the restaurant but I have no desire to return. First of all, reservation is difficult to come by. Secondly, I hate it when a tasting menu has supplement and I hate it with a passion when almost every course has supplement. If I got all the supplements, it would’ve cost me another $315 per person on top of the $310 per person that I already paid while other restaurants while other restaurants happily include many of those supplements (foie, truffle, A5 wagyu, Kaluga caviar) in their regular menu in one form or another. Third, despite my proud appetite where devouring 30+ pieces of sushi is EZPZ, I struggled to finish this meal mightily even though the portion of each course was smaller than average. The food here is loaded with butter and ridiculously rich Finally, though at one point, some of their signature courses were cutting edge cooking, they can now be found on many restaurants such as their cornet and butter poached lobster.

Even though this review might seem critical of TFL at times, I would still recommend this restaurant. The highs were mindblowingly good! Given that the menu changes nightly with the exception of the oysters and pearl and cornet, this meal can potentially scale to a much greater height on a different visit. It doesn’t hurt to try it once! :yum:

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It was at the top of the Pellegrino list in 2004. This year it’s #86.

“Coasting on its reputation” might be too strong, but it certainly wouldn’t be quite as expensive or hard to get into if it had opened last year.

Don’t get me wrong, butter is delicious on a lot of things. At the same time, though, food needs to be nourishing; you need to feel good after you eat. I’ve gone out to many excellent places where you feel like shit after the meal. I don’t want guests to feel that way.

I don’t think that’s too strong. They certainly have a huge reputation but apart from the excellent “Oysters and Pearls” dish, I’ve struggled with seeing how The French Laundry or Per Se can match their (historically) legendary status. My recent meal at Per Se was OK, maybe 1* level in my opinion. “Oysters and Pearls” is deservedly iconic, but nothing else stood out, though the meal was competent and safe.

Service, however, is fantastic. The pastry at TKG and from its alums is also great.

Interestingly, I had some very similar dishes between The French Laundry and Vintage Cave under Jonathan Mizukami in Honolulu (there’s been maybe 3 chef changes since then), and they were at least neck-and-neck. Specifically, a lobster with bordelaise and a poulard roti with celery and pepper were arguably better at Vintage Cave. There was even a fantastic oyster amuse.

About when was this meal - before or after their big kitchen renovation? My last meal at The French Laundry was before the renovation and I was wondering if it has improved since then.

When I’m in Wine Country, I go to The Restaurant at Meadowood, whose “New Napa Cuisine” indeed feels like an evolution.

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i’ve enjoyed tfl in the past but haven’t been back for awhile. when i’m in yountville i’m always going to ad hoc, not at the same level of execution and precision as tfl but the quality of ingredients is on par.

Takeout fried chicken and a bottle of blanc de blancs!

The Pellegrino list is deeply flawed and really ridiculous to me. How do you rank a restaurant on a list? To me, the list says more of what the food trend is nowadays than anything else. Noma was doing very innovative things utilizing hyper local ingredients and they shot up the ranking and won year after year. Despite winning the coveted No. 1 spot, René Redzepi openly admitted that this list is just random and crazy. How do you compare an izakaya, a bistro, and a tapas bar?

Looking at this from another perspective, if a person eats out twice a day everyday, they only get to sample 730 restaurants in the world in any given year. There are about 1 million restaurants in the US alone according the the National Restaurant Association. Let’s assume that only .1% of these restaurants are considered cream of the crop. We still have 100,000 restaurants left to sample. So even with this ridiculous scenario, this person only gets to sample a mere .0073% of the top dogs within the US, let alone the WORLD.

To quote a New Yorker article in reference to a voters only needing to dine at a restaurant once in the prior 18 months and how it got its high rank, “The restaurant serves dinner five days a week to a single table of ten diners. In eighteen months, then, it has entertained at most thirty-six hundred people. In order to appear on the list at No. 24, Ultraviolet would have to have garnered at least seventy-five votes, meaning that a 50 Best judge would have had to eat there practically one night out of every five.”

Moreover, the list is becoming more rigged than ever with local governments increasingly sponsoring chefs , journalists, and critics around the world and doing PR to boost publicity of the restaurant they want to appear on the list. It’s simply a popularity contest.

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This was post 10 mil kitchen renovation.

All lists have issues, but dropping from #1 to #86 means something. Thomas Keller invented this form over 20 years ago, it’s only natural that he’s no longer the best at it.

It’s not just Pellegrino. I don’t think I’ve read a post from anyone who goes to enough of those places to compare them who was very enthusiastic about it.

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Acedotally, when my sister got the juice pairing at Dialogue in Santa Monica, she felt that juice filled her up faster than had it been wine, but no idea if that’s true or not. Any thoughts? No doubt though that this TFL food is heavier than some other tasting menu places.

Well, fruit juices are loaded with sugar, aren’t they? More so than wines?

@DTLAeater The juice definitely could’ve played a factor but the richness in general wore me down over the course of the meal. There were the sabayon, foie, extremely buttery bread, the buttery lobster broth and potato puree, the big league butter & bread course, the intensely rich porky porcelet and a bigger than usual A5 wagyu.

This is also why I prefer French cuisine with some sort of Japanese or Asian influence such as Manresa, Benu, and Joel Robuchon since the these are lighter meals in general. At least that’s how I felt walking out of the restaurants!

@catholiver Yes, in theory during the fermentation process, most if not all of a wine’s sugar will be converted to alcohol. Some crowd favorites like Caymus cabernet sauvignon have shocking levels of residual sugar (5-6x) compared to a truly dry red.

@moonboy403 I was pleasantly surprised at how light some of the food was at Somni at LA, though I still left full. For example, the traditional bread and ham dish used an egg white crisp instead of bread. Anyway, thanks for the report. Helps with feelings of FOMO!

I ate at that place.

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