Posted - 06/04/2007 : 12:13:56 at http://www.sacramentofoodgroup.org/ . I am shutting the forums down, for good, so went thru and saved my favorite posts. Jenny always took the time to come home from her travels and post about her gastronomic adventures. Thanks Jenny! Read on for her fabulous review of one of the top restaurants in the world..and it's in Northern California! For more on The French Laundry, visit http://www.carolcookskeller.blogspot.com/ I hear they have approached her about a tv show. Make sure you check out her May 27th post...the pigs head!
The French Laundry by Jennyo
I have had trouble deciding how to begin this post. In general, the entire experience was so over-the-top that it is difficult to describe without sounding silly.
Anyway, the French Laundry lives up to the hype. It may not live up to the hype for people that have spent a lot of time in Paris, or who eat at FL several times a year and can afford to nitpick, but anyone who has never been to the FL before will not be disappointed.
There are just two menus, the chef's tasting menu and the tasting of seasonal vegetables. The base price is $240 per person and includes soft drinks, water and coffee, and gratuity. There are some additional options within the menu for various courses, some of which have a supplemental charge. Wine is marked up heavily, but their wine list is very good and some of the wines are made specifically for the French Laundry. We got there about 5 minutes early and were seated promptly. We spoke with the waiter about our choices, and then the food and wine started coming.
First came two Gruyere Gougeres, small marble-sized puff pastries baked with Gruyere. Then came Cornets (looked like little mini-ice-cream cones) filled with Salmon Tartare and Red Onion Creme Fraiche. Both of these items were not on the menu. The real "first course" arrived next, which I understand to be a standard, "Oysters and Pearls." This dish was amazing. It was a warm, savory tapioca with two small oysters and sevruga caviar.After this course, we received rolls with two kinds of butter, a sea-salted butter and an unsalted one made by a lady in Vermont. With these items came three small dishes of salt, including grey salt, a super-white Japanese salt, and my favorite based on the name alone--Jurassic Salt!
For the next course there were two choices, I had the Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm, French Laundry Garden Radish and Young Ginger Gastrique, and Phil had the Foie Gras Torchon with warm brioche ($30 supplement). My salad was nice, but Phil got the better end of the deal.
The next course was also two choices, I got the Sauteed Fillet of Pacific Kahala and Phil got the Escargot with a Pork Belly Ravioli. My fish was excellent, very moist but with a thin crunchy outside. Pork Belly Ravioli was to die for, but the Ravioli was just a Pork Belly delivery system. After this course, we were offered more bread, there were four choices and we still had the yummy butter from the earlier bread offering.After that came the lobster tail (which seems to be another standard). The lobster was very good and there was a sauce of green onion emulsion and tomato compote. After that came the Jambonette of Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit, which was a cute little ball of deep-fried rabbit meat. Again, the sauce that came with this was amazing, it was like a carmelized onion mayonnaise or something.(OK, we are stuffed at this point)
The next course had two choices, Phil got the lamb and I got the Japanese Wagyu Beef ($100 supplement). I have no idea how Phil's lamb was cooked or even how it tasted because my beef was so insanely good I couldn't think straight. It was the consistency of bacon fat, and tasted like someone had taken a prime rib, put it in a blender to mix the fatty parts in with the meat, and then made a steak of it. Apparently this stuff sells for $20 an ounce in Tokyo. I have no idea what the items were that came with the beef. All I can remember is the beef. By this point I was in a food coma because the beef was so good, but there was so much food, that I had to eat it.
So, now we move to sorbet, which was pineapple or mango-ish--it was OK but there was an unappetizing dishwasher smell on my plate. Next came the cheese course, it was a soft cheese made of cow, sheep, and goats milk with slices of poached pear. The cheese was amazing.Then the dessert, Phil had some sort of chocolate mishmash of treats and I had fruit compote with verbena sorbet. Mine was good but I was dying at this point. Phil did not like the chocolate stuff, I think it may not have been sickeningly sweet enough. His chocolate tastes are lowbrow, think Rocky Mountain Fudge Cake at Black Angus.Then!! More desserts, mignardise which are cute little desserty things like crème brulee, trifle, those thin rolled cookie things, and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Then!! More desserts on the way! We had to stop at this point, it was ridiculous. The people at the table next to us had gotten their stuff boxed up in a cute French Laundry shopping bag, so I asked to do the same. He boxed up the macadamia nuts, some chocolates, and shortbread made by an English guy in the kitchen who uses his mother's recipe.We paid the bill, which cost enough to feed the residents of a third world country for a year, and rolled out the door. It took me a couple of days to process the experience mentally, because it was overwhelming. What continues to amaze me was the quality of the service from start to finish. The food was excellent--I expected it to be. But the service was magical, the waiters telepathic. From the moment we arrived, we were treated amazingly well. I was concerned that there might be a snoot factor but there was none at all.
Reservations are difficult, the prices are exorbitant, but I would go again in a heartbeat.