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French Laundry - It's Hard to Live up to the Legend

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Finally, Finally, Finally, after probably 10 years of trying, this East Coast foodie finally pulled enough string, cajoled and changed an entire vacation schedule to get a reservation to Tom K's mecca. Ultimately, it was probably too difficult for any restaurant to live up to the hype that I built up in my mind over the years about the meal I would have there (not sure if that means, I should let El Bulli just remain a dream also!). The restaurant is pleasant enough, with the perfect balance of attentive service, with a laid back attitude that I personally appreciate (no little stool for the wife's handbag, like at Le Cinq, which is a plus for me). Went for the tasting menu and varied the options so no stone would be left unturned, and added all of the extra costs for things like Kobe and Foie. Also thanks to prior chow posts, I knew to ask for the donuts so as not to get shut out of that experience.

I think prior posters have done a fabulous job in describing an outstanding but less than "I can die now and go to food heaven" experiences. We wound up in that camp. The salmon cone amuse was exceptional, and the most memorable part of the meal. The Kobe beef looked like a piece of pork belly, it had so much fat, which is not a bad thing in my book. The Foie was to one of the best preps of foie terrine I have had. Oyster and pearls elicited different feeling form me (I liked), and my wife (gave me hers), so it may not be for everyone. Buckwheat noodles early in the vegetarian tasting was not that good in both our opinions. There was a fish that was great (sable, I think), a lobster served on top of a curry rice, where the curry seemed to overpower the point of having lobster (which is often best by itself or with something light IMHO). Again, other poster did a great job describing the food, so I'll move onto some of the stranger things in the evening.

The upstairs bathroom was not working, so everyone had to go outside to the bathroom off the side of the restaurant. It was well decorated, so don't think it was an outhouse or anything thing like that. They even provided women with a shawl to walk over there, since it was really cold that night. The interesting/amusing/somewhat horrifying thing occurred later in our evening. A table to our left (its a small place, so practically everything is to your left or right), had water start dripping down on them. Then pouring down. The wait staff was on top of it and moved them right away, saying it was the sprinkler system. I don't think so! A more logical excuse to me was that someone did not heed the broken WC sign and set off a chain reaction from above. I don't think the people who were rained on and then moved, knew about the WC issue as they were just seated, but all of those that had been there a while, shared horrifying glances, as most of us thought it was toilet water that was raining down. I also overheard some servers running upstairs at that time say something about the toilet. Not the restaurant's fault, but also not what I would have wanted to remember from the mecca.

Anyway, we were near the end of our dinner, abolutely stuffed, still jet lagged, so we used that as an excuse to leave. Service was excellent, albeit a little cookie cutter (got that from observing how the formula was used at all the tables). There's no wine tasting, so we wound up with a demi of white burg, and a full bottle of red burg, which was was about $100 and $250, not bad in my book given the venue. Total bill was $1,000 with a little extra for the servers. They sent us off with alot of goodies for tomorrow.

Of course you have to go, if you're like me. Ultimately the most memorable meals for me have been surprises, Like Alinea in Chicago and Blue Hill in NYC. Maybe an El Bulli post in a few years if I'm lucky.

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  1. Thanks for the nice report and update. Did one of you have a vegetarian tasting menu? If so, could you tell a little more about that.

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    The French Laundry
    6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599