My French Laundry Impression
Food was incredible, best meal I have ever eaten. It made the $125 Summer Truffles menu I had the night before at Meadowood pale in comparison, although I did like the Kobe beef entree.
The entire meal took slightly over 2 hours, seeing as we were the first ones in the restaurant at 11:15, and did not have tea or coffee afterwards.
Since a jacket is required, I arrived in a sports jacket, whereupon being seated I took it off and attempted to hang it on the back of my chair. At this point, the woman who seated us requested that the jacket remain on at all times. I replied whether she was serious, and she replied affirmatively and then stated that she didn't want me to be uncomfortable so she would inquire with management. After a few minutes a man came over and asked for the jacket. I told him that if the rule is that a jacket be worn at all times, I don't want to go against the rules, but he replied that he doesn't want me to be uncomfortable. After I confirmed with him whether he was sure, I happily handed over my jacket, and enjoyed the freer movement and air circulation. Considering the semi-rustic atmosphere of the restaurant, the jacket required dress code seems a bit out-of-place, and the fact that the hostess insisted I at first wear the jacket, only relenting when I questioned her, indicates to me that those less pushy would have to suffer more doesn't seem quite fair or proper to me. Later in the meal, I noticed quite a few diners with their jackets off, including at least one hanging from the back of their chair.
The bottom of the menu states "SERVICE INCLUDED" next to the price, $240, however, at the end of the meal, the "ticket" that acts as the receipt, only indicates Food, Wine and Tax. In addition, the credit card receipt includes a line for "ADDITIONAL GRATUITY", which I think might confuse more than a few diners. I believe I remember seeing a 20/20 or Dateline episode where one of the tricks used was including a line for tips without informing diners that gratuity has been added. Of course this is nowhere near as egregious, but I do not feel it is appropriate that they do this without mentioning that gratuity has been added anywhere other than at the bottom of the menu, which, several hours later, diners may forget about. And no, I don't think having the "additonal" part is enough warning that service has been paid already.
Cauliflower "Panna Cotta" - Outstanding, light, refreshing, went well with the champagne pairing
Moulard Duck "Foie Gras en Terrine" - Outstanding. I had never had fois gras before, and felt if there were ever a place to try it, FL would be the place. The $30 supplement was well worth it. I also enjoyed the 3 types of salt they provided, one Japanese, one French,and one from the salt mines of Nebraska (?) I believe. I enjoyed the Japanese salt the most.
"Fricassee" of Mary's Garden "Escargot" - Outstanding, everything worked well together.
Sweet Butter-Poached Main Lobster Tail - Outstanding, reminded me of the one I had eaten at Fleur de Lys earlier this year
"Boudin Blanc aux Cerises" - Good, quite plain tasting overall
Elysian Field Farm Lamb Saddle - Very Good, maybe I was getting too stuffed which is why I didn't appreciate it more. The seasoning was quite nice
"Correzon" - Excellent. I'm a sucker for cheese so...
"Confiserie de Fruits Exotiques" - Excellent, refreshing
"Summer Pudding" - Excellent, again, very refreshing and a great way to end the meal
In addition to the entrees listed above, I particularly enjoyed the bread selections, especially the Ciabatta. So crunchy on the outside, yet just the right amount of moistness on the inside, I could finally comprehend what Anthony Bourdain wrote about in Kitchen Confidential as to the love he had for the bread baker who produced the most amazing breads.
There were 2 choices of butter, the one we loved the most was produced locally in Petaluma. Unsalted, so fresh, yellow in color, delicious.
I can't remember exactly what was served, it was a pairing selection. I did enjoy the Sauternes served with the fois gras, although overall I was not impressed. I enjoyed the paring at Gary Danko much more.
My partner had the iced tea, which was outstanding, the best we've had in a long time. The waiter wrapped the chocolates to go, and brought the menu at the end which was nice. Overall, the service was great, attentive but not overbearing. When I came downstairs from the bathroom, I noticed the waiters/runners hovering in the hallway, which reinforced my image of attentive service being provided. I like how there is a French Laundry garden across the street, but it seems like the exhaust from traffic would not be beneficial to the vegetables. Anyway, overall I'd go back again, highly recommend.
I've eaten at the French Laundry twice, and I would have to say that both visits were beyond amazing, however, I will remember the first visit until the day I die. My husband and I got the most incredible, other-worldly food high we've ever experienced. I have no idea how we made it home. Every single thing, sitting on the patio sipping a glass of sparkling wine, every morsel we inhaled, the service, the wine......was all divine. Absolute perfection. I'm so glad you enjoyed it too.
"proper etiquette stipulates..." I couldn't agree more! I find, a lot of diners forget that their presence is what makes a fine dining experience possible. Very few people can or even would want to pay for a 'private' fine dining experience on a regular basis - except maybe Oprah. I personally cannot afford to eat alone, and it would certainly be nice if everyone could follow proper etiquette.
re: Big Toys
When we were there in April we noticed several diners did not have jackets. Seems like the jackets required is optional for some. I don't really care one way or the other, but my husband would have preferred to leave it behind if it the policy was not enforced. However, a few men without jackets did not take away from our experience.
re: Lori SF
Outstanding report yoyo!
I enjoyed my 12 course meal as well and when I went downstairs to the bathroom upon leaving, the waiters/runners were very stressed but upstairs was nice and calm...completely agree with you about the tipping..needs to be stated on the check.
I am glad I dined there but found Tetsuya's in Sydney better.. Tet's loved hearing that!
re: Beach Chick
Tetsuya's was better? I went there my first and only time in 2003, and that remains the bench mark of my tasting menu experiences. I'm about to go to FL in Dec for my first time. I'm a bit nervous on account of all of the talk about FL "slipping" b/c of Keller being spread too thin. It fell out of Gayot's top 40 this year!
Despite all of the waning enthusiasm for FL, and criticisms of Ad Hoc I can't wait for the Keller smorgasboard: Friday dinner @ Ad Hoc, Saturday lunch @ TFL, Sunday lunch at Bouchon...and both mornings at their bakery of course!