Yes, this take-out deserves its own writeup.
Undisputedly, Chef Jordan Kahn works right on the very cutting edge of the L.A’s dining scene. His vanguard restaurant, Vespertine, offers an all-encompassing, multi-sensorial dining experience which many feel elevate the dining experience from the luxurious to the level of performance art.
Yet despite Chef Kahn’s current avant garde streak, it should be known that his past training was actually a rigidly classical one. He spent quite some time in Northern California under the tutelage of his mentor, Chef Thomas Keller, in the famed kitchen of his flagship restaurant in bucolic Yountville - The French Laundry.
And now, during our era of quarantine take-out, Chef Jordan Kahn finds himself waxing nostalgic from those bygone days. He recently reached out to his teacher Thomas Keller, and received permission to offer a few us lucky L.A. diners a faithful recreation of a tasting menu - straight from The French Laundry!
Reservations and payment: Via Tock. I was lucky enough to have received The French Laundry menu announcement within minutes of its initial drop online. Without hesitation, I jumped on it. Good thing, too - Because all the spots were gone within the next fifteen minutes.
Pickup: Smooth, safe and professional. Hand-off was contactless, as the meals were placed into my car through the open passenger-side window.
Packaging and instructions: Meticulously-packed, perhaps almost a bit too much so. This take-out collaboration was not meant to be just another “mash-up” bento, preoccupied with merely doling out a smidgeon of “all the hits” - No sirree, when you’re dealing with the renowned French Laundry brand, you’re getting a full-on, multi-course fine-dining meal! Clear home prep instructions accompanied each of the ten courses. Not only that, a tasting note, featuring personal recollections from the memories of Chef Kahn, is enclosed for each individual course to make each dish more personal. These notes were such a nice touch.
Pro-tips: Make sure your car has a softer suspension (or at least don’t drive like a maniac such as myself), as the soupy contents can tend to splash in the closed containers lest you take a turn too hard on the way home. Also, leave open some fridge space at home, as some of the dishes will need to be chilled until just before consumption. Fine-dining take-out can truly be fastidious at times.
… and now, ONTO THE FOOD!!!
Gruyère Cheese “Gougères”… This amuse, the starting point of the meal, was good, but at the same time I found this pastry to be a tad saltier than I recalled from The French Laundry iteration.
“Cornets” - Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraîche… Iconic. Humorously tongue-in-cheek in its origin, this classic Thomas Keller appetizer is a play on an ice cream cone. The cornets are relatively difficult to assemble in their take-out format, but once assembled, tasted glorious! These bites immediately bring back all the joy I recall from my past visits at The French Laundry.
House Brioche Rolls with Beurre Bordier and Fleur de Sel… We could not stop picking at this perfect bread with a pat of butter throughout dinner.
Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Osetra Caviar and Oyster Glaze… Precious and beautiful, the cauliflower is rightly the star here. And the delicate, briny caviar (sustainably farmed in California) offers up just the perfect partnering notes. Finesse, at work…
Creamy Maine Lobster Broth with Lobster Coral “Mousse”… Lord, this was great. Just a tad thicker than bisque, redolent of lobster and teeming with chunks of meat, this soup is everything I hope for in a rich seafood chowder. Bravo.
Salad of Haricot Verts, Tomato Tartare, and Chive Oil… Where do they get such damn fine tomatoes?! The pulpy, sensuous tomato in chive oil is almost meaty in its role here, a perfect off-set to the crunch of the spunky green beans, which is itself further tempered by the pleasant, pillowy ‘give’ when biting down on the frisée. In the tasting notes, Chef Kahn tells a funny story of how he tried to source the ingredients here - But I won’t spill the beans (see what I did there?)…
“Peas and Carrots” - Maine Lobster Pancakes with Pea Shoot Salad and Ginger-Carrot Emulsion… Lobster knuckle and mitts are utilized to their max in this dish, which I think is much like a giant Chinese dumpling. In addition, pea shoots, much akin to lobster knuckles and mitts being ignored in favor of claws and tails, often take a backseat to the peas themselves as an ingredient in fine-dining. That’s a shame, since the pea shoots are brimming with spring flavor. In any case, Chef Kahn makes good use of them here. This dish is scrumptious, and rightly deserves its place in The French Laundry pantheon of culinary wonders.
“Pot au Feu” - Braised Prime Beef Short Ribs with Root Vegetables and Sautéed Bone Marrow… Perfectly cooked, tender, and simply a symphony of wonderful flavors.
Roquefort Trifle with French Butter Pear Relish… For you Roquefort fans, this is an unabashed, unapologetic homage to one of the stronger cheeses out there. A lovely pear gelée lines the bottom of the cup - Dig to the bottom with each bite!
Chocolate Fondant with Coffee Cream and Chocolate Dentelles… Chef Kahn’s fine-honed dessert skills from his many days and nights at The French Laundry shine in ample evidence with this decadent treat.
Mignardises - Caramel Macaroons with Fleur de Sel Buttercream, Yuzu Jellies, Praline-Brown Butter Truffle… Wow! What a spectacular assortment to round out this most terrific of take-out meals! Those marvelous caramel macaroons are Chef Keller’s favorite sweets. Pretty much every guest at The French Laundry end up with a bag of them to take home at the end of their meal!
Currently, all spots online have been taken. If indeed Chef Kahn decides to offer this menu again in the near future, know that this is a remarkably faithful reproduction to the tastes of The French Laundry. In our pandemic times, unless you are sheltering in place with Thomas Keller himself, this is as close as possible to the real deal to dining at The French Laundry. Do not miss it.