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TFL, Cyrus in consecutive days

w
wombatpp Mar 21, 2011 10:01 PM

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. d
    dedlaw Mar 23, 2011 05:33 PM

    Personally, I'd do one but not both -- they're different, but not that different. There are TONS of excellent places in both Sonoma and Napa counties that don't have long, tasting-menu oriented meals.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dedlaw
      s
      shouzen Mar 24, 2011 03:06 PM

      I guess if I participate in the thread, I should at least answer the OP's question:

      I'd do it, but only because you're not planning on returning for a long time. If you were planning on going back in a year, I'd say do just one. When planning these things, I like to have a long-format menu every other day. The day in between really gives you a good chance to reflect on the previous day's meal without immediately having to think about the next grand dinner.

    2. b
      budnball Mar 23, 2011 04:48 PM

      As a reply to the OP. I would say go for it! I would however do TFL first just in case you do feel overdone.
      We who live in the area are spoiled by the of surplus of these type places and even if we don't eat at the French Laundrey or Manresa or even Cyrus, we benefit from the creativity that they generate. The line cooks and Sous-chefs that spin out and open their on places renew the blood of our great food scene. Having eaten at Manresa a few times and Cyrus once, I no-longer feel the need to dine that way but I appreciate the trickle down affect in my less formal haunts.

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

      8 Replies
      1. re: budnball
        Robert Lauriston Mar 23, 2011 05:41 PM

        Have TFL and Manresa alumni really had much impact on the local food scene beyond the four-star ghetto? Outside of Jeremy Fox (ex-Ubuntu), James Syhabout (Commis), Corey Lee (Benu), Ron Siegel (The Dining Room at the Ritz), and Gregory Short (Masa's), the names don't ring a bell, or they left town and made their names elsewhere.

        http://www.chefdb.com/pl/2697
        http://www.chefdb.com/pl/3586/Manresa...

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          CarrieWas218 Mar 23, 2011 10:50 PM

          I would cite someone like Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food (and before that, Mission Street Food). Did he work at TFL? Nope - but would something like Bowien's restaurant with its ever-changing, farm-driven restaurant exist without TFL and its brothers in the "ghetto" (oh, puleeze!) having paved the way? I argue not.

          It is the fact that restaurants like Coi and TFL and Manresa have trained so many remarkable sous chefs to be able to go on to places like Commis and Ubuntu that we get the trickle down effect to the smaller restaurants. That is why San Francisco is such a stand-out culinary destination; the kitchen workstaff are incestuous and just because their names "don't ring a bell," does not lessen the impact of the "four-star ghetto" and all they have brought to Northern California.

          -----
          Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
          1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

          Manresa Restaurant
          320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

          Mission Chinese Food
          2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

          Commis
          3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

          1. re: CarrieWas218
            Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2011 09:58 AM

            "would something like Bowien's restaurant with its ever-changing, farm-driven restaurant exist without TFL ..."

            Of course. That movement all started with Chez Panisse, which was a radical rebuke to the high-end French places of the day.

            -----
            Chez Panisse
            1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

          2. re: Robert Lauriston
            honkman Mar 24, 2011 12:36 AM

            I only know SF from a few trips and searching for restaurants before those trips but without extensively looking up more I can remember already a few names of people who worked at French Laundry, Manresa and stayed in the area: Ryan Fancher – Barndiva, Marty Cattaneo – Dio Deka, Brandon Sharp – Solbar. I am pretty sure if I would take the time to look more into I could find many more. Than there is a second generation of chefs who learned under chefs who started at FL etc. like Melissa Perello. It looks like that you tend to bring up speculations/assumptions in this discussion without really any facts/knowledge

            1. re: honkman
              Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2011 10:13 AM

              The overwhelming influence in this area is what Daniel Patterson (who got his start at Zola's under Catherine Pantsios) half-jokingly called "the tyranny of Chez Panisse":

              "When I asked why the intricate and much-admired cuisine that Thomas Keller serves at the French Laundry in Napa has had so little influence on the way that Bay Area chefs cook, they pointed instead to Keller's tremendous respect for ingredients and the French tradition, thereby co-opting him into the movement."

              http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/sty...

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                d
                dedlaw Mar 24, 2011 10:22 AM

                I think the days of "tyranny" are over. Yes, most local chefs are focused are local and fresh - but they then employ many different takes on what to do with those ingredients. The French Laundry/Cyrus approach is only one of many. I know a lot of local chefs at fine restaurants who lose no sleep worrying about how they'll stack up to French Laundry or others of that sort.

