The French Laundry

Formerly "the best restaurant in the world" and one of the few restaurants with 3 Michelin stars, The French Laundry has been on my bucket list and I was fortunate enough to snag a last-minute reservation and share the dining experience with my good friend Jocelyn. 

Chef Thomas Keller's flagship served a memorable meal, with highlights such as: "pommes maxim's," Elysian Fields Lamb, and buckwheat ice cream with whiskey honey. The food seemed more rustic and traditional rather than innovative, so personally it wasn't the best meal of my life since I'm into fusion/gastronomy, but it was still a great experience, especially since we got to tour the kitchen at the end and met Chef Thomas Keller himself! 

We drove from Bay Area in the afternoon, and it was unfortunately smoky, but the skies were not apocalyptic at least. I parked directly across the street from the restaurant. There might be parking along the small road beside the restaurant also, but street parking was aplenty.

We toured the  French Laundry Culinary Garden before our meal, where they use ingredients for certain dishes.

The entrance was off the side street. Our reservation was at 7 pm, but the hostess was able to seat us around 6:30. (I had requested even earlier times via email, but the bookings went quite quick). 
After being seated in the upper patio overlooking the street and garden, service placed napkins over the linen tablecloth. The clothes pin had the phrase "It's all about finesse" on the back.

First was an amuse bouche of some kind of fish crackers. The flowery ones had some kind of grainy stuff inside.

Next was the first course:
The famous "Oysters and Pearls." 
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Regiis Ova Caviar. 
My favorite part was eating it with a mother-of-pearl caviar spoon, since metal reacts with caviar.

Course 2: Georgia Candy Roaster Squash "Veloute" 
Garden Squash Chutney and "Buerre Noisette" 

Course 3: "Brentwood Corn Chowder" 
Crispy Atlantic Cod "Brandade," Applewood Smoked Bacon and Golden Corn Butter "Chiffon" 
Also, they post the menu on their website everyday:
Course 4: "Sole Aux Crevettes" 
La Ratte Potato Puree, Compressed Garden Cucumbers, "Pommes Maxim's" and French Pickle Emulsion
The Pommes Maxime was my favorite piece of food so far. 

Course 5: Wolfe Ranch White Quail "Presse" 
Sunny side up Quail Egg, Ragout of Red Rice, Young Turnips and Braised Collard Greens
Jocelyn: this tastes like spam

Half-time bathroom break- featuring a Toto toilet and weird symbols on the lamp.

Course 6: the main entree- we tried two options: 
Herb roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb 
Charred Eggplant Polenta, Stewed Garden Peppers, Marinated Tomatoes and "sauce pimenton"
Best lamb I've ever had- perfect texture and flavor- the technique they used also hid any gamey aftertaste. 

The upgrade option was a: 
Japanese Wagyu "Poele" 
Slow Roasted Garden Squash, Whole Wheat Brioche "Pain Perdu," Kettle Garlic Confit and "Bordelaise Consomme"
I tried a small piece along with a piece of fat and it was like butter. The beef flavor rolled all over my mouth, overtook my taste buds, and the aftertaste was so satisfying. (Jocelyn however said the wagyu at Per Se in NYC was much better!) 

Course 7 (cheese): Gougere
Andante Dairy "Etude" and Preserved Perigord Black Winter Truffle "Fondue" 
I loved how this dish sparkled and the choux outside was good. I'm not huge into cheese though so this was too rich for me. (to me this was fancier brazilian cheese bread)

Bottom right- buckwheat ice cream with a pancake atop whiskey honey. One of the best ice creams I've ever eaten. 
Bottom left- fig newton - the fresh figs were good, but I really didn't like the cream on the plate
Middle - tiramisu and cappuccino mousse- the mousse was refreshing
Donuts, macarons, caramels and chocolate covered macadamia nut.
We also got to select a truffle out of a box of them - I chose matcha passionfruit. The smore one was much tastier.

After a little coffee and catching up with a fellow UCLA alum who is a Captain, we were told we get to tour the kitchen! Service had packed desserts and copies of the menu for us, and then we scrambled downstairs. There was so much going on in the kitchen. Here is a shot with Chef TK observing everything.

a photobomb by Chef Keller- who we got to converse with after! 

I think this was one of the head chefs

Large cake with a sparkler

One final bathroom break before hitting the road.

Last view into the outdoor dining area:

Overall, dining outdoors for 2.5 hours didn't seem so bad despite the smoke, and I'm glad we didn't go in the afternoon when it was 90 degrees. I was definitely stuffed and every dish was solid/consistent, but I was not "wowed" by any particular dish. The service was good and I appreciated the efforts put into little details (i.e. sugar cubes on the spoon to stir into coffee and warmed cream.) For me this was more about the experience than the food, and it's hard to top seeing your friend elbow bump a culinary icon! Thanks Jocelyn for being willing to go on a last minute reservation (though we had planned on trying to go) and sharing this bucket list experience with me!


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