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French Laundry Dinner (Lots of Pics)

French Laundry Dinner (Lots of Pics)

Old Dec 18, 11, 5:55 pm
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French Laundry Dinner (Lots of Pics)

It was finally time for our long awaited dinner at The French Laundry! I can't tell you how excited I was to finally be here, and I hope you are able to catch a glimpse of our wonderful night here at The French Laundry.

Full review is posted on my blog.



Our dinner reservation was at 5:30 PM. We left our hotel around 4:45 PM just to give ourselves enough time to drive from Napa to Yountville. Turns out there was hardly any traffic, and we arrived pretty early. There was plenty of parking on the street. My heart started beating harder and faster when I finally saw the restaurant building!

We went inside around 5:25 PM and were so relieved when they did in fact have our reservation! For some reason both my husband and I were paranoid that our reservation didn't actually go through...ha, ha. The hostess took my jacket and seated us promptly. 5:30 PM was the first dinner seating, so the restaurant was still very empty when we came. The dining area was pretty small, there was probably around 6 tables in our area, and another 3 tables in a separate room area. There was also a whole second floor also with a number of tables.



There were only two menu options: 9-course Chef's Tasting menu or the Vegetable's Tasting Menu. They were both $270 per person (included service charge, but not tax). The price was very steep and was definitely a splurge for us. It helped that we came with an expectation of the price, otherwise we would have been sticker shocked and would probably not enjoy the dinner as much.

Their wine list was actually on an iPad, which was pretty cool. Wine prices was pretty astronomical, too; My husband got a glass of one of the cheaper wines (Sherrer Pinot Noir) for $25!

Our waitress was amazing! She recited almost everything on the menu from memory and was very articulate in describing the dishes. Considering how many courses there were, we were quite impressed.

We both decided on the Chef's Tasting Menu. They were pretty flexible with changing some of the entrees if you have allergies or do not like certain item. For example, for the meat entree, the choice was either the lamb rib-eye or the dry aged beef which had a $100 supplement. I don't eat lamb, but I didn't want to pay an extra $100 for a small beef entree. I asked the waitress for other options, and she said they can prepare another beef entree without the $100 supplement, which was greatly appreciated.

Customary to other fine dining restaurants, we were given several amuse bouches. The first one was this light crispy puff-pastries filled with gruyere cream. It was served slightly warm and was delicious! We both really enjoyed it and agreed we were off to a great start!

We noticed the service at The French Laundry was probably the best service we have had anywhere. Everyone was very polite and courteous, and whoever brought the dishes to serve would take 1-2 minute describing the dish to us.


Gruyere puffs

The second amuse bouche was the Salmon Cornets. It's shaped like an ice cream cone which was very whimsical and creative. The salmon tartare was refreshing and was a perfect combination with the cream cheese filling and the crunchy cone. We both really enjoyed this dish and wished we could have a couple more.


Salmon Cornets

The Oysters & Pearls was technically the 1st course. Having seen the pictures of this dish before, I was surprised to see how tiny it was in person. I took a small bite of the caviar with the creamy sabayon, and it was heavenly! The caviar was a little salty but it was perfectly balanced with the slightly cheesy custard and tapioca pearls. It was a very interesting use of tapioca pearls since I usually see tapioca pearls in bubble teas! Ha ha. Although, they used the white, smaller pearls instead of the big, black pearls used for bubble teas.

When I finally took a bite of the oysters, pearls and sabayon altogether, I remembered it being one of the best bites ever and both my husband and I gushed how good it was!!! This was definitely my favorite!


Oysters & Pearls
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

We were then served the dinner roll, which again, was smaller in person. It was probably a good size though, since we really didn't want to eat too much bread. The dinner roll deserves a mention here, since it was so good! All the bread were baked fresh from Bouchon bakery. It was such a simple roll but it was probably one of the best dinner rolls I have ever had. It was flaky, doughy, buttery, soft, and served warm. What more could I ask for from a dinner roll?


Dinner roll

For the 2nd course, my husband and I ordered different things. My husband had the roasted sunchoke soup while I ordered the foie gras. The soup was lukewarm, rich, and creamy. The bits of dates, yogurt, and cashews added nice texture to the creaminess. Pretty good.


