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02.09.2005

Restaurant Review: The French Laundry, Yountville

How does one approach what is supposed to be the best meal of one's life? Whether or not most people actively contemplate the answer to this question, everyone who visits the French Laundry for the first time has to negotiate the reality of how their own expectations measure up to whatever best describes the reputation of this hallowed institution " mystique, hype, fantasy, legend?

This is, after all, the restaurant that gave Anthony Bourdain the best restaurant meal of his life and was named the best restaurant in the world last year by Britain's Restaurant Magazine.

My own expectations for the first time I ate there were also heightened by an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about chef Thomas Keller's floor manager and girlfriend, Laura Cunningham, and the level of service she has spent several years honing to perfection. I also had read Soul of A Chef, in which Michael Ruhlman (who would go on to author Keller's French Laundry Cookbook) spends some significant time in the kitchen and the restaurant describing how the magic happens.

I think unless you live a couple of blocks away and know the Chef, going to the Laundry is always a special event, and for many people it is THE dining event, perhaps even of a lifetime.

Everyone's experience of The Laundry begins with the reservation process, which is a nightmare and enough to drive anyone who doesn't have the connections to secure an "off the books" reservation totally bonkers. Several years ago, in an attempt to get a reservation for my french.laundry.jpg birthday, both Ruth and I spent nearly 2 hours constantly speed dialing on both our cellphones and our work phones starting exactly at 10:00 AM two months to the day in advance. I never wanted to use a phone again after that ordeal " I had a raging headache and didn't get anywhere close to securing a table. If you've tried before, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, don't bother -- I currently have two reasonably good ways for securing reservations which I share in detail at the end of this review.

After the reservation ordeal has passed into distant memory you will eventually find yourself crunching over the gravel of their parking lot to enter the beautiful garden patio that sits at the back of the brick and hewn-stone building off of a quiet street in Yountville. This garden area, even in winter, is a beautiful space, and the opportunity to dine there, or even relax on their wooden bench, makes for an added bonus to a summer meal. I recommend going for an earlier seating at the restaurant as well, so that should you end up dining upstairs you might end up with a view of the garden as you eat. An earlier seating will also allow you to remain awake throughout the 3 plus hours that a proper meal should take here " if you're like me, starting such a marathon at 9:30 PM is a waste of time, since I'm comatose at around midnight and couldn't appreciate anything put in front of me, even if it is one of chef Keller's incredible desserts.

Before I move on to the food, however, let's talk about the entrance to the restaurant. You are met by smartly suited staff, who convey an extraordinary sense of expectedness " they know who you are, most likely, and have been patiently waiting for your arrival. It's a good feeling. As you pause briefly in the stone tiled and well appointed foyer, which feels vaguely like a cross between the entrance to an exclusive spa and a tiny hotel (welcoming, but not somewhere you want to linger), the coats are taken and you are then led to your table.

Dining takes place in one of four main areas of the restaurant, which has an intimate, residential layout, as if this were someone's home who had, just before you arrived, whisked out all the furniture and replaced it with as many tables for dining as possible without quite feeling cramped. The downstairs main dining room holds perhaps seven or eight tables, and just off of this room there is another, darker room with exposed stone walls next to the kitchen and wine cellar which holds a few more. Upstairs, split down the middle by the staircase are two rooms which each hold several tables and, oddly, the restaurant's washrooms. Most of the rooms are nicely adorned with gorgeous flower arrangements which play off the understated combination of redwood timbers, antique white tongue and groove paneling and window casings, and in places, the exposed stone and brick that must have made up the original building on the site.

The meal begins with a decision on how you would like to dine. The options have changed recently to be either a chef's tasting menu of 9 courses (also available in vegetarian) for $150 or a prix fixe a la carte menu of four courses for $135. Each often also has additional supplemental options involving foie gras or truffles that incur extra costs, from $25 to $80. The a la carte menu used to be less expensive, but I would imagine that most people end up ordering the tasting menu, which is definitely my recommendation, and for the money, by far the better way to go. The restaurant is very flexible to accommodate dining tastes, and is willing for instance, to substitute a seared foie gras dish from the a la care instead of a terrine on the tasting menu if you so desire.