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

                1. re: dedlaw
                  Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2011 10:31 AM

                  The situation hasn't changed much since Patterson wrote that piece in 2006. There are a few more places that are more or less in the TFL / Manresa vein: Coi, Commis, Saison, Benu.

                  Local chefs don't care about how their food compares with those places because Bay Area gourmands are seldom if ever interested in eating that way. That is, the tyranny of Chez Panisse endures.

                  Though I wonder if Plum might change that, by eliminating all of the "fine-dining" trappings and lowering the price.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston
              s
              SteveG Mar 24, 2011 02:11 PM

              Tongue in cheek: maybe there are so many Chez Panisse alum restaurants because working at Chez Panisse is so miserable they all vow never to work for anybody else again? There are plenty of French Laundry or Manresa alums around, Deanie Hickox (pastry), Louis Maldonado (Cafe Majestic, which didn't last but served me a very memorable high-end meal) is now working at Aziza, etc. The ones with their sights set high spread out--Achatz in Chicago, for example--and the ones who just like to cook stay around and cook.

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

              The French Laundry
              6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

          3. JasmineG Mar 23, 2011 09:46 AM

            People have done a lot of answering anything but your question. Having eaten (and enjoyed my meals a lot) at both places, I would say that I definitely wouldn't want to do them back to back. Maybe TFL on a Friday lunch and Cyrus for Sunday dinner or something, with a day in between of more relaxed food and snacking. Partly it's that you're just really full after a meal at either place, and need a bit of a break from heavy eating, but also it's just a bit of a sensory overload, and I think that I wouldn't have fully appreciated either meal as much if I'd had them back to back. It would be sort of like going to two big great art museums back to back with no break in between; for me, after 8 hours of that, it's just "oh, another pretty picture" without really having the time or energy to appreciate what is going on.

            5 Replies
            1. re: JasmineG
              p
              pauliface Mar 23, 2011 09:51 AM

              There's another aspect to this that's being left out:
              To me, a long tasting menu is "an evening out".
              An *entire* evening out. Expensive yes, but in some cases comparable to dinner and a show at today's theater/opera prices.
              A long paced out meal is great, and a tasting menu should be paced and portioned such that you are full at the end, and not before.
              I can do several nights of this back to back, if it's done right.

              If you want to do something after dinner either night, then maybe this is not the right choice. But if, for both nights, it is your "evening activity," then I'd say go for it.

              That said, I definitely prefer this for dinner and not lunch. Because after a long lunch like that (especially with wine) , all you want to do is sleep and then you lose the evening...

              1. re: JasmineG
                w
                wombatpp Mar 23, 2011 09:59 AM

                Thanks JasmineG, this is exactly what i worried about - sensory overload. Normally for my gourmet trips in, say, Paris, I would have more time, like 7 or 8 days and I would do 3 big meals. I guess I am getting greedy here because I only have very limited time in the Bay Area and I know i won't be back for a while so i was hoping to see if I should cram as many interesting places in as possible!

                1. re: wombatpp
                  c oliver Mar 23, 2011 03:17 PM

                  Gourmet trips??? I get your gist, I think, just never heard the term. Can't remember if you said upthread where you live and some of your favorite places. And when you say "interesting places" then there are dozens or hundreds of those in the Bay Area. Even more reason, IMO, to not do both of those on such a short trip.

                  1. re: wombatpp
                    m
                    ML8000 Mar 23, 2011 03:41 PM

                    It got buried here...but you don't have to order the tasting menu at Cyrus. I'd plan on going and decide then if you want a 5 course meal or the full tasting.

                    1. re: wombatpp
                      bbulkow Mar 24, 2011 09:51 AM

                      The problem is that only you can be the judge. If you take uhockey's epic post trips from a few years back, that's someone who clearly enjoyed these extended eating binges. In fact, you're talking about TFL's normal menu, right? Why not go for TFL's extended menu, since you don't get out that often? I think uhockey did that and medowwood in the same day - and said it was close to too much. I might have my details wrong.

                      My TFL experience was that the service was quick, but the portions are richer than some of the other tasting menus like Manresa. My palate and attention was probably blown a little after half way through, and didn't appreciate the two larger savory/meats. I think I was recovered well by the next day, though - after a light breakfast of yoghurt, a lunch of fruit, baguette, and cheese, a long bicycle ride through the countryside, not a day in the car doing winehopping with a heavy lunch.