Roasted Sunchoke Soup
Medjool Dates, Toasted Cashews, Cilantro and Madras Curry Yogurt

The foie gras dish carried a $30 supplement. The foie gras was served cold yet very light - and was meant to be eaten with the warm toasted brioche. This dish was pretty good but not my favorite. The foie gras tasted almost like regular pates that you can get at a grocery store. Maybe it's just my palate though...he, he. I could only eat half and was not able to finish this dish. Looking back, I don't think it's worth to pay the $30 supplement for this dish, but we're glad we at least tried it.

We noticed that every time we left something on the plate that was not fuly eaten, the waitress would ask us if there was anything wrong with the dish. It seemed like they really cared about what the customer liked or didn't like and would give the feedback to the chef.


Moulard Duck "Foie Gras au Torchon"
Cipollini Onion, Celery Branch, Oregon Huckleberries and Banana Sable

My husband's 3rd course was the cobia filet, which was excellent! Perfectly cooked--soft on the inside, slightly crispy on the outside. The cabbage, quince, walnuts, mustard complemented the fish extremely well. So good! This was his favorite dish.


Sauteed Fillet of Gulf Coast Cobia
Red Wine Braised Cabbage, Flowering Quince, Walnuts and Dijon Mustard

My 3rd course was the bay scallops. This dish was just so-so for me. It was good, but none of the flavors really jumped out. It was interesting to eat the scallop with the blood orange though - definitely not something that I would do on my own.


Nantucket Bay Scallops
Cauliflower, Blood Orange, Sicilian Pistachios and Black Winter Truffle

In between 3rd and 4th course, they brought a selection of breads to choose. I chose the pretzel bread because I thought it would be interesting. My husband got the multigrain bread. Again, the size of this bread was quite small, but definitely more than enough for us since at this point, we were already quite full. The pretzel bread tasted like, a pretzel, a really good pretzel.


Pretzel Bread

Our 4th course was the Maine lobster. I thought it was interesting that it was served with a chocolate emulsion. This dish was solid, but not out-of-this-world like the cobia fillet or the oysters & pearls.


Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster Mitts
Missing Fig Compote, Baby Beet, Tardivo Radicchio, Watercress and Guiness-Chocolate Emulsion

The 5th course was rabbit sirloin. Looked like white lamb, but tasted more like chicken. The meat was on the tougher, chewier side. A good solid dish again, but by this point our stomachs were definitely on the fuller side.


Devil's Gulch Ranch Rabbit Sirloin
Hobb's Bacon, Chantrelle Mushrooms, Marble Potatoes and Tarragon

My husband's 6th course was the lamb rib eye. This was a very nice dish. Meat was juicy, prepared well, though a little tough and chewy (compared to beef). My husband couldn't finish this because he was so full.


Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib Eye
Panisse, Young Fennel, Piperade, and Nicoise Olive Jus

Since I didn't want to order the lamb, and didn't want to pay the $100 supplement for the beef dish (for my 6th course), I asked the waitress for an alternate beef dish. Surprisingly, when my 6th course came, it sounded very similar to the beef dish that carried the $100 supplement. I was worried that maybe we would be charged the extra amount, but I was pretty sure I asked for an alternate. Since I already took a couple bites, I decided to not bring it up and just see in the end if we got charged or not (turned up we didn't!).

This course was one of the best dishes of the night for me. The quality of the meat was just outrageous. I was able to taste the grain of the beef. The beef was super soft with a slight chew, and it was the perfect texture! The crispy bone marrow was very buttery and crispy on the outside; it really tasted like melted fat. So good!


49 Day Dry Aged Snake River Farms Beef
Crispy Bone Marrow, Nantes Carrots, Broccoli, Tokyo Turnips and "Sauce Bordelaise"

Last edited by m4rcla; Dec 18, 11 at 9:15 pm
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Old Dec 18, 11, 9:14 pm
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Our 7th course was a cheese dish. All the cheese were hard cheeses, they were all quite mild, and it was a nice change after the seafood and meat dishes that we had.


Comte Reserve
San Marzano Tomato Marmalade, Globe Artichoke, Spanish Capers, Garlic and Arugula

We were then offered coffee or tea, and I opted for the cappucino. My husband had green tea. By this time we were really full, but still looking forward to the desserts.

The 8th course was the sour cherry sorbet; this was a great palate cleanser. It was served with a coconut buttery cookie and a vanilla soda foam.


Sour Cherry Sorbet
Coconut Petite Beurre and Vanilla Soda

Our last course was the main dessert dish. My husband chose the Chocolate mousse and I chose the "Pommes Anna." Since it was my birthday, they also brought out a small cake with candle, which was a nice touch.