The question of wine must also be addressed at this point in the meal, whether for a wine flight to accompany the meal or ordering a bottle or glasses from the list. I hardly need to spend much time on the wine list, as I would exhaust my limited vocabulary of superlatives. Let's just call it "heavy" and leave it at that. It's pretty easy to blow through a week's salary here on wine, no matter what you make. In addition to wine, the restaurant offers a modest list of sake to choose from. On my recent visit, I was accompanied by several friends who were not going to drink very much (one due to an allergy) and found the combination of ordering a bottle plus some selections by the glass to be a great way of enjoying some variety without breaking the bank. The by-the-glass list is not extensive, but the wines offered are extremely good, including the house label Cabernet, "Modicum," (made at Harlan Estate) which was nothing short of outstanding.

The menu offered on our December 6th visit was a wonderful mix of wintery dishes that built lightly on one another, moving from delicate to very rich flavors and back again with dexterity. We began with Keller's signature amuse bouche: black sesame cornets of Atlantic salmon tartar with red onion crème fraiche " tiny little ice cream cones of goodness that further reinforced the visual pun by melting in the mouth. The tartar was diced so finely and so perfectly that Ruth commented that it briefly had the texture of caviar in the mouth.

One of the things that I love about the French Laundry is the degree to which they are just as excited about the food and wine as many of the diners. A politely curious and engaged diner or wine aficionado will find themselves offered a range of small sips and nibbles throughout the evening. If there is a wine that the staff thinks will pair exceptionally well with a dish you are having, it is not unusual for a small pour of it to appear just before the dish arrives.

Next for us was Keller's famous oysters and pearls, a Nova Scotia oyster and Iranian Osetra caviar with creamy tapioca, which must be experienced to be believed " such an amazing combination of flavors, textures, and aromas that bounce between unexpected and familiar. Such opposition and inventiveness, along with the touch of whimsy is Keller's hallmark, yet unlike some chefs who have become famous for one thing or another, it is not overdone. Our meal had little puns here and there in it, an occasional unexpected pairing, yet these elements were subsumed in what was first and foremost a carefully crafted meal of dishes that were food first.

If there is one thing that the kitchen at the French Laundry does better than any restaurant in California it is the presentation of each dish, most often on a line of dishes designed specifically for the restaurant. The food is always delivered in impeccable artistry, combinations of shapes and colors that are subtle, elegant, and nothing short of amazing. I still marvel at the three colors of Thumbelina carrots which accompanied my seared foie gras and mushroom fricassee, and the gorgeous oval, high-walled bowl that cradled my small sautéed filet of Japanese Suzuki with wilted arrowleaf spinach and caramelized salsify.

Following foie gras with lobster isn't that difficult, especially if the lobster is poached in pure butter, but pairing it with artichokes, cipollini onions and nicoise olives nearly made me fall over in my chair. Dishes like this showcase Keller's own perfect culinary insanity, executed so as to leave me breathless, much as I would imagine one would have felt listening to Mozart play in person.

Lobster was followed by Liberty Valley duck breast, endive fondue, ruby grapefruit wedges, dusted with a powder of candied citrus zest and a hint of fennel. The duck was fantastic, but my notes from the evening are consumed with the dish that followed, which despite its simplicity may well be the best single dish that I have ever had in a restaurant:

"Snake River Farms 'calotte de boeuf grille,' Yukon Gold 'pomme puree,' broccolini, crispy bone marrow and sauce 'perigourdine'"

