HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

TFL, Cyrus in consecutive days

Hi,

I am planning my first trip to the California wine country and am wondering if having TFL and Cyrus in consecutive days for dinner is over the top. Would I actually feel a bit "repetitive" doing that or are the 2 places obviously different? If so, any suggestion for alternatvies? I don't expect to be visiting the region again in the next few years.

Thanks a lot for your help!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I have dined with bloggers who live lives like that; Ulterior Epicure, A Life Worth Eating, etc... These are guys who have set-up meals at Manresa on a Thursday, have lunch at Piperade on Friday before dinner at Benu, and then drive up to French Laundry on Saturday and Cyrus or Meadowood on Sunday. And I have done similar consecutive meals like this when traveling to Europe, New York, or Los Angeles.

    If you are well-practiced in 6+ hour meals, it is not a problem. There was an occasion where UE and I ate a pretty substantial lunch at Murray Circle and I bowed out of the dinner at Aqua (thankfully) but joined him again the next day for the continuation of these marathon meals.

    In some cases, the meals are far from repetitive but is a better way to demonstrate the vast difference in over-the-top haute cuisine than dining days or even months apart can depict. I think you will actually appreciate the cooking styles and presentations more by seeing them back-to-back.

    Obviously I wouldn't recommend much for lunch on either days -- not many can eat the way these power bloggers can but I believe you should keep your reservations and enjoy the experience!

    -----
    Manresa Restaurant
    320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

    The French Laundry
    6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

    Piperade
    1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

    Murray Circle
    601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

    Benu
    22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    1. That's sounds like a great plan similar to what we like to do when on a trip.

      1. I don't think that kind of formal high-end tasting-menu stuff is central to the local food culture. In fact, I think at this point it's about as passé as the old "Continental" cuisine was in the 80s.

        Also, Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are two pretty different wine countries. I wouldn't try to cram both into a short trip.

        25 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Thanks all for the advice so far.

          Robert, what would you recommend as most representative of the local food culture in either of the wine countries or in SF then?

          1. re: wombatpp

            In Sonoma, Fremont Diner and Vineyards Inn. Small, chef-driven, there's not millions of dollars or a staff of 50 between you and the farmers and ranchers who supply the food.

            -----
            Fremont Diner
            2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

            Vineyards Inn
            8445 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            Yeah, but Robert, when was the last time you ate a 4- to 6-hour haute cuisine meal? I disagree that it is passé and believe it is indicative of the style of foods that ultimately end up on those chef-driven, "local food cultures" you tout.

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              The last tasting menu of my life (I hope) was at Manresa in 2008. It was impressive but I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed the four-course menu more.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/548333

              It's not about the length of time at the table. I probably spent four hours at Plum the first time I went. The difference was that I was making decisions as I ate, set my own pace, stopped when I felt like it, and didn't feel overfed or information-overloaded.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7375...

              For reference, a six-hour lunch at Eccolo:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5824...

              -----
              Manresa Restaurant
              320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                So Ruth has put it nicely - take advice from someone who has never eaten at The French Laundry and, probably, Cyrus as well?

                Or from those of us who have dined at these establishments -- often....

                I often wonder why people chime into threads, steering people away from certain restaurants when they themselves have never experienced said restaurants.

                -----
                The French Laundry
                6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  I don't really mean to discourage wombatpp from eating at TFL. I'm just making a somewhat exaggerated case that since eating that way once a year is already over the top, doing so two days in a row ... well, really, if you have to ask whether that's a good idea, it's pretty definitely not. Especially in this area, where many of the most interesting chefs are going in a completely different direction.

                  I've eaten more than enough tasting menus to know that my problem is the form and not the content. Whether I'm a good enough student of culinary history to predict that the fad has passed remains to be seen. It'll surely take years to pass, since so many people are not questioning the received wisdom (Michelin, Bauer) into thinking that it's the best way to eat.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I guess I take issue with calling tasting menus a "fad". In other cultures, long-format menus (both individual and family-style) have a storied history and certainly aren't on the verge of disappearing.

                    If anything, I imagine that tasting menus and prix fixe menus will continue to gain prevalence. My prediction would be that more new places will be offering 4-5 course tasting menus with 1-2 choices. Good for their bottom line and good for the diner (it's the estranged cousin of small plates dining, after all).

                    1. re: shouzen

                      Four or five courses is a normal fancy dinner.

