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The French Laundry Yountville, CA

May 17th, 2008 · No Comments

T: I’m not sure when the first time was that I heard of this place. I think it was years ago when my friend M made a reference to the cookbook of the same name, and I looked it up, finding out that someone named Thomas Keller owned a very fancy restaurant in California somewhere that must serve pretty good food and had a pretty famous cookbook.

Fast forward to this weekend, when we were lucky enough to actually have a chance to eat here. And if you want to fast forward to the end of this blog entry, yes, it was the best restaurant experience that I’ve ever had.

We were asked to come to the restaurant at 11:30am, and told that our dining experience would start at 12:00pm. Men are requested to wear a jacket. No problem as I own a jacket, and we drove in from San Francisco to the very pretty village of Yountville (just outside of Napa) in about an hour.

Arriving, you pass 3 of Chef Keller’s other restaurants – Ad Hoc, a down-to-earth place with some pretty famous fried chicken, the Bouchon Bakery where you can purchase coffee, lemonades, and baked goods, and Bouchon, his wonderful French bistro-style restaurant. Further down the main street of Yountville, you finally arrive at the French Laundry – a smallish but very pretty stone house, with gardens across the road.

Entering into the restaurant, we were greeted very formally by a gentleman who I guess is the Maitre d’, French, perfectly attired in a suit, who graciously but seriously showed us to our table. We were given some menus – and given the choice of either having the Chef’s menu (for meat-eaters) or theVegetarian menu. Both of these menus had some choices – for example, on the chef’s menu, we could choose between lamb or beef, the latter costing $100 extra.

After we made our choices, chose a glass of champagne to start, and chose some wine to have with our meal, the…(to be continued)

D: Miraculously, we got into the French Laundry due to a last-minute cancellation and luck – we seriously thought we wouldn’t get in since to get a reservation at this institution of cooking is serious business. In fact, you pretty well need to call exactly 2 months in advance as soon as the reservation line is open in order to book a spot. The staff count is about 30 in total (including cook and waitstaff) and they serve about 70 people at lunch (turning over only a few tables ) and a maximum of about 64 people at dinner. Both lunch and dinner are at least 3 hour affairs – and it is SO WORTH IT. The menu changes daily and there are few choices you can make such as whether you want the meat or veggie menu followed by a few choices for appetizer, main, dessert. Added on the torchon of foie gras for $30 supplement (definitely worth it) but not the Kobe beef ($100 supplement and they bring out the meat in advance to display it in all its raw majesty before taking it back to the kitchen to prepare). Extensive wine list with a large selection of half-bottles of which they can recommend a combination if you want to match it with your courses. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, we had to drive back so did not indulge in this option which probably would have ended up being a very enjoyable but possibly rather blurrily recalled meal. Everything was delicious but the standouts were – the lobster tail, the torchon de foie gras with three different kinds of salt, the pork belly. I also loved it that they had a popcorn glace with homemade caramel popcorn as part of the chocolate dessert. There was some sort of special party there who got a special menu of all Keller’s famous dishes and it was interesting to watch the little ceremony involving grating fresh black truffle onto whatever dish they were having – the truffle came out in a big wooden box and was then grated out individually over each person’s dish but a senior waitstaff. One of out top 5 meals for sure. If you love food – just go, you won’t be disappointed.

(P.S. The pictures truly don’t live up to the food in person – but we tried….)

The French Laundry
6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA

$250 per person prix fixe including gratuity
add $$$$ for wine (but at that point – if you are spending the money anyways, really what does it matter that the average price for a half-bottle is about $100)

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