Let me reduce all that French and fancy description to something simpler. Take a nice 3 ounce piece of finest free range beef, grill it incredibly hot for several seconds on each side to a perfect medium rare and place it in a deep black pool of sauce which is basically a black truffle reduction. On top of the meat, quickly place a small dollop of bone marrow (which you have scooped out of the bone and frozen in a mold, then coated in flour and flash fried in clarified butter), then add some potatoes and broccolini for starch and color. The Japanese have a word, "utskushi," for the ultimate in visual beauty which loosely translates as "sublime" but it is such a powerful word that you would never consider using it to, say, describe even the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. If it could be used to describe food, which I'm sure it could not, I would happily apply it here. The beef and truffle combination was so pure and powerful in its musky aromatic glory, and the light crunchiness of the buttery bone marrow on top added an airy, yet rich high note that simply carried on forever, like a wine with a finish that goes on and on.

Keller once reported to Michael Ruhlman that "his favorite aroma, perhaps his favorite thing to do as a cook, was to brown floured meat," revealing perhaps a bit of the culinary sensibility behind this dish, which at its base was simply grilled steak and mashed potatoes, but on another plane entirely by the time it was finished.

Our meal finished with a sequence of desserts, moving from a poached pear tart and cinnamon sauce (gastrique) with micro "mache" greens; a coconut sorbet with almond streusel, Persian lime jelly and toasted coconut and buttercream touille; and the coup de grace: a Valrhona chocolate cream devil's food cake with chocolate chip ice cream and espresso anglaise; Tahitian vanilla bean crème brullee; caramel infused panna cotta; I probably could have finished at least 2 each of the chocolate cake, and the panna cotta, but was left to stuff myself on the little chocolates, jellies, and cookies which accompanied our teas and the denouement of the meal.

The fact that I was primed for more eating is no small indication of how masterful this meal really is. I've eaten a lot of 9+ course tasting menus in my life, and at the end of all of them I am usually loosening my belt a little and feel a little overstuffed. The amount of food provided at the Laundry is perfect, and what's more, the pacing of the entire meal is impeccable. Dinner unfolds, if you'll forgive the musical metaphor, much like Norah Jones' first album, on the first time you listened to it. Time slips languorously by, soothed and smoothed, and each course, like the brevity of Norah's songs, leaves you satisfied but hungering for more.

This magical quality is really what elevates the already outstanding food to a level that can begin to meet the expectations that many people have for this restaurant. Some of the dishes do not stand head and shoulders above others that I have eaten yet the meal was closer to "perfect" than most others I have had. Has the restaurant played host to the best meal of MY life? Probably not, but I'd say it was up there in the top 5 restaurant meals I've ever had, no question about it (though getting me to enumerate the other four would be tough).

At the end of the day, I think some people will find the restaurant over-hyped. How could they not with the buildup that it gets from everyone under the sun? I myself was dismayed to find the service less than perfect (my bottle of Sauvignon Blanc was delivered a bit warm, and at times our waiter was not as polished as he could have been, bumbling over some of the menu items distractedly). The wine gaff is inexcusable, but I wouldn't have given the waiter's stumbling another thought in any other restaurant. But this is The French Laundry, and even I expect it to be inhuman in its precision. I think it's good for us all that it really isn't.

There are some meals that I've paid more than $300 per person for and have had a slight tinge of regret signing the credit card slip. That, I firmly believe, will never be the case here. I'm not sure it's the best restaurant in the world, but its definitely the best restaurant in Northern California, and after all these years, still worth the time and the effort to get to. Everyone should go, at least once.

How Much?: Expect to spend roughly $300 per person assuming you buy a couple bottles of reasonably priced wine. If you're dipping into the dusty bottles then all bets are off. An 18% gratuity is automatically added to each check (which, as a nice touch, comes on a laundry ticket).

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599 (map)
707.944.2380

Men are requested to wear jackets. No jeans, shorts, or t-shirts. Parking is easy.

