French Laundry is a restaurant located in Yountville, Napa Valley and is chef Thomas Keller’s claim to fame. With a round table of greats already; Bouchon (with locations across the US), Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc, Per Se, French Laundry has been the self acclaimed Pinnacle of Keller’s career.
It is a perennial awardee in the annual Restaurant Magazine list of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World (having been named “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2003 and 2004), and since 2006, it has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco. It has also been favorably reviewed by The New York Times and called “the best restaurant in the world, period” by Anthony Bourdain.
With a standard two month waitlist and reservation line that constantly rings busy, you are set to wonder if you are in store for the best meal of your life, or another hype induced media dupe of a restaurant.
After experiencing it, I can tell you my feelings are that it does not disappoint and it is one epic meal.
There are two seatings per day and there is a choice of two menus (a meat lovers and a plant lovers). The foursome I was dining with, all chose the carnivore menu seeing as no one was a vegetarian and the latter menu seemed a bit more adventurous.
Starting the meal was two amuse bouches’. One was a Gruyere filled cream puff and another was tuna tartar cone. Closely followed was the first course which was “Oysters and Pearls”, I found it slightly odd looking at first, but it turned out to be pleasantly creamy, the two oysters being savory and complimenting the texture of the tapioca pearls.
"Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
The next course was a cucumber soup that I wasn’t a fan of. So we will just skip over that. (Tasted slightly like a certain “green juice” that I have had before when subjecting myself to a liquid cleanse). The “upgradable” option was “PB&J Foie Gras” (pictured below) which although sounds odd, was amazing!
Moulard Duck "Foie Gras." Peanut "Genoise," Concord Grapes Celery Branch and Petite Syrah Reduction
Seven more courses followed…
“Tataki” of Big Eye Tuna – Watermelon “Kimchi,” Red Radish, Scallion, Rice Pearls and Finger Lime “Gastrique”
"Saffron-Vanilla" Butter-Poached Main Lobster "Mitts," Sweet Onion "Agnolotti Arrowleaf Spinach and Saffron "Nuage"
A perfect combination of savory and sweet with a distinctive, but appropriate touch of saffron.
Next came the poultry course, that again struck the perfect balance of salt with the chantralle mushrooms and simple Yukon gold potatoes complimenting the perfectly cooked piece of chicken.
Four Story Hill Farm “Poularde” Hobbs Bacon, Yukon Gold Potato, Chantralle Mushrooms and Frisee
An enjoyable poultry course, that again struck the perfect balance of salt with the chantralle mushrooms and simple Yukon gold potatoes complementing the perfectly cooked piece of chicken.
One of my favourite courses came next which was Snake Hill Farms “Calouette De Beouf Grille”. It was an amazing blend of beef; Angus and Wagyu, so succulent it literally melted in my mouth. It was paired with grilled cherry box tomatoes which was the perfect accompaniment.
Snake River Farms "Calotte De Boeuf Grillee" Toybox Tomatoes, Rye Pain Perdu, Romaine Lettuce, "Ranch Dressing" and Mustard Seed "Ravigote"
Followed by the Cheese Course..
"Cambembert" Ground Cherry, Baby Beets, Fennel Bulb and Cherry-Beet Puree'
The last course, “Caramelia’ Chocolate “Cremeux” made the meal for me! One reason being - I am a Dessert Girl and the other reason being that the Salted Popcorn Ice Cream was one of the best things I have ever tasted (it has been officially added to my formal list). A heavenly combination of creamy chocolate and caramel was complemented by crunchy and sweet pine nuts, combined with the ice cream… it was… to die for!
Camamelia Chocolate "Cremeux" Gros Michel Banana, Candied Pine nuts, "Dentelle" and Salted Popcorn Ice Cream
Just when we thought the meal had finished with the perfect ending they brought out Pot de “Hot Chocolate” with Turkish doughnuts along with chocolate covered macadamia nuts…delish!
Again, we thought they were finished.. But –oh- they were not…. they then delivered a plate of six truffles including a “Peanut Butter and Jelly” flavor, a “Meyer lemon” flavor, and a crunchy “Hazelnut.”
Making sure that we left in a food induced coma state they gave us a “to go” shortbread cookie bundle…. Like we actually needed more food…
After the meal they were kind enough to give us a tour of the kitchen and introduced the executive sous chef to us all.
Executive Chef Phillip Tessier and I
Overall, the meal and experience was wonderful and nothing short of blockbuster. Give into the rumor around town and put it on your bucket list or make it a must on your Napa vacation!