French Laundry comments
Went yesterday to the French Laundry. Like many who have reported, the experience was very impressive: precision food, service and presentation. My favorite courses were the foie gras (on artichoke hearts) and the "mac and cheese" (lump of lobster on risotto-like mac topped by a lacy cheese crisp). The wine list was extensive and very expensive. We had a wonderful white burgundy followed by a Spanish tempranillo. The atmosphere was not stuffy. Rather, it was intimate and attentive.
Though the experience was wonderful, a day's reflection gives me a few cautionary notes on the French Laundry:
* the California/French cuisine has no hint of the flavors and spices of more international flavors, eg. Chinese, Thai, Indian, North African, etc. The palate at the FL seems a bit less adventuresome and current.
* the geometric precision of the presentation can be a bit relentless. I found myself wanting one or two of the 10 courses to be a bit "messy" rather than Japanese-like. Could there be a cassoulet, boulabaisse, stew, curry or other slow cooked food as an interlude to the precision?
* the lack of a walk-in crowd or a bar of any type deprives the atmosphere of some liveliness, noise and unpredictability. Instead, the atmoshere is quiet, intimate, hushed, almost reverent. It lacks a certain spontaneity or unpredictability.
In short, the experience is rarified controlled perfection rather than adventure mixed with spontaneous fun.
I'd love to hear the comments of others who have gone to the FL. Thanks.
I was just there last week, and while I do understand what you are saying about the presentation, I think the sense of "fun" comes in other ways. We had a piece of foie gras terrine with granola, banana gastrique, and whipped yogurt cream, all served with a piece of toasted brioche...foie gras with your breakfast set-up anyone?
I don't think it's fair to expect them to step outside their 3-star mold that demands geometric precision, and a controlled silenced interior space. For those reasons, it's not somewhere to eat everyday (it'd frankly drive one mad), but it's a different experience that is set apart as special by that type of atmosphere and their very stylized precise presentations.
It's been several years since my one and only visit but I share every one of your sentiments, particularly with respect to the overall feel of the setting. I frankly found it to be uncomfortably quiet - one can't help but overhear the conversations of others, thereby making one somewhat self-conscious about one's own conversation. I think your description of rarified controlled perfection hits it right on the head - the assumption is that you are there only because you have the wallet and the perseverance to make it through the reservation process with the end reward of a meal at Temple Keller.