HOW TO GET RESERVATIONS:
As you know, the restaurant takes reservations two months, to the day, in advance, via a telephone samurai battle that makes a Kurosawa movie look peaceful. I suggest refraining from the melee in one of the following ways, listed in order of their ease:

#1. Call around 2 PM and ask very nicely and politely if they have any cancellations between now and, well... forever for a party of . Valerie, who usually answers the phone, will most likely be able to give you at least one date and time. Take it and rejoice. If you're from out of town, plan your trip around it. If you're in the Bay Area, then take what you can get. I have gotten several reservations this way and it is by far the easiest way to eat there. I believe that reservations for four are the easiest to come by, but that is just a hunch.

#2. Use OpenTable.Com. Here are a set of detailed instructions on how to snag the table that pops up every midnight.

#3. Use a concierge service (American Express Black, anyone?) or the concierge of a very high-end hotel in wine country (The Fairmont, Harvest Inn, Meadowood, etc.).

Good luck.

Comments (31)

Anonymous wrote:
02.09.05 at 8:11 PM

i think you said it best: "Some of the dishes do not stand head and shoulders above others that I have eaten yet the meal was closer to "perfect" than most others I have had" - the sum is greater than its parts. the mystique, the setting, and the food create an intimate experience unparalleled in most restaurants.

if you live in Norcal, there's no excuse not to go once.

best meal of my life? that would be Jean Georges in NYC.

best meal in bay area? i think i have to go w/ Chez Panisse.

but, despite my tendency to knock my French Laundry meal, i do find myself wishing to repeat it again.

Pim wrote:
02.09.05 at 11:13 PM

Great review Alder. When were you there? I was there just last Tuesday myself, lovely meal, with too much food and too much wine, as usual.

How you got out of there at only $300 is what I want to know.

Alder wrote:
02.10.05 at 7:54 AM

Thanks Pim. We were there in early December (two days after we ate together at Manresa). We got out for $300 per person ($1158 for four people to be exact) because we only ordered one bottle of wine, three servings of sake, and a few glasses here and there (maybe 3 total)

Alder

Lenn wrote:
02.10.05 at 7:55 AM

I'm sitting here in my little cube absolutely drooling and envious.

One of the best reviews I've ever read...and my desire to visit Per Se, while previously through the the roof, has reached new heights. I've heard that the "experience" is quite different from the Laundry...but that the food and service are on par.

Thanks for the review, Alder.

Noah wrote:
02.10.05 at 8:02 AM

Great review. So what did you end up drinking?

Noah

Molly wrote:
02.10.05 at 11:26 AM

Two words: March 16

I am so excited to go, thanks for the great review so I can build up even more anticipation!

If we got out for $300 a person, I would praise Jeeebus.

Jerry Jeff wrote:
02.10.05 at 3:58 PM

Nice review - but you lost me when you compared the best dining experience in the country to a Norah Jones record. Then again last time I was at Manresa all I could think of was Dido's classic debut album.

Alder wrote:
02.10.05 at 9:13 PM

Yeah, a musical metaphor is always difficult, I realized I probably would alienate some people, even despite the universal acclaim and pile o grammys for the first album. What I was trying to convey was the tempo and sensuousness of the meal: langourous but no too slow, with a definite rhythm; and I was also trying to compare the brevity of Norah's songs (some of them two minutes long) and how they are complete "dishes" if you will, that are not too filling, but very satisfying.

Hope that helps !

Alder wrote:
02.10.05 at 9:27 PM

Quick overview of what we drank:

2002 Vacheron Sancerre - 8.5/9
2003 Txomin Etxaniz Handerabin - 8.5
2002 Saint Conte Condrieu - 9/9.5
NV ginza Shizuku "Divine Droplets" Sake, Daiginjo - 9.5
1998 Rocche Dei Manzone "Bricco Manzone", Langhe, Italy - 9.5/10
2000 The French Laundry "Modicum" Cabernet, Sloan Vineyard, Napa - 9.5

And a little taste of Banyuls for dessert.

The Sancerre and the sake was bought by the bottle, all the others were either glasses purchased or complimentary tastes we got from the staff.