The chocolate mousse was good. Good quality...not super spectacular, but also not not good either. Eating the mousse with the almond ice cream was the way to go, though he didn't care too much for the panna cota.


Alpaco "Mousse au Chocolat"
Spice Pudding, Panna Cotta, Fuyu Persimmon and Macarona Almond Glacee

The Pommes Anna was a sophisticated version of a funnel cake. I really only ate the funnel cake and the salted caramel ice cream; everything else wasn't really my cup of tea. To tell you the truth, both my husband and I felt that we haven't had a really good dessert dish at a fine dining restaurant. It seems like most of the fine dining establishments try too hard to make desserts more complicated, and at least for me, I prefer my desserts simple.


Pommes Anna
Funnel Cake, Rum, Anglaise, and Salted Caramel Ice Cream

We were given three additional post desserts after we finished our main dessert. There was the semifreddo which was a semi-frozen coffee custard, beignet doughnut holes, and caramel & chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

Talk about finishing strong! This was what I was talking about when it comes to really good desserts. We both thoroughly enjoyed the semifreddo, doughnut holes, and chocolate covered macadamia nuts much much more than the fancy chocolate mousse and pommes anna.

The semifreddo was refreshing, it tasted like a frozen milk coffee custard. We originally didn't know what it was and thought it was a hot cappucino. We tried drinking it but nothing really was drinkable, ha ha. We later realized we were supposed to use the small spoon given to scoop out the coffee custard.

The doughnut holes were very light, soft and slightly sweetened, served warm. Simple but solid!


Delicious doughnut holes

The macadamia nuts were out of this world! They were covered with a caramel crunch layer, then a chocolate layer, then dusted with the confectioners sugar. There were probably 15-20 macadamia nuts in the bowl, and we almost finished it. I wished I had brought a ziplock to bring the rest home!


Chocolate covered macadamia nuts

Right when we thought we were finally done with everything, they had one more thing for us, which was the Mignardises. Mignardises are tiny, bite sized desserts served at the end of the meal. These particular mignardises were homemade chocolate truffles. I think the flavors were: caramel, pumpkin spice, meyer lemon, peanut butter & jelly, praline, and one more flavor that I can't remember (rum something?).


Mignardises

Similar to Gary Danko, we were given "treats" to take home. They consisted of shortbread cookies (the typical treats given to customers) and a packet of chocolates for my birthday. We were also given copies of the menu for that day, which was a very nice touch.

Before we left, we asked for a tour of the kitchen and were given a very short look into the kitchen and chefs in action. It was quite interesting - there were different stations and everyone looked very busy and serious!


Our treats

Summary:

This was definitely a splurge for us. Our total bill came out to a whopping $641, which is definitely our most expensive meal to date - by far! We justified this for a once in a lifetime experience since it is my 30th birthday

The experience was great though. Getting a reservation was a deal in itself and was an interesting task. Service was excellent - I daresay that this is probably the best service I've had anywhere.

I would describe the food as really good in general, with some dishes being exceptional and the rest being "good".

We felt that our dining experience was like a U shaped bell. Amazing appetizers, good entrees, and strong dessert finish.

The highlights of the meal for us were:

Salmon cornets
Oysters & Pearls
Sauteed Fillet of Gulf Coast Cobia
Dry Aged Snake River Farms Beef
Doughnut Holes
Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts

If the rest of the food had hit the spot like the ones mentioned above, then I would rate French Laundry as an exceptional restaurant. The tingling feeling that I had when eating the dishes above was quite sensational. However, the rest of the dish was just good, not exceptional - and can probably be had at other Michelin star restaurants around Bay Area for a fraction of the cost.

In summary, we're glad we tried it once, but we probably will not go back, mostly due to the exorbitant cost.

Tips:
            m4rcla is offline  
            Old Dec 18, 11, 10:23 pm
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            Question Well...

            Never heard of the place! Are you implying it's better than Denny's???
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            Old Dec 18, 11, 10:38 pm
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            Originally Posted by I_Hate_US_Airways View Post
            Never heard of the place! Are you implying it's better than Denny's???
            Sure, but not MickyD's - just look at the revenues! If you restricted your ordering to the dollar menu, you'd starve to death at the French Laundry (there's only just so much sustenance in an amuse bouche).
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            Old Dec 19, 11, 9:51 am
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            Great review!