                      To me, "tasting menu" means around nine or more official courses that comes out to more like 15 or 20 with amuses, entremets, etc., with just a bite or three of each, with the dishes and timing mostly determined by the kitchen.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I think that's an important distinction. We were in Seattle recently and had the "chef's menu" which was definitely not a "tasting menu." A CH went expecting the latter and was disappointed. We went knowing what the format was and loved it. Even the servers didn't know for sure what we were getting til it came up :)

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I think the main distinction between a tasting menu and a normal fancy dinner is not so much the number of courses (even though tatsing menus tend to have more courses) but that the chef serves dishes which are not part of the regular menu and are the main reason for us to choose the tasting menu

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            honkman took the words right out of my mouth. It's not about the number of courses, it's about getting a peek into the chef's full repertoire, without the constraints of having to cater to the lowest common denominator.

                            1. re: shouzen

                              I disagree, but it's nomenclature. Take CP downstairs - that's a prix fixe, not a tasting menu, in my book. Same with Saison (unless you order the tasting menu). I have also seen "chef's menu" for the more-small bites. How does Commis differentiate between the longer menu at the counter and the shorter menu at the tables? A tasting menu has little tastes, without full dishes.

                              -----
                              Commis
                              3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                              Saison
                              2124 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94110

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                I don't *really* disagree with your interpretation, but there's too much of a gray area. At what point does a little taste transition to a full dish? 5 bites? 6 bites? And when does a prix fixe become a tasting menu? 7 courses? 8 courses? Redd has a "tasting menu" (their words) that's 5 non-bite size courses - would you relabel it a prix fixe? Pragmatically speaking, I find that a tasting menu is where you find the chef's most creative dishes, as I said above. Anyway, I won't waste any more of your time or mine arguing about semantics, so I'll leave it at that.

                                BTW, Commis has standardized their counter and table menus.

                                -----
                                Commis
                                3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          "I'm just making a somewhat exaggerated case that since eating that way once a year is already over the top, doing so two days in a row ... well, really, if you have to ask whether that's a good idea, it's pretty definitely not. Especially in this area, where many of the most interesting chefs are going in a completely different direction."
                          - I guess a lot of people will disagree with you about that point especially looking on the history of the tasting menus. In addition tasting menus are often the best opportunity to see a really talended chef at its best because he/she has no restrictions. We have often inquired chefs at restaurants which doesn't have tasting menus if they could make one for us and nearly all chefs are more than happy and prefer it much more to the regular menu since it gives them much more creative freedom. The regular menu exists to bring money to the restaurant and covers the lowest common denominator and has always the least interesting food.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I have nothing agianst tasting menus per se, but most of the time, they are really not what I'm looking for. My primary concern is that they often imply more food and more hours spent at the restaurant than I'm really in the mood for. Plus, I'm not really into desserts, so that part of a tasting menu is often wasted on me. In terms of understanding the chef's cooking, I'd much rather do it a little bit at the time, returning multiple times, working my way through the menu rather than in one epic four-hour session.

                            To me, the lounge at Coi is (soon to be, "was") perfect in that sense. There's a lounge menu but you have access to the whole tasting menu and can order a la carte from it. That's the kind of flexibility I want and I will be sad to see it gone from Coi once they turn the lounge into a dining room. Aqua used to have the same policy if you dined at the bar, but of course, some patrons were pissed off that they couldn't order a la carte just because they were sitting at a table. In terms of trends with respect to tasting menus vs a la carte, Coi's conversion of the lounge is a step in the wrong direction. On the other hand, Michael Mina in the old Aqua space seems more a la carte friendly as does Quince these days.

                            One could also argue that the more casual restaurants that chefs with a fine dining pedigree have opened (think Canteen, Plum, Cotogna, etc) are a sign that you can enjoy a chef's creativity without, necessarily, having to sit through a four-hour tasting menu in a stuffy environment.

                            1. re: nocharge

                              COI lounge is closing? When?

                              To me, this discussion is like choosing singles of songs, vs listening to an album (or symphony). Being lead on a longer journey takes more trust, but can be more rewarding. People of little patience will get pandered to, but lose out from some great experiences. But, it's rare for a journey of such scope to pan out.

                              -----
                              Coi
                              373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                Coi is scheduled to be closed from April 3-6 to convert the lounge into more dining room. After they reopen, they'll serve only the tasting menu.

                                http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                To me, a tasting menu is like the 30-second previews of an album you get online.

                        3. re: Robert Lauriston

                          So it's just personal preference. I very much doubt that formal high-end tasting-menu stuff is "at this point it's about as passé as the old "Continental" cuisine was in the 80s". Actually I think there will be even more interest in the future from more people to do multi-course tasting menus.

                        4. re: CarrieWas218

                          I agree Carrie
                          The two, FL and Cyrus, are equally great but different. If I was visiting Ca for first time the Fremont Diner would not be the type of place I would seek out.....there are lots of FD arnd the country. I enjoy it but come on . The Vineyards Inn is ok but I certainly prefer the other two.
                          Who cares what you perceive as the local food culture , and your comment abt staff of 50 etc is just bs. FL has a great garden on site and I see Keane all the time at the local farms. Because they have been successful is no reason to bad mouth. Id also like to point out that neither Cyrus or FL are making millions of dollars and you will find fresher , local produce at both.
                          Just eat lightly before and enjoy your stay.