Barbara wrote:
02.11.05 at 1:37 AM

The French Laundry has always been on my list of restaurants to visit someday. After your review Alder I'll be making a concentrated effort to get there. Sounds fabulous.

Patrick Barnette wrote:
02.11.05 at 10:19 AM

Another suggestion for getting reservations:

The French Laundry takes walk-up reservations right before they open the phone lines (9:50, maybe). There is at least one company that will send someone to get the reservation for you - for a fee, of course. Unfortunately, I've forgotten the name, but used the service and received the time and date I wanted, with no problem. Try searching Google or Yahoo.

My one suggestion, for those on vacation, is to eat there the last night. My wife and I ate their toward the beginning of a West Coast swing and we couldn't help but be disappointed at every restaurant that came after. We ate at some places that we would normally love, but the shoes were just to big to fill...

Alder wrote:
02.11.05 at 9:44 PM

Patrick,

Thanks for the suggestion which is definitely a viable one. I know several people who have gotten reservations that way, too.

Orion wrote:
02.14.05 at 2:31 PM

Excellent review. I've added you to my list of links to French Laundry Reviews, which can be found here:

http://www.confabulist.com/confabulist/2002/08/whetting_your_a.html

-- Orion

David wrote:
04.04.05 at 2:13 PM

We visited Napa and the French Laundry for the first time last week. With less than a weeks notice the concierge at the Villagio in Yountville was able to get us in on Easter at 6:00 pm. The dining experience was spectacular. We managed to get out for less than $600 because we only enjoyed 1 bottle of wine (Pine Ridge Merlot).

Kevin Campbell wrote:
04.06.05 at 8:15 AM

We ate there last Saturday, April 2nd. Reservation was secured using a concierge service, for 5:30pm, two months in advance..

It was a totally remarkable experience. The attention to detail with every course is astonishing, the labor involved incredible. Perfect brunoise of roast potatoes arranged in a mosaic wave beneath a piece of fish, or the improbable flavor of yoghurt in a croustillant.

For me it certainly lived up to the hype. The Dinner and Tasting menus are both now $175, plus the obligatory $25 if like me you can never refuse foie gras. Including service our dinner for two was $971, and I will happily pay that again. Hopefully again for my birthday next year!

I found that half bottles worked well for the fish and meat courses, since there were two of each on the tasting menus. Otherwise I went with by the glass pours, including an outstanding '86 Sauternes.

Service was not perfect, but to err is human. One of the servers began describing my wifes dish whilst addressing me, and they had a little trouble remembering which of us wanted still and which sparkling water.

At the very end as the Mignardises were delivered I commented to our server "These will be the wafer thin mints then?", to which he quietly replied "Yes, I'll get Sirs bucket". You get brownie points in my book when you recognize film references, and have the confidence to join in the customers sense of humor!

Alder wrote:
04.06.05 at 8:24 AM

Kevin,

Thanks for the comment. That little Monty Python moment made me smile. Little details like that can really make an experience.

Steve-o wrote:
04.06.05 at 9:33 AM

I'd toss in a few bonus points to this waiter, given that the Python reference isn't really the most flattering end-of-meal moments...

derek wrote:
04.28.05 at 7:42 AM

I'm just curious on why you say Modicum is made by Harlan Estates? On the back of the label it says produced by Vita Morrell Vineyards. Did Paul tell you this little tid bit?

QUOTE:
"The by-the-glass list is not extensive, but the wines offered are extremely good, including the house label Cabernet, "Modicum," (made at Harlan Estate) which was nothing short of outstanding."

Alder wrote:
04.28.05 at 8:04 AM

Regarding Modicum being made at Harlan, that's what the server told me. Or maybe he said that the grapes come from Harlan? I could be wrong about this, but that's what I have jotted down in my notebook with the rest of the notes from the dinner. Do you have information to the contrary?

