Alternative to French Laundry
- jamiem Oct 30, 2001 04:12 PM
After months of trying to get reservations, hours spent on the phone, I have a waiting list place at French Laundry this weekend. If that doesnt pan out (which it probably won't) what other places in Napa can compare to the French Laundry experience? My parents are in town this weekend and have had their hearts set on French Laundry for a long time. Don't want to dissapoint. Any suggestions/alternatives?
I've been to La Toque in Rutherford several times and had very nice meals there. It's a fairly cozy yet simple dining room. The style is French haute, though I don't know if chef/proprietor Ken Frank would describe it as such. He does try to get to the essence of things and his sauces are lovely. He does a wonderful job with quail; the meat is always juicy and never dried out. He is also fond of mushrooms and truffles; he has been doing truffle themed meals for years. If I sound at all hesitant, it's not because of the food but for the service. It's been fine but, maybe my bad luck,it's always been marred slightly: an inattentive waiter, forgetting our table toward the end of the mean when a larger party came in, or something. I do think the quality of the food is excellent.
I agree with Lise that La Toque is great.
Roux in St. Helena is a tiny new place that is trying to lure French Laundry folks their way. The chef is young but experienced. I've heard mixed reviews.
I would absolutely try Terra in St. Helena, over all. That place always shines. The wine list is fab.
Terra would get my vote. La Toque has disappointed us but Terra never has. Well, one time I did get some cold fresh sardines that had some grit. But we have been many , many times and I had much rather spend an evening there than at the French Laundry. If you do end up there and they have the buttermilk panna cotta, don't miss it. The wine steward can make some unusual and interesting suggestions for wines to pair. The building is gorgeous and you'll get a feeling for the beauty of the old stone buildings of St. Helena.
We have had numerous disappointing dishes at Jeanty. I know many people love it, but for one, I had a pitiful excuse for coq au vin once. It would be a far cry from an elegant evening too. Save it for a casual evening or an emergency.
I haven't been to the CIA Restaurant since Pilar Sanchez took over as chef, but I would follow her anywhere. The tables don't have table cloths--a detail that bugs me. Also the service there has been less than great in the past.
I tried Beau Vine the other night, and the food was very disappointing, though the decor is nice.
Miramonte has garnered lots of criticism up here, both for service and food. The decor is pretty sterile, too.
You may very well get into the FR, so if you do, good luck for a memorable evening. Don't forget to let us know.
re: Melanie Wong
I might also suggest, if you are going to try the recipe, that you let the chicken marinate for at least two days in the wine (I use merlot or zinfandel)and aromatic vegetables. I overcooked the chicken...the recipe seems to call for a lot longer than it needed. We must remember that many French recipes assume the use of a stewing hen, not a young fryer. I would suggest amending the recipe to call for about 1/2 hour cooking in a relatively slow oven (300 deg, keeping in mind that the browning of the pieces will cook the breasts and almost cook the legs).
re: Jim H.
Jim, I'll have to look up that recipe. The time we had it, the chicken tasted like it had been plopped into the (watery) sauce at the last minute. Maybe it was a one-time thing. I hope so, but I'll not be taking a chance. I don't remember the sauce even having a very good flavor, but trying it at home might be worth it.