                          -----
                          Fremont Diner
                          2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

                          Vineyards Inn
                          8445 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

                          1. re: celeryroot

                            I don't think there's anything like Fremont Diner anywhere. Certainly nothing as much like it as Per Se is like the French Laundry, or that either is like other two-and three-Michelin-star restaurants around the world.

                            -----
                            The French Laundry
                            6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                            Fremont Diner
                            2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Oh please , there are lots of places arnd the country
                              Per Se is very different then FL

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I agree with you Robert. Although I have enjoyed TFL in the past, I much prefer the more casual chef/owner restaurants (which I don't know if Fremont Diner is) to the more formal tasting menu places. Although, I think when you are traveling, it is nice to try one of those types of meals ( like TFL), I would seek out the others for the rest of my meals.

                                -----
                                Fremont Diner
                                2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

                                1. re: Missmoo

                                  Fremont Diner's about as casual as you can get and still have seats, tables, and (optionally) a roof.

                                  -----
                                  Fremont Diner
                                  2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Robert, you described my opinion perfectly. There's SO much more to the area.

                          3. I have not eaten at either but I would do it in a heartbeat if I were in the area, had the means, and could land the reservations.

                            Just have a light lunch in between.

                            :-)

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: pauliface

                              This thread has taken an odd turn.
                              While I guess there's some difference of opinion about whether tasting menus are passe or not, it seems to me they are becoming more and more popular, and have not even begun to crest.
                              Which makes me very happy, as it's my favorite way to eat.

                              More to the point of whether or not it would be repetitive.
                              Keep in mind I've eaten at neither.
                              But, I've eaten multiple kaiseki meals in the space of 2 weeks in Japan. I've done this on two separate trips.

                              Why is this relevant? Aha!

                              Kaiseki is kind of like a tasting menu -- 8+ courses.
                              They also concentrate on seasonal ingredients.
                              Which means that, in the spring, I had 3 different courses at as many restaurants that incorporated scallops and peas. I had 3 similar soups that seemed to be the soup of the season.
                              But each was very different, delicous in its own way, and it was fun to compare.

                              So, even if Cyrus and TFL have some dishes that overlap, I'm gueessing it will only be a few dishes at the most, and that, since these are tip-top restaurants, you will enjoy the comparison.

                              And the beauty of a tasting menu is that even if there are some repeats, it's not like you've had the same main course in a 3-course dinner.

                              1. re: pauliface

                                Kaiseki, at least what I've had, is also extremely light in the composition of the ingredients.

                                The tasting menu I had at Cyrus was exceptional; perhaps one of the best meals I've ever eaten. And yet, among three of us with 16 courses, we were all exhausted, not just by the meal but in a barely communicative food coma for the rest of the weekend.

                                And these were not ordinary people; they were hardcore Chowhounds usually undaunted by complexity and unique combinations of ingredients. We somehow stumbled off to brunch at 3 p.m. at Bovolo the next day after sleeping all morning. I doubt I ate more than white bread and lettuce for the rest of the weekend.

                                I would have dreaded having to face another meal with so many ingredients rather than enjoyed it as a special occasion.

                                I agree heartily with Robert that the two highest end meals you can find are not representative of the best of the Bay Area food scene.

                                One way around it if you get a French Laundry reservation is to eat at the bar at Cyrus. Or eat at the bar at two or three places the same night and make it more fun, less of a production.

                                -----
                                The French Laundry
                                6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                                Bovolo
                                106 Matheson St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

                                1. re: Windy

                                  N. B.: That was not the tasting menu at Cyrus. We ordered 16 dishes a la carte to share and the kitchen coursed them for us. But shortly afterwards, Cyrus changed its format and that's no longer an option.

                                  P. S. : Three Chowhounds drinking four special bottles of wine might have something to do with the need to sleep in and lapses in mental capacity. :)

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    I remember the gorgeous cheese cart arriving and not being able to eat what was on my plate, which was painful.

                                    I don't think we finished the wine, magnificent though it was. For a four-hour meal it wasn't that out of line with other over the top meals.

                                    But the hurt in my head was like after taking a complex exam, even a very enjoyable one, beautifully executed. Exhausted brain, overstimulated palate.

                                    1. re: Windy

                                      The tasting menu at Cyrus is 8 courses, plus a few small bites thrown in. We had 16+. Perhaps the same volume of food, but divided into more individual expressions each needing to be appreciated and dissected. So your/my exhausted brain and overstimulated palate worked twice as hard as would be needed to get through the tasting menu. Not an apples to apples comparison.

