Saturday, May 12, 2007

French Laundry (Yountville, CA)

French Laundry
6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Sat 05/12/2007, 07:35p-12:40a

French Laundry is a bit like Mecca for foodies, one that has been proclaimed the "Best Restaurant in the World" by Restaurant magazine, though currently it is merely the "Best Restaurant in the Americas." As such, it had been on our "to-eat" list for several years and we were ready to make a trip up to Northern California just to dine there. Unfortunately, the restaurant is also one of the hardest tables to get in the country, and is booked up a full two months prior. So how did I manage to get reservations? Well I was in the area for Cakebread U and visited the restaurant at its 10:00am opening time, only to be told that they were no longer accepting reservations in person. Disheartened, I ran into a man walking his dog. We chatted for about 45 minutes in French Laundry's garden while I was frantically redialing the restaurant's number on my cell phone (without getting through even once!). It turns out the man was Thomas Keller's father, Ed (as an aside, unfortunately we were informed during dinner that Ed was involved in a rather serious car accident and was in the hospital, we certainly wish him a speedy recovery!). After I ceased my futile efforts to get through, he kindly went inside and spoke with the reservationist, then told me to expect a call in the afternoon. I returned to my bed & breakfast and waited patiently. Then the call came, asking me if a table for four at 7:45 on May 12 was acceptable. Acceptable? "That was fantastic!" I told the reservationist. With that, I spent two anxious months waiting for the fateful day in May to arrive, and the rest, they say, is history...

French Laundry's exterior is rustic to say the least. Passing by, one could easily miss it and never assume that an world-class restaurant lies within. As a bit of history, the building was constructed in the 1900s as a saloon and was indeed a French laundromat in the 1920s. In the 1980s, the building was already a well-regarded restaurant, before Keller bought it in 1994 and brought to it international renown.

Pictured above is the waiting area by the main entrance. Unfortunately, we were seated in a bit of an alcove so I didn't get any good photos of the dining room. Overall, the decor is relatively simple, going along with the restaurant's unpretentious wine country charm.

Here we see French Laundry's signature clothespin initially attached to a napkin. We were able to take them home at the end of the night.

Two menus are available each night: the Chef's Tasting Menu and a Tasting of Vegetables, both identically priced. The menu is signed by Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee. Keller was not in that night, but in New York for the James Beard Awards. Click for larger versions. We requested the "extended" menu, which unfortunately was "only" 12 courses that night. I have heard that extended meals can be in the range of 16 to 20 courses. Though considering how full we were at the end of the meal, perhaps it was a good thing we only had four additional courses. We also requested the Wagyu beef supplement that was announced at the beginning of the meal. The restaurant is supposed to send me a copy of the menu with the extended courses listed, which I have yet to receive.

The most expensive Diet Coke ever. Or so we thought. It was listed on the menu at $10 but the charge for two glasses didn't appear on our bill. I guess they figure they can spare 50 cents for a couple cans in the course of a four-figure meal!

We also ordered a bottle of Fritz Haag, Riesling, "Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr," Mosel, 2003 for the lighter courses, which, unfortunately, wasn't complementary like the Coke. The wine was a spätlese, with a sweet nose of apple cider and a taste of general sweetness, and was effervescent and easy drinking.

The bread in the left picture is French Laundry's signature bread from Bouchon Bakery down the street. The bakery also supplies bread for Bouchon and Ad Hoc. Later on in the meal we were offered ciabatta (shown), sourdough, French, and pretzel varieties. The breads were served with salted butter from Vermont and a local unsalted butter from Petaluma.

Canapé 1: Gougères
These savory puffs were made with Gruyère cheese and a sauce Mornay. One of my dining companions commented that it was reminiscent in taste of a Cheez-It.

Canapé 2: Scottish Salmon Coronets
Without a doubt, the signature amuse of French Laundry. The salmon was complemented with chives and a red onion crème fraîche. The cone itself had a creamy, buttery, sesame flavor and broke apart easily. The dish reminded us of the salmon cones at Spago (apparently, Puck's salmon cones predate Keller's). Excellent.

