The French Laundry [Moved from California]
I have the opportunity to go to the French Laundry this October. i've heard great things, but been vastly disappointed before. If anyone's been there, please tell: Is it worth the hype?
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i went there about 4 years ago, and would rate it as one of the top 5 meal experiences of my life. the service was top rate, on a world scale. every item of food was super, in quality, prep, and taste. if you go, it is a choice of several chef's menus (might have had entrees too), so if there is something you don't like (i.e. my wife doesn't eat fish) they will create a great substitute. be prepared to spend a bundle, but it is worth it. great wine selections, of course. an experience. good luck getting a reservation. it took me a while.
My interpretation is that Keyser has been disappointed by hyped restaurants generally.
Key factors to French Laundry enjoyment: 1. The sophistication of your palate. 2. The fatness of your wallet.
If you've got a beginner's palate consider starting elsewhere. Unless you can dine with a zen fine dining communicator who can inform you about the salient points without making you feel like an idiot.
If you've got a fat wallet what the heck?
If you have a developed palate and a fat wallet this is your restaurant (unless you've developed an aversion to technical tasting menus).
If you are building your palate and guarding your wallet, prepare to give the financial management section of your brain the night off and see what you can learn.
This is clearly not everyone's idea of a great experience but it is a leader.
re: Karl Gerstenberger
Well put! It's something to try if you have never and can afford it and can appreciate it! Many many years ago (maybe 6) we went to French Laundry and it was THE MEAL OF OUR LIFE TIME, so blown away we were. But then, a months later we got another chance to go, and the second time wasn't as steller.
Nothing had changed in just a month, so we concluded it was us, the experience of The First. There is nothing like the first time when you are presented with something so fine and well prepared.
Be prepared to dine for a long time, and be prepared to appreciate how much work and preparation went into each piece of meat, sauce, garnish that touches your plate.
re: Karl Gerstenberger
I am sure that saying an appreciation of French Laundry is dependant on sophistication is just a bad choice of words. It is not so much how sophisticated your palate is, but rather what style of food you like.
If you are looking for a flawlessly technical meal, then you will like French Laundry. It is an intellectual meal rather than one that comes from passion, well, a different sort of passion, maybe the word is obsession with detail ... which is a good thing and admirable in itself.
So it is not all hype and not dependant on the sophistication of the diner. I wasn't wowed with French Laundry in terms of taste but I like other top-line restaurants like The Dining Room at the Ritz, Michael Minna and Chez Panisse.
I was glad I went and saw what it was all about, so if the money isn't that important, take a look-see.
You might mention what restaurants disappointed you in the past and what you liked.
I think the main reason most of us go out to eat is to enjoy good food and have a good time. One should not choose a restaurant just because it 'hot' or has the most buzz or some critic laud it (except for occasional curosities). If the type of cooking and service of the French Laundry appeal to you, by all mean go. But if you're going just because you've read it in every food blog, or it's the most difficult reservation to obtain, or your friends love it, there will be a good chance that you'll be disappointed. I think it is wrong approach to go to a restaurant thinking "is it going to met the hype". To some diner, no restaurant even on it's best day can. But if one approach a restaurant in term of: am I going to have a good experience and eat good food, then there is a better chance that it will meet your expectation.