                                      A friend of mine, now retired, spoke of his and his wife's eating adventures as young ex-pats in France as their five-star general days. They would eat at a Michelin two-star for lunch, then a three-star for dinner. In fact they told me this story while we were pondering the menu at the French Laundry a few years ago . . . as they begged off ordering the maximum number of courses, having reached an age where such excess was no longer enjoyable.

                                      When I'm in France, I'll order the tasting menu 3 or 4 nights out of 7. That said, I think RL makes a good point that if the OP feels a need to ask whether this is a good idea or not, it probably isn't for this individual.

                                      -----
                                      The French Laundry
                                      6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Ive done it many times over the last 35 years........the worst was 7 three star Michlein in 5 days.....I remembered nothing we ate and we drank to much . A total waste it was.
                                        Ive done two in one day with a nap in between......... not recomended.

                                        I live close to FL and Cyrus (3 miles) , and have done both in two days because of guests who insisted. Not a problem . Just take your time and enjoy.

                            2. I don't think tasting menus are passe because not every place does it or can, although back to back it could be a lot. Any way, TFL only offers the tasting menu and at Cyrus you have the option of tasting menu or 5 course meal, so things don't have to be as over the top. I'd go just go and maybe not get the tasting menu at Cyrus...or get it. It's not like anyone (or many) eats like this all the time.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: ML8000

                                "Whether I'm a good enough student of culinary history to predict that the fad has passed remains to be seen."
                                It s not a fad ..........tasting menus have been arnd for many decades........In the 70's when I first went to 3star M's they existed.....
                                It certainly has nothing to do with Michelin or Bauer.

                                1. re: celeryroot

                                  The menu dégustation has a long history, but I believe restaurants that serve nothing else are a recent invention, and their existence is owed largely to the narrow and confused mindset that ranks the sort of experience provided by the French Laundry at the top of an arbitrary scale.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    "their existence is owed largely to the narrow and confused mindset that ranks the sort of experience provided by the French Laundry at the top of an arbitrary scale."

                                    There is so much in that sentence to take exception to I am unsure where to begin.

                                    For starters, menu dégustation DOES have a long history but restaurants that serve nothing else are far from a recent invention -- they have just changed the way the menu is served. It started with the many courses being served as full-sized, family-style offerings from which each guest would choose their culinary desire; be it fish, foul, game, meat, sides, vegetables, ices, cheeses, etc.

                                    That you see it being been pared down to a "narrow and confused mindset" only displays a woeful ignorance on the history and its development. With Ruth's confirmation that you have never eaten at the French Laundry, one wonders why you continue in this debate when it is obvious you lack the information or knowledge about its offerings.

                                    -----
                                    The French Laundry
                                    6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                                      The menu dégustation where the kitchen courses a series of tiny dishes to show off the chef's talents is a relatively modern invention. Many of the dishes TFL serves are designed to be just a bite or three.

                                      Anyone who's still interested in that sort of thing should certainly try TFL if they can afford it.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        "The menu dégustation where the kitchen courses a series of tiny dishes to show off the chef's talents is a relatively modern invention. " - That's simply not true. Menu dégustation exists for along time in Europe

                                        1. re: honkman

                                          I believe serving a series of dishes one by one in a sequence selected by the chef (instead of putting lots of things on the table at once) was one of Escoffier's innovations, but the modern tasting menu with tiny portions was rare before the nouvelle cuisine fad of the 1970s:

                                          http://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/10/sty...

                                      2. re: CarrieWas218

                                        The claim that anyone who hasn't eaten at TFL "lack[s] ... information or knowledge about its offerings" is simply absurd. Thomas Keller receives as much publicity as any chef in America, and meals from TFL have been described in countless television productions, magazine articles, and reports here on Chowhound. There's plenty of information and knowledge about the place available to the public.

                                        It's true that this isn't first-hand knowledge, but that's not the only basis on which someone can form an opinion. I've never been run over by a bus, but can nevertheless state with a high degree of certainty that I wouldn't enjoy the experience.

                                        To the OP - whether you will be able to enjoy these two places on consecutive nights depends on too many variables for anybody to give you a definitive answer. If you've got a voracious appetite and are merely collecting "trophy" restuarants like notches on a belt, you'll have no problem at all. OTOH if you have delicate sensibilities and a slow recovery time, it's a bad idea.

                                        Me, I wouldn't do it. IMO a tasting menu is at its best when it demands more than the ability to consume copious amounts of food and wine. It should exercise your eyes, your intellect, and your sense of humor, not just your taste buds. So I want to be mentally fresh and have an eager palate at the beginning of the meal. Given my appetite, my level of interest in clever food, my palate, and my liver, there's no way that's going to happen less than 24 hours after a similar blow-out experience. Your mileage, of course, may vary.