Canapé 3: Roasted Sunchoke Soup
This soup canapé was an addition from the extended menu. We were first presented with a mixture of red bell pepper and orange in the bowl; roasted sunchoke soup with olive oil was then poured on top by our servers. There was a nice contrast between the rich, chowder-like soup and the cold tang of the pepper and orange.

1: "Oysters and Pearls"
"Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Beau Soleil Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar. The briny, salty caviar provided a perfect foil to the tapioca's subtle creaminess. The oysters, from La Maison BeauSoleil in Canada, were cooked but still had a great texture. We were told that the oysters were small because they were trimmed, with the trimmings going into the sabayon. This is perhaps Chef Keller's most famous dish, and I can certainly see why.

2: White Truffle Infused Custard
The white truffle custard base was relatively mild compared to the ragout of black truffle on top. The tab sticking out of the egg is a chive chip, which I used to mix and scoop up the custard. The mixture almost had an "Asian" taste that I couldn't quite put my finger on. This dish was part of the extended menu.

3a: Yukon Gold Potato "Mille-Feuille"
Sugar Snap Peas, Red Radish, Pea Shoots and "Béarnaise Syrup." I absolutely loved the crunch of the raw radish and the snap of the peas. A mille-feuille is traditionally a pastry made of layers of puff pastry and sweet filling. But in this application, the term describes layers of potato stacked atop each other. The flavor can be likened to a French fry.

3b: Moulard Duck "Foie Gras Terrine"
Tokyo Turnips, Pickled Ramps, Black Truffles, Garden Mâche and Toasted Brioche. This was served with three salts: a French sea salt, a Japanese salt, and a mined salt from Montana. However, the foie was so flavorful that salt wasn't necessary. This was easily the best terrine I've tried, and perhaps the best preparation of foie gras I've ever had. Simply superb. I will note that once our server saw us sharing, he brought each of us extra brioche.

4a: Sautéed Fillet of American Red Snapper
"Capellini à l'Encre de Seiche," Chorizo, Sea Beans and "Huile de Piment d'Espelette." The fish was very tender and not quite what I expected from snapper. The taste reminded me of a steamed Asian-style fish with it's very light and delicate flavors. Below the snapper was squid ink pasta, as shown in the second photo.

4b: "Salade Niçoise"
Spanish Bluefin Tuna "Tartare," Fava Beans, Baby Artichokes, Niçoise Olives, San Marzano Tomato "Compote," Hard-Boiled Egg Sorbet and "Bottarga Vinaigrette. The tuna was good on its own but excellent when eaten with the egg sorbet. Loved the texture of the fava beans as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish; however, it didn't go over well with my dining companions.

5: Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Tail
Belgian Endive, Jacobsen's Farm Green Almonds, Parsley-Shoots and Passionfruit Butter. Great texture with a notable sweetness to it; very buttery and creamy. I wasn't a fan of the endive though. This was a favorite of the night.

We decanted the 1982 Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse De Lalande that we brought for a couple of hours before bringing it out for the heartier dishes of the night. We chose the wine mainly for two reasons: it is a Robert Parker 100-point "perfect" wine, and 1982 was the year of our birth (and also a banner year in Bordeaux). The wine had an intoxicating nose of tobacco, ripe fruit, and cassis; I also detected notable hints of tobacco and spices on the palate. It had a meaty, chewy mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish. To quote Mr. Parker:

"I have had this wine a half-dozen times over the last eleven months, and have rated it either 98, 99, or 100 on every occasion. It is a fully mature, sumptuous, gloriously perfumed, luxuriously rich Pauillac the likes of which are rarely encountered. The color is a dark plum/ruby with amber at the edge. Spectacular aromatics offer up cedar, smoke, jammy black and red fruits, minerals, licorice, and toast. Unctuously-textured and full-bodied, with low acidity, fabulously sweet, rich fruit, surprising definition for a wine of such lushness and intensity, this is one of the vintage's most compelling and profound efforts. It has been delicious since birth, but absolutely stupendous over the last decade."

I do no hesitate to say that this was one of the top red wines I've ever tasted. We asked to keep the bottle, which was cleaned out and nicely presented in the signature French Laundry livery. Corkage was a hefty $50.

