The French Laundry: Was it the Best Ever?

It’s a hard pedestal to be on: “Best Restaurant in the USA”, “3 Michelin Stars”, “One of the Hardest Reservations in the USA”…and with the veritable Thomas Keller at the helm, the reputation speaks for itself.  Further, when I actually secured this highly sought after reservation, I felt like I entered an exclusive group and my expectations rose even further.  But, was it what I expected…did it live up to my expectations?

Rather than detail the 3+ hour experience which weaved through a variety of fish, meats, vegetables and beautiful, yes absolutely beautiful looking food, I’ll share some highlights…and even some not-so highlights.

My Top 5

  • Amuse Bouche: A mini ice-cream cone delivery of salmon tartare (on top) and crème fraiche (in the cone) – – the single best bite of food the entire night.
  • First Course: The signature Oysters & Pearls which is a rich sabayon that sits below a cannele of caviar and 2 absolutely perfectly poached oysters.  A tough act to follow…which may have been my challenge in that dish seemed so innovative and different to me and others, well, not so much.
  • The chocolates at the end: PB&J and Mint Chocolate truffles were just enough and encapsulated the flavors succinctly.
  • The look of the food – easily the prettiest looking food I’ve ever seen in a single restaurant.  Especially the tomato tartlet my wife ordered.  For some examples, look at the Google Image Search for some serious food artistry.
  • Preparations – Perfect.  Everything was cooked to the exactly right temperature and done-ness with flawless execution.

Not Quite Top (and not 3 Michelin stars either)

  • So, for the cost of this event – and for $250pp before wine, I think it classifies as an event and in this regard, it fell short to me.  I expected the best dining experience of my life and this wasn’t it – in fact it’s not in the top 3.  I witnessed snafus that shouldn’t happen in this type of restaurant: from the table next to us taking their pen from the check and getting called out by the waiter asking for the pen back to the table next to us having water spilled on them – causing a production to move their table.
  • 60% of the food was rather basic.  I’m all for the farm to table, let the ingredients stand on their own philosophy, but I had expected some really cutting edge preparations and received some that were borderline basic and even under seasoned.
  • The Service – I’m not sure if my wife and I were ‘sized up’ when we arrived for our 9:15pm reservation, but the servers all seemed quite relaxed and only helpful when prompted.  I learned more about what I was eating as I listened to the presentations at other tables which were inconsistent with what I was told about something I was eating at the time – – not that I received the wrong description, but it felt like I didn’t get the full story.
  • The Approach – it just wasn’t very cutting edge or innovative.  Maybe it’s not supposed to be, but I’ve had some more traditional French cuisine which I found to be far more interesting.

My verdict – it was an experience to a food destination and that’s something I truly enjoy.  However, I’m not planning a return visit anytime in the foreseeable future.



2 thoughts on “The French Laundry: Was it the Best Ever?

  1. Lesson learned. We have so very many wonderful restaurants around this country that when a restauranteur uses a gimmick to get one to buy into it, it’s always disappointing.

  2. Pingback: Innovative, Pushing the Boundaries – that’s a dining experience @SBRAGA_dining @ksbraga (more fun than the French Laundry?) | Reds Whites and Bites

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