French Laundry Review - Memorial Day 2013 [Yountville]
Getting reservations was nearly impossible. I am so grateful that we finally did - this was the best meal of my life. (For what it's worth - we have dined all over NY (incl. EMP, Daniel, Per Se, Le Bernardin, etc.) and Guy Savoy, Le Cinq in Paris...) The service was excellent and somehow perfectly relaxed for Napa Valley. The food was perfect. Every dish was a work of art both in flavor and appearance. The truffle supplement for the ravioli was well beyond "worth it". They brought out the softball-sized truffle in a red box that looked like a humidor. Between three dishes, they nearly finished the truffle! Our dishes and my brief comments are below.
What we ate -
- Amuse bouche - Atlantic fluke tartare in a black sesame seed tuile (melted in your mouth) and the classic gougeres (one in our party said that if served at a football party, he would eat a large bowl of these. This is probably not exaggerative.)
- Oysters and pearls (signature and good every time. As comforting as an excellent mac and cheese, as nuanced as the best caviar and fine champagne.)
- Black winter truffle and hen egg ravioli
- Columbia river wild king salmon (I do not know how they cooked this - it was so different it had the color of smoked salmon, melted in the mouth, complex texture and shaped like a sausage!)
- Sweet butter-poached Alaskan King Crab (I'm usually not a fan of crab. This was mind-blowing. The crab was soft as a cloud, oozed butter without being overly fatty. The accompanying gnocchi, peas and corn pudding were the pairing of a genius.)
- Four Story Hill Farm Poularde (a young chicken with a sausage stuffed under the skin. This makes "normal" chicken seem like a different animal. Juicy, salty, made to savor each bite. The cherries on the dish thrilled me - so often I see fruit with pork...)
- "Steak Frites" (grillied calotte de boeuf -a thrill for me because originally I thought there would be lamb on the spring-time menu and I prefer beef. The lesson - they truly do not announce the menu until the very same day. I loved the contrast of the pickled onion on the dish.)
- Brie Fermier - amazing! A small pool of melted brie served with a warm walnut roll. The roll cut through what otherwise would have been strong (unlike brie...) and made for a warm, closing cheese course.
- "Verjus Blanc" Jasmine Tea Ice Cream - seemed to be a palate cleanse. Like a breath of fresh air.
- "Dark Treacle" (chocolate dessert) / "Delta Blueberry Cheesecake" served with a blueberry muffin - both were not too heavy, but were the kiss of sweet.
- Sugared donut holes, choice of chocolates (I had the PB&J and salted caramel. The men said PB&J was the best chocolate they ever tasted), and chocolate covered macadamia nuts (they had an extra crunch. like a standing ovation at the end of a perfect performance.)
Drinks - we started with Champagne, followed by a Piedmont white and then a Syrah. We focused on the food and just let the sommelier lead the way on wine.
We sat in an intimate, gorgeous stone-walled room. It was an ideal spot for our group of four. Happy to answer any questions... this was ethereal.
Hmmm...interesting to hear from someone who has been since David Breeden took over.
My last meal there was when Timothy Hollingsworth was still CDC and my whole table found both the food and wine to be totally forgettable in comparison to the other great restaurants of the world. They did the whole truffle presentation, too, like many other places, but I had just come from meeting with truffle hunters in Piedmont and TFL's paled in comparison (even the waiter admitted that the truffles were pretty old and had lost their flavor).