6: Russet Potato Gnocchi
The black flecks on top are shaved black truffle. Our server brought out the truffle from a nice presentation box and proceeded to shave it at the table. According to him, these truffles were purchased in February. In any case, they provided a nice, rich pungent flavor to the gnocchi. I wasn't a huge fan of truffle the first time I had it, but I think I'm beginning to really like it! I suppose it's a bit of an acquired taste. This course was also part of the extended tasting.

7a: Wild Flower Honey-Glazed Pork Belly
"Choucroute," Granny Smith Apple, and Dijon Mustard. The dish also included cabbage from French Laundry's garden across the street. The pork was sourced from Pennsylvania and was very fatty, very flavorful. Also, according to our server, the apple on top was compressed, sealed in a vacuum bag, and cooked sous vide. Sous vide is a controversial way of cooking that maintains the integrity of the food by heating it at low temperatures for long periods.

7b: Crispy Marcho Farm's Calve's Brain
Wild Asparagus, "Pain Perdu," Cornichon and Dungeness Crab Mayonnaise. Yes my first time with brain! The brain, from the same source in Pennsylvania as the pork, was crusted with buttermilk and panko and had a very creamy consistency. It was not tough at all like I expected. Overall quite mild and not offensive. The asparagus was from France and quite interesting, not like any I've had before.

8a: Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Ribeye
Cèpe Mushrooms, Spring Garlic, Sweet Carrots and "Sauce Bordelaise." A very pure expression of lamb, rare, firm yet tender, and exceedingly flavorful. I quite enjoyed this dish, but many of dining companions thought it was a bit too strong, a bit too gamy for their tastes.

8b: Wagyu Beef Sous Vide
Very rich, this almost turned to liquid in my mouth. One of the most decadent pieces of beef I've ever had, look at that marbling! The fat remained intact thanks in part to the beef's sous vide preparation. Do to its low-temperature, vacuum-sealed methods, sous vide must be performed under carefully controlled conditions, as to avoid botulism poisoning. The beef was also served with hen of the wood tempura, brocollini, and kumquat.

9: "Vermont Dandy"
Granola, Red Currants and Celery Branch. This was a natural rind, semi-hard, aged sheep's milk cheese from Peaked Mountain Farm in Vermont. Overall very mild and easy-eating. I liked the pairing of the granola and the currant, but could've done without the celery. It was served with toasted walnut and raisin breads

10: Manila Mango Sorbet
Black Sesame Tuile, "Goma Nougatine," Papaya and Coconut Sauce. Strong, authentic tastes of mango. Very reinvigorating and a nice segue into the desserts.

11: "Coffee and Doughnuts"
The last extended item and perhaps Keller's most famous dessert, this was a miniature fried cinnamon doughnut with a small demitasse of delightful espresso ice cream semifreddo. The trick is to eat the doughnut with the ice cream. Excellent.

12a: Bitter Valrhona Chocolate "Sponge"
Gros Michel Banana Ice Cream and Pili Nut "Bavarois." Loved the presentation here. The "Bavarois" is French for "Bavarian cream," or a flavored custard combined with gelatin and whipped cream. I'm not a huge fan of bananas, but enjoyed the ice cream.

12b: "Granité Aux Agrumes"
Cream Yogurt "Panna Cotta," Citrus "Confit" and Shiso Syrup. The key here was to take in all the layers at once. The shiso syrup was brought out in a large volumetric flask-type container and drizzled onto the granité with a large dropper.

The dessert wine on the left is the Velha Barbeito, Bual, Madeira, 1863. Madeira is known for its longevity, and this was clearly the oldest wine I've ever had. Interestingly enough, the Bual's color was rather light bronze-red in color (much lighter than in the photo), which belied its vintage. However, its taste definitely gave away its age, with a smokey, woody nose and musty flavors of soil and smoke on the palate. It was unlike any wine I've ever had. The second wine is a Alvear Solera Pedro Jimenez Montilla-Moriles, Spain, 1927. This was the second oldest wine I've ever tasted, and was much sweeter, with heavy doses of raisin and a hint of chocolate.