Derek wrote:
04.28.05 at 9:02 AM

I haven't heard any info to the contrary, I was just curious on who told you. I tried finding ANY info on Modicum and "Vita Morrell" and there's just nothing out there. Just seems kind of weird to me that so many wine connoisseurs eat at the FL, have had this wine, yet there's no information out there about it other then "it was spectacular". I read on eGullet that it was "shortly to become available outside California". Do you know if there's any truth to this?

Alder wrote:
04.28.05 at 9:20 AM

Yeah, surprising that there isn't more information about it out there. Have you tried calling the restaurant? Let me know if you find out anything and I'll post it.

Jean-Louis wrote:
06.03.05 at 3:54 PM

THE FRENCH LAUNDRY HAS NO CLOTHES:
I just visited the French Laundry again at the onset of the big Napa weekend,for the first time since it became famous and overhyped about five years ago. Two motivations: your review plus Pim's comments, and my eager girlfriend's prodding (we have been everywhere but there...). The reservation bit went smoothly, using the Internet, as you suggested (several earlier attempts on the phone went nowhere). We had a reservation at 9 PM, and showed up on time. No one was at the entrance to welcome us and we cooled our heels for some time until Madame Keller herself came out and told us to wait some more as our table was not ready. No offer of an aperitif in the empty bar area was tendered. Immediately after that, the (presumed) hostess appeared and indeed our table was ready. We were seated immediately, then left to look at our napkins for another ten minutes. I finally asked one of the meandering waiters if the restaurant had menus and a surly and dour personage plodded into view with two such things, handed to us unopened. The menu prices have been upped substantially since your latest visit, to $175 before supplements, and before a mandatory 19% surcharge for service (or what passes for it, read on). After some time another waiter approached and proceeded to read the menus to us dish by dish. He then suggested some champagne and we took him up on that offer, ordering our first round, that included a Blanc de Blanc from Schramsberg, that winery's old war horse (they do much better now though). Wine pairing ensued after we decided to pick the chef's menu. We picked a series of 375 ml bottles, starting with a Krug NV to go with the signature appetizer of sevruga cum oyster and tapioca, and preceding an Alsacian Gewurtzaminer (against the foie gras/white asparagus dishes), a Viognier (to accompany the fish dish), and a Chambolle Musigny (to go with the rabbit and lamb meat courses, and maybe the cheese course). We left the choice of dessert wine open. Immediately after that, another waiter materialized and we had to go through the same choices again as apparently one did not communicate with the other... Frankly, I thought the presentation of the dishes stood out but the flavor was AWOL from most dishes and the meat dishes were especially lacking in guts; the rabbit course was entirely forgetable. The white asparagus course was especially lacking ins asparagus etc. I will praise the tapioca/caviar appetizer which has received fab reviews elsewhere, but that is about that. Service was generally well timed and the wines were opened on schedule and properly presented and stored. Desserts were completely lacking in the WOW department (and no dessert wine was offered on time.) Not that they were bad but with a basic tab at $175 per person plus service etc. (we slightly topped $1,000 for the experience), they were less than expected. Mignardises were OK, sans plus.There is a definite feeling of painting by the numbers in the service area, with robotic offering and clearing of plates and a slightly superior attitude towards the customer that the PR hype may reinforce but that the food does not justify.
Bottom line: I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the FL does not come close to justifying the expense and aggravation to get a reservation. I have been brought up and have lived through many decades of (Michelin)three stars dining. That is not it. You can get twice the bang for the money in any three star in France, plus the competent service, cheerful welcome, and respectful thanks from the chef during dinner or upon exit. The FL has no clothes.

Alder wrote:
06.03.05 at 7:11 PM

Jean-Louis,

Thanks for your detailed comments and for another perspective on the restaurant. Taking your review at face value, it seems you've got the right to complain. I would have been upset at that sort of service as well. As for your reactions to the food, well who knows. Maybe it was an off night, or maybe you just don’t care for Keller's cooking, either way, you have the right to criticize. I have heard that the prices just keep going up, though for the food I still think they're within reason, it's the wines that really drive up the tab.

