The French Laundry
July 4th, 2018 at 5:15pm pacific time was our reservation for The French Laundry. It was just two month prior that the battle for reservations commenced and the table for two was snagged and booked under Munshaw. This was no easy task, getting reservation for The French Laundry is very hard and they sell out quick. You cannot cancel your reservation and you don't get your money back. All bets are in and you better be dressed for the occasion because service starts with or without you.
For anyone or any chef that doesn't know about The French Laundry it is one of the points of the culinary cross. It's the holy ground, it's the foundation that has built so many great chefs past and present. The laundry is hospitality at it's highest level.
Thomas Keller bought The French Laundry in 1994. By 2003 and 2004 it was voted best restaurant in the world back to back years and has since held 3 Michelin stars. The restaurant holds many more nominations and awards and has sister restaurants such as Bouchon Bistro and Bakery, Ad hoc and Per Se in NYC.
The restaurant did get criticized in the past for being outdated and not staying up with the times of the culinary world. But I'll tell you from experience that The French Laundry hit on every beat. The laundry has stayed focused and kept the food perfect. This being said the experience is a dinner at it's prime level from being greeted at the door to finishing with coffee and desserts. There is great hospitality, you feel at home, your relaxed and excited, your ready to eat dinner.
When we arrived we were greeted out front of the gold sign nestled in an arch of green vines, it reads "The French Laundry". We were then kindly brought through the blue front door and upstairs to our table that overlooked their garden. We were then gifted with a non alcoholic bottle of Champagne from Germany. It was fantastic, bubbly and crisp. After the beverage our menus were laid out personalized to my wife and I and we had the choice between two menus with options of supplements. Of course we chose both supplements so we could try everything they had to offer.
Anyone who is familiar with Thomas Keller knows about Oyster and Pearls. As the Chef I had to choose that dish to start, my wife chose the supplement "Royal Kaluga Caviar and Pink Hopper Shrimp, can you blame her "Caviar and Shrimp". It was a spin on prawn cocktail and a beautiful spin at that. Before our first dish arrived they handed us some canapés or amuse bouche. It was hotdogs with brioche bun and a spin on ritz crackers and cheese wiz. I thought it was a great idea being 4th of July.
The first dishes hit the table and I will tell you that the oysters and pearls were all what they are said to be. They were delicate and creamy, slightly smokey with a tad bit of texture. My wife's prawn cocktail was delicious, it focused on the shrimp and caviar with great presentation. The table was cleared and cleaned and the second course was about to arrive. The wife ordered the compressed watermelon salad which was very simple with a mint gastrique. It exposed the watermelon for what it was, juicy and vibrant with enough added components to make it all pop and think of the garden next door. I ordered the supplement which was a spin on peaches and cream. It was served with fresh peaches from the garden, creme fraiche, pecans and a foie gras terrine. They give you six salts from around the world to sample with the terrine. My favorite was the Japanese deep sea salt which was very fine and had great saltiness. This dish held it's own until the main courses, it was one of the best foie gras preparations I've experienced.
The third course is a filet of smoked trout, smashed potatoes and spicy mustard. You feel as though you're in a park grilling for the holiday. It hit the spot and made you feel a since of family and friends when you're young eating potato salad and bbq. The fourth course was Nova Scotia Lobster. If anyone knows my wife they know she love lobster or any crustacean at that. This dish was presented beautifully, and it didn't loose site of the lobster. It was served with pain perdue, russian dressing and confit tomatoes. Before I took a bite I was worried the lobster might get lost in the russian dressing, but that was the total opposite. The lobster was the main focus and the dish, it was very light and hit all notes of the pallet smoothly.
The bread course was next. This is always one of my favorite courses as I'm a slight bread geek and bread is fucking delicious. The laundry did a dried tomato "baguette" with buffalo milk burrata "butter". It was served on this big clay bowl plate and the baguette was personal size. By far one of my favorite presentations. The bread was warm and made down the block at Bouchon Bakery just for the laundry. The burrata butter was delicious as it was just melted cheese with garlic oil. You can't beat bread and butter and this was some really good good bread and butter.
After the bread course we entered the first of two main courses. First was buttermilk fried chicken and grits. Yeah it seems simple, and it was. The Chefs plated a single piece of thigh on top of some grits, the chicken was super moist and fork tender and the grits had so much flavor and it was almost smooth with some slight texture nestled at the bottom. After the chicken and grits we were served some classic bbq. Bacon wrapped snake river beef with bbq'd beans, creamed corn and bean blossoms. This dish was steak and beans to level 11, the perfect cook of beef wrapped with delicious bacon that wasn't crisp but it wasn't undercooked. The beans were the best version of baked beans I've had and then there was the creamed corn set aside in a small ramekin sized dish. For me this was the jewel of the dish. Corn is always just some side that doesn't do mush justice, but this corn was by far the best creamed corn, or corn by any means that Ive had the pleasure of tasting. It had the perfect balance of creaminess and texture and whatever they used for the cream sauce was a gift from the culinary gods.
CHEESE!!! I fucking love cheese, and the cheese course is usually served after the main course. It's the 4th of July so why not serve Mac and Cheese. The dish was toasted orzo, etude and to top it off a shit ton of shaved Australian black truffles. This was not your everyday Mac and Cheese. So creamy and delicate with nice texture from the orzo and fuck they shaved a heaping amount of truffles over the top, anything with that amount of truffles is going to be good.
To finish the dinner we ordered espresso and they served some all American classics such as vanilla ice cream drumstick, Boston cream cheesecake, red, white and blueberry tort, coffee ice cream and donuts and some personalized chocolate kisses for our anniversary. Just before dessert was over they brought out hand painted truffles to pick from. My favorite was peanut butter and jelly and pistachio.
As we finished with our luxurious dinner and getting ready to leave we were gifted with a tour of their immaculate kitchen and a greeting with the Chef de Cuisine and his Sous Chef. This by far was one of the best experiences for me as I'm a chef and getting to see their work shop for all this art they put out was like a toddler in a candy shop. After we saw the kitchen and met the Chefs we took a nice stroll through their personal garden and got to see all the wonderful fruits and veggies that supply their wonderful restaurant.
The French Laundry is a staple for the culinary world and has gifted our seen with so many great Chefs. It has held true over so many years and keeps satisfying the culinary palette of the world. For me this was a huge check mark of my bucket list for a dining experience as a guest and a chef. For anyone that wants to give a tasting menu a shot but isn't sure if it will be to over the top or not worth the 300 plus dollars a person. I will tell you from experience that this is an experience that every person or couple should try. It's food and dinner at the highest level and you won't be disappointed. The French Laundry is what makes or has made the culinary world what it is and shapes what food should be and what it can become. I truly had a great pleasure of sitting down with my wife and having dinner with everyone that works so hard there to provide me with an unbelievably magnificent dinner.