Mignardises 1
The first of the post-dessert courses was a pot de crème made with Meyer lemon; it was a bit tart for me. We then had a simply prepared miniature Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, which had a nicely caramelized top and classic crème brûlée taste.

Mignardises 2
Next up were honey flour tuiles with Bergamot (Bergamot orange is a small, sour citrus from Italy) and macadamias coated in caramel and chocolate. The nuts were superb, with a nice crunch and texture, and tasted like caramel corn; we finished the entire pot, even though we were already sufficiently stuffed by the time they came out.

Mignardises 3
Our server Milton then brought out a tray of chocolates: raspberry with black pepper, banana, cofee, hazelnut, peanut butter, and caramel. I just had to grab one of each, though unfortunately I was so full that I could only manage partial bites. We then had a sliding metal box (which must have weighed close to 10 pounds!) filled with nougats, salted caramels, and various truffles. Unfortunately they were left largely uneaten (though some were taken home), as we could take no more food by this point!

These were shortbread cookies, apparently from a recipe by the pasty chef, Claire Clark's, mother. Very rich and buttery. Really nice. Note the application of the signature clothespin motif.

After our meal, we were invited into the kitchen. Chef Lee was busy talking to the various chefs so we didn't get too much time to chat. The man in the upper right photo is maitre d' Larry Nadeau, who did a great job accommodating us throughout the evening.

Chef Lee talks daily with Per Se via the video conferencing system pictured above. The idea is that this collaboration helps create a free flow of ideas between the two kitchens. Speaking of Per Se, we definitely plan on going next time we're in New York.

Michelin defines a 3-star restaurant as being "worth a trip." To that effect, I completely agree. We drove 450 miles for the privilege of dining here and I do not regret it one bit. Best restaurant in the country? I can believe it. My only disquiet concerns Keller's decreasing involvement in French Laundry's daily operations. Control of the kitchen has been, for a large part, handed over to Lee (who, to be fair, has proven himself eminently capable), as Keller has become more restaurateur than chef. Keller has stated that he would like French Laundry to outlive him, to become a gastronomic icon of sorts, irrespective of the chef in charge. After all, does one know or even care about the chef at La Tour d'Argent? Indeed. As to whether the restaurant will continue to thrive without him, only time will tell...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

another fantastic review. thanks kevin! afrikando

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks afrikando! This was one of my best meals ever. Have you been?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008 1:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great review yet again, what was the total bill? cb

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 1:41:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks. I believe it was around $660 per person, but that includes the '82 Pichon that we brought.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 4:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fabulous. Quite inspirational. I hope to one day have the honor to try it. Thanks.

Saturday, December 20, 2008 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks! Great timing on the comment, as I just dined at Per Se tonight!

Sunday, December 21, 2008 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I plan on going here this year, if I can find the time. Can't wait for your Per Se review.

I've been perusing the French Laundry Cookbook, and I can see that these dishes and approach is iconic enough to transcend Keller.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:10:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Find the time? The key is being able to find a reservation!

But about Per Se, I'm sad to report that I was not as impressed. I also found out there that Ed Keller, Thomas' father, passed away.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 4:17:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Kevin: I'll make sure I can get a reservation during the time that I want to go.

Regarding Per Se's quality, sometimes even the highest-end restaurants fail to live up to the hype (or standard). Still, I'm looking forward to the review.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 4:20:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

The question then becomes: Was the restaurant really not up to snuff? Or, has my own palate evolved so much that it just takes more and more to impress me?

I'd posit that even if I'd gone to French Laundry instead of Per Se, the experience still wouldn't have lived up to my first time there. This is troubling.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 5:26:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Wow, there was that much of a dropoff in quality? I think it's a bit of both your palate seeing more of what's out there (you might be one of the most well traveled tasting menu-er out there) and also the dip in quality at per se. I wrote an article about consistency on FoodGPS and how hard it is to maintain. With the troubled economy, quality takes a dip everywhere, even at the purported best.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 5:28:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I actually don't think that there was that much of a drop off in quality. Sadly, I think I'm the problem; I've become somewhat jaded.