                      Manresa, on the other hand, is a much lighter experience, due to their greater focus on veggies and lighter focus on creme and butter. I'd still rather go there than TFL these days - even though I've had some uncomfortable bobbles at M. (Being 20 minutes from my house and an easy reservation doesn't hurt either).

                      Very personal.

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

                  2. c oliver Mar 22, 2011 07:27 PM

                    I was curious where OP lives but s/he's a first time poster. No way to tell what dining preferences s/he has. I just have the bias against every meal being so high end. But that's just me.

                    1. m
                      mrs bacon Mar 22, 2011 06:22 PM

                      I have eaten twice and the FL and once at Cyrus (and we're returning in a few weeks). I would say go for it! Sure, both are multi-hour dining experiences, but they offer different experiences and I do believe they represent the area's food scene very well -- albeit at the top end.

                      Have a wonderful visit and please report back!

                      1. c
                        celeryroot Mar 22, 2011 05:30 PM

                        Go early so you can tour the garden at FL and the town Healdsburg at Cyrus. You wont find any overlap
                        on dishes.

                        1. m
                          ML8000 Mar 22, 2011 12:26 PM

                          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
                            c
                            celeryroot Mar 22, 2011 05:42 PM

                            "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
                              Robert Lauriston Mar 23, 2011 09:14 AM

                              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
                                CarrieWas218 Mar 23, 2011 09:22 AM

                                "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
                                  Robert Lauriston Mar 23, 2011 09:40 AM

                                  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
                                    honkman Mar 23, 2011 10:01 AM

                                    "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
                                      Robert Lauriston Mar 23, 2011 10:24 AM

                                      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
                                    alanbarnes Mar 23, 2011 10:18 AM

                                    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.

                            2. p
                              pauliface Mar 22, 2011 11:15 AM

                              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
                                p
                                pauliface Mar 22, 2011 04:54 PM

                                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
                                  Windy Mar 22, 2011 06:34 PM

                                  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
                                    Melanie Wong Mar 22, 2011 07:05 PM

                                    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
                                      Windy Mar 22, 2011 07:23 PM

                                      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
                                        Melanie Wong Mar 22, 2011 08:11 PM

                                        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
                                          c
                                          celeryroot Mar 22, 2011 08:26 PM

                                          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. Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2011 09:43 AM

                                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
                                  w
                                  wombatpp Mar 22, 2011 09:50 AM

                                  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
                                    Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2011 10:07 AM

                                    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
                                    CarrieWas218 Mar 22, 2011 10:52 AM

                                    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
                                      Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2011 11:14 AM

                                      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/737525#6171024

                                      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
                                        CarrieWas218 Mar 22, 2011 04:09 PM

                                        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
                                          Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2011 05:00 PM

                                          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
                                            s
                                            shouzen Mar 22, 2011 05:36 PM

                                            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
                                              Robert Lauriston Mar 23, 2011 09:03 AM

                                              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
                                                c oliver Mar 23, 2011 09:09 AM

                                                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
                                                  honkman Mar 23, 2011 09:58 AM

                                                  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
                                                    s
                                                    shouzen Mar 23, 2011 10:02 AM

                                                    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
                                                      bbulkow Mar 24, 2011 09:40 AM

                                                      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
                                                        s
                                                        shouzen Mar 24, 2011 02:48 PM

                                                        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
                                                  honkman Mar 22, 2011 05:47 PM

                                                  "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
                                                    n
                                                    nocharge Mar 22, 2011 11:38 PM

                                                    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
                                                      bbulkow Mar 24, 2011 09:41 AM

                                                      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
                                                        Robert Lauriston Mar 24, 2011 09:50 AM

                                                        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
                                                  honkman Mar 22, 2011 04:43 PM

                                                  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
                                                  c
                                                  celeryroot Mar 22, 2011 11:37 AM

                                                  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
                                                    Robert Lauriston Mar 22, 2011 12:18 PM

                                                    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
                                                      c
                                                      celeryroot Mar 22, 2011 12:59 PM

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

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        m
                                                        Missmoo Mar 23, 2011 11:28 AM

                                                        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
                                                          Robert Lauriston Mar 23, 2011 11:33 AM

                                                          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

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            c oliver Mar 23, 2011 03:10 PM

                                                            It's called a diner for a reason :)

                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    c oliver Mar 22, 2011 07:15 PM

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

                                                  3. honkman Mar 22, 2011 09:00 AM

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

                                                    1. CarrieWas218 Mar 22, 2011 06:00 AM

                                                      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

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