            This place has been on my bucket list for a while. Was thinking about making that a reality in November next year. I'll have to read up on the reservation tips to make it happen.
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            Old Dec 19, 11, 4:51 pm
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            Glad you had an enjoyable dinner! Happy bday too. I have not been there yet, but I am thinking that I may not ever go. From what I have read and from what other FTers have said - is that the restaurant's best years may be behind it. I'll have to see if the restaurant recovers, maintains or declines.
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            Old Dec 19, 11, 6:20 pm
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            Your word pictures perfectly augment the photos. Thank you for a great description. I've heard about the restaurant for many years, have eaten meals by chefs who once worked there, but never eaten there myself. I appreciate getting to vicariously live your experience.

            Happy birthday!
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            Old Dec 19, 11, 9:38 pm
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            Thanks for the photos and write-up. Enjoyed reading it on your blog!
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            Old Dec 19, 11, 10:38 pm
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            Thanks everyone! Glad you enjoyed the post
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            Old Dec 19, 11, 11:02 pm
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            Great review. Definitely an unforgettable birthday celebration. Lovely photographs. Thank you for sharing your celebration with FT.
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            Old Dec 20, 11, 6:05 pm
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            Thanks for putting the review together. Thoroughly enjoyed reading. Would like to make it there someday.....gotta start saving up
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            Old Dec 20, 11, 11:14 pm
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            Originally Posted by m4rcla View Post
            If the rest of the food had hit the spot like the ones mentioned above, then I would rate French Laundry as an exceptional restaurant. The tingling feeling that I had when eating the dishes above was quite sensational. However, the rest of the dish was just good, not exceptional - and can probably be had at other Michelin star restaurants around Bay Area for a fraction of the cost.

            In summary, we're glad we tried it once, but we probably will not go back, mostly due to the exorbitant cost.
            I agree with this. I ate here many years ago, and while excellent, it was not, "My god, i have to come back here." It is so much more expensive than many other restaurants, but it's certainly not that much better than say--Gary Danko, Fleur de Lys, or Masa's. It may be a little better, but it's not 3 times better (the price difference).

            Don't get me wrong, it's a great place, and I would go if you've never been. But once you've been, you can check off the "been there, done that" on your list, and I bet you won't have a strong desire to return anytime soon.
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            Old Dec 22, 11, 11:33 am
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            I have to say that our experience at the French Laundry for my 60th a few years ago was one of the best meals we have ever eaten (and we often eat in Michelin 1- and 2- and occasionally 3- star restaurants). We opted for lunch, not dinner, and took the tasting menu. Fantastic food, fantastic service, and the wines we were recommended to go with our food were spectacular. It sounds as if you were underwhelmed, but we were certainly not. Perhaps lunch and not dinner is the way to go.

            We went to the Bouchon bakery the following day and bought bread and macarons, and I tracked down the wines we had drunk at a Napa wine store and ordered some to ship home. (If you ever have the chance, try a Marsanne from Renard in Paso Robles, a name I had not previously encountered.)
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            Old Dec 23, 11, 7:05 pm
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            Nice write up, expensive, but looks good except the foie gras, it looks incredibly dense, and as you said like a pate from a store, not something I'd expect from French Laundry. Add to that the use of cipollini onion served like that (I really dislike them all but roasted), I'd not be paying $30 more at all, and disappointed to get it if I had.

            I am glad to see that they are rather generous in their course count for that kind of price, it is actually rare from my experience in tasting menus.
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            Old Dec 24, 11, 8:51 am
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            I’m going to take some poetic license and expand this into a disturbing issue I have read about and discussed with various people, which is:

            In this high tech world, many people are more interested in posting their experiences rather than actually be involved in them.

            My brother (who happens to be a silicon valley based internet marketing consultant) told me he was disturbed by the behavior of a relative that he was showing around San Francisco, for her first visit. Instead of enjoying what he was showing her and “being in the moment” she spent a great deal of this time photographing with her Ipad and posting these pictures with comments on facebook in real time., and then texting responses to her “friends” that posted comments.

            Many years ago I worked in a restaurant in France far greater than French Laundry. I am certain that if someone spent part of their meal taking so many pictures, the chef would have thrown them out.

            Can someone please explain to me the reason why people would capture their ongoing activites and broadcast them to “friends” on facebook or on internet sites?
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