My most impressive Western-style meal was at Joël Robuchon. I'm contemplating going back, just to see if the wonder and excitement of my last visit is still there--I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 6:02:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

The fact of the matter, eating tasting menus is a very rare thing for most people, perhaps a few times a year, or maybe once a month if one is very avid. But a couple of times a month is extremely high, even for a top-notch professional reviewer like Alan Richman. Over time you'll only want, and expect the best. For the rest of us, even one tasting menu (15+ courses) is an utter luxury even once a year, so perhaps our standards aren't as high. I think you're doing well by putting pizza, hot dogs, and chili cheeseburgers in between, but I'd venture to try some mid-range food as well. Personally, I like places like Lucques and Canele, simple, fresh food that's not too pricey and can be enjoyed on a more regular basis. These restaurants, while probably not as compelling in the grand scheme, are what most people can attain on a regular basis in terms of dining out. Or perhaps try some more adventurous ethnic food. I think some of us were planning a South Bay excursion through some top-notch Japanese places, which I'm sure you'd be interested in.

Thursday, January 08, 2009 9:26:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Matt, I think you've hit the nail on the head.

Thursday, January 08, 2009 4:01:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

So I'm guessing you're in on the South Bay food marathon? I know you can handle that amount of food. Or if you're ever down to try some more mid-range restaurants, just let me know. You may have seen me mention, but Canele is my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles and most of their restaurants range $20-25. Also, I'm aching to try Rustic Canyon, which has some of the best seasonal cuisine on the Westside.

Thursday, January 08, 2009 4:06:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I'm interested in the South Bay food marathon, but when is it? Both Canele and Rustic Canyon seem interesting as well.

Thursday, January 08, 2009 4:36:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Not sure about that marathon, but I'll be sure to tag you in on it once we know. I think it'll probably be after all of the DineLA action, which ends mid-February. You should also check out Palate, though i hear the quality might be dipping lately. Also, Animal seems to get a lot of year-end press as one of the more notable openings last year.

Thursday, January 08, 2009 4:39:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sounds good. Both Palate and Animal are on my radar.

Thursday, January 08, 2009 6:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, you need to step to the extended tasting menu (the real VIP 20 course one, not the dweeb 12 course one) in order to get the full FL experience. Also, lunchtime is the preferred time to indulge, rather than dinner.

Secondly, I just came across this blog and I sense a distinct undertone of quasi-arrogance in some of your recent 'reviews', as if you had experience the top of the food chain and thus had nothing more to learn. However, a quick survey of your meals shows a distinct lack of exposure to some of the finer overseas establishments such as Tetsuya, Fat Duck, Gambero Rosso, El Bulli, etc. Destinations that would expand your repertoire and I think bring you to realize that you have barely scratched the surface. You really need to spend 2 weeks in spain to understand the state of the art in the culinary world. That would be eye opening.

BTW: you should have gone to Momofuku Ko rather than Per Se, if you had the option. That is truly eye-opening food.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 4:14:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

And you think I have an "undertone of quasi-arrogance?" Yikes!

That being said, I wholeheartedly agree with you that some further international exposure is in line. The places you mentioned are all ones that I wish to experience. In fact, a friend and I tried, and failed, to secure reservations to El Bulli last October. I really do want a return of the wonder, the amazement that used to come with fine dining.

As for Momofuku Ko, I would've really liked to have gone. However, I figured that a spot at Per Se was harder to come by, thus we decided to go with that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 4:39:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

yeah that anonymous commenter is a douchebag.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 4:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spot at per se is easy to come by compared to Ko .. you should know that!

The ko rezzy is the most coveted in NYC.

I hear you, my own tone also had undertones of arrogance.

Next time you are in nyc please let me know and we can rock some prime eats. What happened to DI FARA for your pizzas?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 5:15:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

Actually it had overtones of arrogance. Anyways, Ko's resy is overrated. Forget NY fine dining and delve into ethnic LA dining!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 5:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mattatouille - are you the designated sidekick?

i've pwned LA ethnic, like i pwned kevin.

arrogance is bliss.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 5:38:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

no, i'm certainly not, in fact i've borderline been critical of his blog, but then again i respect his passion and acknowledge that he knows a lot.

you've pwned LA ethnic? dare tell how you did.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 5:40:00 PM  
Blogger gourmetpigs said...

