The famous blue door of The French Laundry
As someone who grew up with a parent that has written two national best seller cookbooks, I tend to be very particular about what I define as good food. I tend to eat out three times a week, exploring restaurants in Toronto and desiring not only to breakdown what the ingredients are in a meal, but also to be surprised and wowed with how well some of these ingredients work together – kind of like music.
So it’s no surprise that I picked Napa Valley as the destination for our baby moon. Everything served in Napa Valley is organic and the restaurant owners are firm believers of farm to table meals. Napa Valley, more specifically Yountville, is also the home of the iconic chef, Thomas Keller, and his most sought out Michelin 3-star restaurant in the west coast -The French Laundry.
Last year I had the pleasure to dine at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s other Michelin 3-star restaurant in New York City. This year, the hubs and I went to Napa Valley solely to experience a meal made by the man himself at a location that you were only allowed to book a month in advance! Let me tell you, I can see why they open reservations a month in advance because if they didn’t….you would be waiting forever to get a reservation at The French Laundry.
This restaurant is certainly one of the most difficult places to get a reservation so make sure you try multiple avenues to secure your spot. That being said if you want to make a reservation at The French Laundry, have your phone ready exactly one month before you plan on dinning there and call them immediately when they open. If you don’t get a reservation on your preferred date, get on the wait list in case someone cancels. As a backup, get your hotel to also try to make your reservation for you to help increase your chances.
Oysters and Pearls – ‘Sabayon’ of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
There are numerous restaurants in Napa Valley, but what sets The French Laundry apart is the ingenuity in creating a menu that is sheer nirvana for your taste buds. It’s no wonder Anthony Bourdain called it ‘the best restaurant in the world‘. At a starting price point of $310 per person to experience the chef’s tasting menu or the vegetable tasting menu, be prepared to be wowed by everything on the menu. The menu items change constantly depending on the season and what’s available on his farm…that’s right across the street!
Even though the menu changes daily, some popular classics will always be there like the Oysters and Pearls. I usually prefer my oysters raw and from the west-coast. That being said, this is one dish where I make the exception because Thomas Keller knows how to cut down the brininess of the Island Creek Oyster with a tapioca base and compliment it with Royal Kaluga Caviar. Now I am no caviar connoisseur, but I can tell you I was in love with this sweet yet mildly salty caviar at first taste. I don’t know how else to describe it except that my hubs and I just took our time savoring the flavor and being wowed by this unique combination.
It didn’t stop there since every item that came after the Oysters and Pearls set the tone for the whole meal and we were wowed and longing for just one more bite…one more taste…
Because I was pregnant, the staff was extremely helpful in customizing a menu for me by combining the Chef’s tasting menu and the vegetable tasting menu. The next item I had was a unique mix of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm with Concord Grape ‘Gelee’, garden celery, Virginia peanuts with Belgian endive.
I have never had this interesting combination before and I have to say it was, by far, the most unique and sweetest salad I have ever had. I can’t recall any unique flavors my tongue captured (I wish I took notes at the time!) but I remember being very impressed with the gelatinous texture of the Hawaiian hearts with a mild coconut flavor and how well it worked with the mild acidic flavor of the thinly sliced grape.
Charcoal Grilled Fillet of Wild Scottish Sea Trout – Lobster Mushroom, Garden Squash, Opal Basil and Tomato Vine ‘Cosnomme’
Out of all the dishes we had at The French Laundry, this was the one that intrigued me the most. The above dish is a charcoal grilled fillet of wild Scottish sea trout with lobster mushroom, garden squash and tomato bouillon. So I bet you are asking, what was it about this dish that intrigued me?
The tomato consomme.
It was the first time I have ever had tomato consomme that was not cold or jellied. It was actually hot. Since we visited Napa Valley in September (time frame when Lobster Mushrooms are available), it was the perfect fungus to compliment the sea trout and to mask the seafood odor. I think that’s why Thomas Keller also used the tomato consomme to further mask the seafood odor that could come from the trout. The overall result was genius…but if there was one thing I could change in this dish, it would be to half the portion of the lobster mushroom.
Wild Scottish Langoustine ‘Boudin’ – Compressed Garden Cucumbers, Preserved Meyer Lemon, Crispy Capers and Cauliflower Cream
Slow Roasted Cauliflower – Spiced Tomato Conserva, Crispy Chicpea ‘Panisse’, Cilantro Blossoms and Charred Eggplant ‘Bechamel’
Broccoli ‘Agnolotti’ – Crispy Garden Kale, ‘Parmigiano – Reggiano’ and Tomato English Walnuts
This was one item that was not from the tasting menu and was a lovely surprise. King Crab with frisse. This was another dish I wish I captured in my notebook about how it tasted, but all I have is my saved snapchats with my eyes rolling back in sheer bliss because of how soft, juicy and meaty the king crab was.
The service at The French Laundry was identical to the service we experienced at Per Se – excellent. The staff was incredibly kind to make sure we were seated near a window so I could get the best pictures of our meal. They made sure that the curtains were open at all times to make sure my images had the best lighting and the Captain, at all times, was incredibly sweet, repeating what he served us so that I could capture it on Snapchat and Instagram stories to share with my followers.
Unlike most restaurants, after you receive the bill, you don’t need to whip out the calculator to figure out how much to tip. The cost of the Chef’s Tasting Menu already includes service/gratuity. Another thing we found was that if you drink anything non-alcoholic, it’s complimentary and will not show up as additional charges in your final bill.
After we payed for our final bill, the Captain gave us a tour of the new kitchen, wine cellar, prep rooms, and their current kitchen.
Overall the meal was incredible that I am already longing for another visit to The French Laundry. Everything they served was presented superbly, the combination of ingredients was unique and they utilized fresh and in season ingredients. Another huge surprise was that they were very vigilant in making sure to not repeat any ingredients to guarantee that each dish stood on its own. Perhaps we might make a trip this coming fall if we get lucky again with another reservation. I have eaten at a few Michelin star restaurants and The French Laundry is by far my favorite.