In any case, thanks again for taking the time to comment. Perhaps you can offer other recommendations here in California or abroad...

James wrote:
02.04.06 at 9:28 PM

Had dinner last Wednesday night the 1st of Feb., 2006. Used Open Table to find an open time and booked it. Arrived on time, had to wait a few minutes for our table, as did the others for the 5:30 seating. Menu was up to $210 for the 9 course tasting (more like 14), advertised at $175. The tab for our party of 4 including the waiter’s choice for wine pairings was over $1400. We sent a glass of wine back to the chef and they poured a glass of port on the house for each of us. The dishes served were hit and miss. I kept expecting a little something extra on the plate that would make me say, “yeah, that’s the ticket”, but that didn’t happen too many times. Could I have flown to Paris and had an equal meal? Yes, but why do that when it's only an hour drive to Yountville from my house. I'd love to go back...when I hit the lottery or someone else is buying. If you love your wife/significant other then you'll make the necessary sacrifices. My only regret was not sampling the pre embargo Cuban cigars at the back of the wine menu, but alas it was cold and drizzling and the garden wasn't that inviting in the damp darkness. Nonetheless, we’ll be talking about and comparing the experience for the rest of our days, and when we go, we’ll go fat and happy!! Bon appetite.

Alder wrote:
02.05.06 at 4:10 PM

James,

Thanks for the note. Wow. Prices have really gone up!

hank wrote:
05.05.06 at 7:31 AM

Juat ate there last night for our 5th anniversary. My wife and i took a novel approach to the wine thing, in that we had already been tasting alll day (we are in Napa). We asked to share glasses so the portions were about like you would have in a paired tasing menu. They didn't seem to mind. Schramsburg for both through the 2 amuses (including a tiny but tasty salmon/creme fraiche ice cream cone) and the signature oysters, shared Tokaj (Hungary) with fois gras, shared Vare (Napa white)for the fish dishes, and Modicum for the meat dishes. They didn't seem to mind, and i, and more importantly my wife, didn't leave feeling polluted. We had a great time, and the staff (Shannon) was excellent. No real criticism, except they might have cooked the lobster 10 seconds less. Great flavors, textures and presentations all around. Tip your wait staff. Cheers.

zvonko wrote:
08.07.06 at 12:55 PM

Modicum is made by Sloan Estate as a second label only for The French Laundry !

Best Regards
Zvonko

Robbie wrote:
12.02.06 at 1:39 AM

I just dined there and have to admit. That the change in the front of the house is for the worst! First and foremost, Laura is gone and the gentleman that is holding the GM title is less then charming. His name is Nicolas Fanucci. I would say his professional demeanor is atrotious at best. We then move into the staff. It seems as if the commoradire is completley absent which is ashame. You can feel a tension that provides for a uncomfortable dining experiance. Our sommelierwas a french man by the name of Gregory, he seemed to be his biggest champion and loved to talk about himself. With no humility to his repoire I found myself frustrated as he approached our table. What happen to the days when the the staff were happy etnthusiastic and highlighted the experiance that this place was know for?

snekse wrote:
09.24.07 at 9:06 AM

We have some updated news! You can now officially buy Modicum from The French Laundry!
Order Modicum Wine from The French Laundry

aanraku wrote:
09.21.08 at 3:52 PM

We dined with a party of ten in Sept. 2006 and 2007. At our 2007 seating they forgot the promised birthday cake and 5 of the 9 dishes were the same as the previous year. When we emailed and asked them to vary the menu, Thomas Keller called us personally and said, "If you don't like what I serve, don't come." We cancelled and will now dine at Gary Danko's in S.F., a much better restaurant. French Laundry is SO not worth what they charge you.

Anonymous wrote:
12.10.11 at 3:59 PM

Fabulous review- easily one of the most accomplished ones i've ever read on a "non-newspaper" website. hearty congrats on the hard work,delightful sense of humour and care taken in crafting this article. thanks also for the detailed tips on how to take a reservation detour!

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Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.