I just got the call a few days ago.
Getting a table for this Sunday for lunch, so I decided to reread your post, which as usual, has amazing photos that make me hungry. Getting very excited!

Friday, January 30, 2009 1:25:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Congrats Fiona! I remember I was lounging around at my bed & breakfast in Yountville when I got the call--I was suitably excited as well.

Friday, January 30, 2009 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Why "sigh?"

Wednesday, July 08, 2009 6:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Palate too evolved.. my gosh!

Thursday, July 16, 2009 6:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Hilary said...

I'm just guessing here, but wonder if the sauce you had with the gougeres may have been the classic French brown butter sauce called Meuniere which could sound a bit like Monet?

My husband and I have dinner reservations for our first anniversary later this month. Thanks for the tip about the extended tasting menu!

Thursday, August 06, 2009 1:12:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Hillary, thanks for bringing this up. Upon further research, I've come to the conclusion that it was probably Mornay sauce.

I believe the new chef (Tim Hollingsworth) has started, so do report back!

Thursday, August 06, 2009 3:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to necro-comment, but I found this entry while looking for details on the French Laundry. I have a dear friend getting married soon and would like to give a gift certificate to the French Laundry as a wedding gift. I'm unsure of what amount though. Having experience dining there, what would your recommendation be for dinner for two?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1:25:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

A TFL gift certificate would be a great wedding gift indeed.

The base price is $240pp, inclusive of tip, so that's about $525 bare minimum when you take into account tax.

Thus, I'd say $700 at least, to give the lucky bride and groom some wiggle room for wine. Keep in mind that the meal documented here was $660 per person.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin, thanks. My initial estimate was just a little short. Your advice has given me a better picture to work with. As a wedding gift, I don't want them paying a dime that night at the restaraunt and now I know how much wiggle room to work with. Getting the reservations will be on them though. HA!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1:55:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

great review.

i went this past august. i was soooooe excited and needless to say it was awesome.

one thing tho that made me go argh! was they didn't serve oysters and pearls nor the coffee and donut!!!! anyways...i guess there's always a next time.

btw, if you haven't read it already, here's a nice article on keller by nytimes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 5:55:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Daniel, it's great to hear that you had a good time at FL. Was Corey Lee still there when you went? I'm surprised that they didn't have the oysters and pearls though; I thought that the dish was always on the menu.

And yes, I've read that article. I wonder if the line "Catch him in the right mood and he would even help you get into the reservation book" was inspired by my meal here...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 6:39:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

actually no. corey left a month before we went, and so it was under the new chef de cuisine, tim hollingsworth. but we ran into sung, who used to be the hiro's apprentice at urasawa! that was a nice treat.

as for oysters and pearls, i saw it on the menu for the entire week up to our lunch there. :/ i guess next time we go, i'll just have to call in and make a special request.

and sounds like that line is inspired by your experience indeed. that's pretty cool

Friday, October 30, 2009 5:34:00 PM  
Blogger Hall-e said...

Kevin this was a marvelous post! What an amazing story about Keller's father...

Friday, November 13, 2009 4:03:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks--a marvelous post for a marvelous meal. Have you made it up to TFL yet Ms. Michelin?

Sunday, November 15, 2009 4:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'll probably be crucified for saying this but...

the food at TFL really has deviated away from the style of Thomas Keller

As someone who has dined there regularly for years before Keller's retirement from the kitchen, the change in cuisine has been strikingly noticeable.

Gone are the Keller signature approaches to gastronomic understatement, creative ways of presenting more humbler dishes with luxurious ingredients, and replaced with it is alot of more "generic" french food, like foie terrines and simple sous vide loins.

