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Jan 30, 2007 10:03 AM

Per Se AND French Laundry Veterans: Is FL worth trying?

Hi, I am going to visit the Wine Country in a couple months and I made a reservation at French laundry but am wondering if it's worth going. I have been to Per se about a year ago but I thought it was a little over-rated. I probably caught myself with impossible expectations due to all the hype. My bf who ate at Per Se with me, had a cold that night and could hardly taste anything. He's dying to go back to Per Se but we haven't had the chance. Any thought on French Laundry?

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  1. It used to be worth it, but now that their menu (the exact same tasting menu as before) has gone up to $250, I would say no. At $135, we were willing to overlook the service faux pas (wrong items delivered to wrong people, mispronunciation of names and rude wine service). However, at $250, I believe it has crossed the threshold into the ridiculous. If you dined at Per Se, then you've already had the salmon cornets (and hopefully, the bacon & eggs). Why pay more for the same thing? If you want to get a Napa Valley Keller-esque experience in-situ, then go down the road to Bouchon or have a great casual dinner at Ad Hoc.

    1. I think every report I've read from people who went to both Per Se and French Laundry preferred the latter.

      Some friends who went to FL back when it cost around $120 a head and were unimpressed went again last week and said it was wonderful. I'm not sure they were paying, though.

      Bottled water, coffee, and tea are included in the new price.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        The service is also included in the new price.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Right, service has been included for a quite a while. With this month's increase from $210 to $240 they stopped charging for bottled water etc. Which from past reports could actually make it cheaper for some people.

        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          "I think every report I've read from people who went to both Per Se and French Laundry preferred the latter."

          That's been my experience as well - both from what I've read AND from people I know and have spoken with. I haven't been to Per Se, but FL is stunning . . . expensive, but stunning.

        3. I've been to both on several occasions other than the atmosphere at Per Se being much more regal, I prefer French Laundry

          1. Yeah I think $250 a head is quite hard to justify even though this is for a special occaion (my bf's bday) and god knows when I will go to the wine country again. I've been reading a lot of postings and the reviews (for both Per Se & French Laundry) are either GREAT or OVERATED. So it's making it even harder for me to decide. Now I think I may stir up a storm by saying that I think most ppl who think the food there is great is b/c they are millionaires or they do not frequent as many good as restaurants as other chow-hounders, and the ppl who think the food is overrated are either feeling the pain in their wallet or knows that there are plenty of places where the amount of money your pay equate to the food/atmostphere/service fairly. Comments?

            2 Replies
            1. re: darbi

              Not everybody who reported a happy experience at FL regularly eats at expensive restaurants. Somebody here said they were putting a dollar a day in a piggy bank toward an eventual meal at French Laundry.

              If the price is just too high, how about Coi or the Dining Room at the Ritz?

              Who cares if a place is overrated? You can't eat other people's opinions. What matters is how you like the food (and, in that price range, total experience).

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I'd love it if you finally ate at FL, Robert. I'd read that review.

                Go for your boyfreinds sake.

                You already have hard-to-get reservations at FL. Your boyfriend wants to go to Per Se again because he couldn't taste much due to a cold. It's his birthday. Why go to Per Se twice when you can check out FL and compare.

                I only ate at FL a few years back when it was much cheaper.I haven't eaten at Per Se which is what you are looking for ... people who ate at both.

                I was glad I went to see what the fuss was about and I was lucky enough to go as part of a chow down ... which is a funny term applied to FL.

                Per Se wouldn't be on top of my list to try if I were going to NY for a limited visit mainly because FL just wasn't my style. I appreciated what they were doing. I'm more of a Chez Panisse & Ritz type of person.

                It was interesting going with a group of Chowhounds ... actually Chowhound elite ... very respected posters ... who pointed out so much that I might have otherwise missed. From this little, uh, focus group, I think that people who are extremely knowledgable about food and can appreciate a lot of nuances are the people who love FL.

                None of these people were millionaires and can enjoy a taco truck as much as FL ... well, if there were millionairs, they aren't in your face about it.

                I will say that I was totally impressed with the service, some of the best I've ever had. The restaurant itself is charming. I just can't remember what one thing tasted like and I only remember I had rabbit because it was the first time I ever ate rabbit ... damn small ribs on that bunny, let me tell you. I remember that ... could have been unborn bunny.

                Come to think of the the lunch price was close to $300 which included wine that someone brought. The extra $$ when to keeping the lights on at Chowhound. Totally worth it from that perspective and the experience. Yes ... memorable for lots of reasons ... the company and the most expensive lunch I've had in my life.

            2. Just go to TFL. You went through the whole tedious process of getting a reservation – why worry now if it is overhyped and overpriced? It is, but it is also fabulous. I would not trade my meal there for anything and would go again in a minute – but have loved my experiences at Cyrus (and probably COI too) just as much, if not more.