My most recent visit I was pretty saddened to see a plate of sauteed squid with a japanese "special sauce" based off soy sauce. This is pretty far off from the visions which made Keller's food so unique and special to begin with.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 1:53:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Crucified? Doubtful. I can see your point. It's too bad that I'll never get to experience what TFL was like before Keller started to build his empire. Perhaps it's even more unfortunate that, back in the day, there was no such thing as food blogs, and thus, Keller's great meals from the 1990s will remain forever lost, captured only vaguely in the minds of diners such as yourself.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 7:17:00 PM  
Anonymous S Lloyd said...

I am looking forward for my dinner with my wife at the French Laundry this summer. Like you, I like building up some text & photo documentary on dinners I indulge into. This one will be a lover's dinner so not appropriate for photo sessions, but I've promised myself to sacrifice 6 months and roam around the USA (the only place on earth -- which fine dining tables I had not fully experienced with / just went to Robuchon in Vegas, Alinea and a few others) for just that: photo and text documentaries of dinners at the US finest tables (I did this already for Montreal and my dream would be to do that with each major food cities of the world). Thanks for preparing me for this summer's dinner there (I am just a bit frustrated that neither Keller nor Lee would be there anymore ;)

Thursday, January 28, 2010 6:42:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Who says that photos aren't appropriate in a lover's dinner? Your significant other just has to share and understsand your passion. ;)

In any case, do let us know how the TFL turns out for you, especially with the new chef at the helm. I'm somewhat curious about going back myself.

Friday, January 29, 2010 9:44:00 PM  
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010 5:57:00 PM  
Anonymous louis vuitton said...

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010 5:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Shelly Borrell said...

Loved the photos -- I'm in fantasy land about going there someday. I'd be sooooo happy!!!

Shelly :)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010 11:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Thursday, March 04, 2010 10:26:00 PM  
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Sunday, April 11, 2010 9:38:00 PM  
Blogger Miracle Pending said...

I'm thinking of having my wedding here. I haven't visited the restaurant and haven't found many photos of the interior. Do you think you might be able to describe the layout?

Also, I understand they have an extremely extensive wine list. They don't allow outside wines for special events so I will be forced to pay their hefty alcohol prices. Do yo remember what the average price per bottle was by chance?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010 5:38:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

According to the web site, the restaurant can handle 60 guests for a wedding reception. It's a two-story building, divided into multiple rooms, some large, some intimate. It's not particularly open, and I'm not sure if there's a space large enough to handle an actual ceremony.

The wine list is considerable to say the least. I believe wines generally started in the low $100's per bottle, all the way up to thousands.

Friday, June 11, 2010 3:04:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Hi Kevin!
How much was the bill excluding the '82 Pichon?

Thanks, Cindy

Friday, July 30, 2010 2:10:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Cindy, it was $275 without tax, if I recall correctly.

Friday, July 30, 2010 4:24:00 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Thanks for letting me know! I've been a huge fan of yours since I discovered your blog (back in May) and a few weeks ago I finished reading every single one of your blog posts (how did I do that? Simple, read a post during one of my meals). They are just so enjoyable to read and the pictures with descriptions are completely fantastic! I've learned a lot about food from reading your posts and wish I could live in Cali...fortunately, I will be in LA for the first time this Friday. I will definitely be looking out for some gerat places to eat based off of your posts!

Sunday, August 01, 2010 4:50:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

You're hardcore Cindy! How did you decide what order to read the posts? Where are you headed to in LA?

Sunday, August 01, 2010 3:20:00 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I've got it down like I do science (don't laugh)!
Actually I came across your blog by your post on Urasawa first, but then I realized you had a plethora of other restaurant posts on your list!

I read the posts (top to bottom, left to right) from the order on the web page and skipped the Michelin starred ones as well as the restaurants in Japan. Those I saved for last because by then I'd build up what knowledge I had from reading your previous posts and I'd fully appreciate the posts on the Michelin starred ones (Japanese is my favorite food). Of course, I did all the one stars first and worked my way up to three stars, and I saved the Japanese Michelin ones for last!

I'm not familiar with LA at all, but I will be going to Korean/Japanese dining establishments before hitting up Lady Gaga at the Staples Center. I'm totally psyched for that!

Monday, August 02, 2010 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Very interesting Cindy. I actually had another reader of mine (who'd read everything as well) tell me that he started with the Michelin starred ones first!

If you're going to be near Staples Center, Little Tokyo's not too far away.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

No way! I just started with everything else first and learned what I could so I could fully appreciate the Michelin ones!

Ooh, I'll definitely have to check that out! Would you recommend any good Korean establishments in LA?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010 6:31:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

What type of Korean are you looking for? BBQ, bibimbap, or what?

Thursday, August 05, 2010 1:07:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

BBQ! Nothing too bank breaking though!

Thursday, August 05, 2010 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Park's, Ham Ji Park, Genwa, and Soowon are some of the ones that come up often.

Friday, August 06, 2010 1:21:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

just got back from an amazing trip and had lots of asian food pretty around town (ate out everyday haha). thought about you on the trip actually, thanks so much for your help! Little Tokyo was actually close by to Chinatown and Korean Town so we stopped by there too! However we stayed in Hacienda Heights so Chinatown wasn't as impressive to us. Apparently Chinatown is now frequented by Guangdong people and not so much by everyone else chinese? I thought that was interesting!

Sunday, August 15, 2010 6:18:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Good to hear that you enjoyed yourself out here Cindy. You're right, Chinatown isn't really Chinatown anymore--you have to go east to the SGV for that.

Monday, August 16, 2010 1:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin, the '82 Lalande is an absolutely amazing wine, perhaps the most underrated Bordeaux of all-time (and good for Parker point-chasers, too). How is it you tote around a $900 wine and state a $50 corkage charge is hefty? Not to mention later on your "bottle" is seen sitting in a Dannon yogurt box being held by an arm (yours?) sporting a very cheap looking timepiece. How do you afford all these fancy dinners anyway? I'm quite curious..

Friday, August 20, 2010 11:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who may not know, Madeiras are oxidized wines therefore they can last for centuries. Some Buals from the early 1800's are still considered babies!

Friday, August 20, 2010 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger N.P. said...

We dined at TFL last month, a week before our BCN trip, and frankly, I wasn't too impressed. Maybe I was having a bad week and felt jaded, perhaps I prefer a certain type of cooking, but the dishes did not do much to make me want to come back. The execution was perfect on all the dishes, but save for few, I felt they were kind of boring--as if they lacked imagination and fun; I wanted a dash of whimsy. My highlights of the meal were the oysters and pearls, coffee and doughnuts & a sauteed foie with belgian endives, medjool dates and toasted cashews dish we added on during a tour of the kitchen.

I'm probably strange to feel so, but I preferred my meal at Manresa two years ago to the FL meal in some respects. The Manresa meal was no where near the perfection in terms of execution that the FL was, but I enjoyed each and every dish so much more than "wow, this is great".

The SO's birthday is coming up, and your input would be much appreciated on where I should take him. Back to Manresa? (Definitely not back to the Ritz.) I really want to go to Urasawa, but I don't feel like going back to Socal, but maybe Cyrus or Meadowood? Thanks for your help.

Thursday, January 13, 2011 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Kat, I've heard that TFL hasn't been as great since Corey Lee left. I would seriously consider checking out Chef Lee at his new place in San Francisco, Benu. Otherwise, I'd go with Meadowood over Cyrus, and Commis and Coi would be on my short list as well.

Friday, January 14, 2011 4:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Ree said...

kevin, what do you do for a living that enables these expenditures?

Monday, May 16, 2011 8:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Kevin, nice post…I’ve often wondered how you (and the people in other food blogs) take such awesome pictures of the meal. My pictures always turn out too bright, fuzzy or just bad in general. Are you doing this with a point-and-shoot camera? Any tips you can offer? Thanks in advance for any reply and keep up the good work.

Sunday, May 22, 2011 5:53:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Ree: A simple search of my blog will yield the answer.

Craig: This particular meal was actually shot with a P&S, the Fuji FinePix F30, a camera well-regarded for its low-light prowess. I've since upgraded to a Sony a500 DSLR. The key really is to have a fast lens, good high ISO performance, and a steady hand (or image stabilization).

Monday, May 30, 2011 2:25:00 AM  

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