The question everyone debates when The French Laundry is the topic at hand is, is it worth the price? I think really that’s a question only a person willing to find out can honestly answer. I was willing to find out.
On the way there, Blake & I started talking about what food meant for us; something we’ve discussed many times…. typically after experiencing some God awful meal. I recalled the first time in my life I had the epiphany that food could be interesting: when I was 12 or so, my dad made a Baked Apple Chicken dish. Apple & chicken together? Foreign language! Then, while in Japan I had a steak tare tare. I had no idea what it was, as the translation wasn’t all that clear either. Actually, I don’t really even know if that’s what it was. All I remember was thin slices of raw beef that was to be dipped in a sweet cream sauce before consuming- and having it melt in my mouth. A few years later, it was a visit to Julia Child’s Kitchen that did me in.
Having these moments didn’t turn me into a “Foodie” by any means, but it sent a very clear message that food could be mouthwatering AMAZING entertainment. I wish I could cook (cook consistently good anyway) but just as I find fauxtographers to be insulting to Photographers, I would find me claiming to know how to cook to be insulting to …. Thomas Keller.
With that said, I won’t be ‘reviewing’ his meal. Contrary to 1,200 plus Yelpers who felt the need to give their two cents and reduce his work down to a 5 star rating scale on a social website, I will simply say it was very humbling to be present in a beautiful town, a beautiful restaurant and with beautiful food.
One thing is for sure, from our seats it was obvious this restaurant employs a small group of very hard working people. No one is hanging out. No one is slacking. No one has a hang over from the night before. Everyone is on their A Game, knowing the meal origins and wine pairings inside and out. At times I felt like our server should be awarded an honorary degree in Wine knowledge. We felt welcomed and comfortable. This is important to note, because I think some of the intimidation is wondering if you’ll be sniffed out as a millionaire-fraud.
Also important to note is that even though the menu is 9 course prix fixe, there are about 6 or so ‘in between’ dishes, starting with two amuse bouches, fresh baked rolls, ice creams, cookies, etc. etc. I left definitely feeling very full, and with a gift bag of “to go” pastries from them as well.
So, some suggestions to you, if you happen to decide on a visit yourself: First, I would suggest getting a reservation during the Summer months. Our reservation was at 5:30, but it was already pitch black and raining. This only meant we couldn’t enjoy the outdoor landscape and garden where they grow many of their own ingredients.
Second, take a pen and ask for your own copy of the menu to write down tasting notes. Sounds cheesy, sure, but for this experience it might be a good idea to write down the english translation of what you were served along with how it was cooked/presented. I didn’t have a pen, but I did ask for a copy of the menu. After so many servings I started loosing track of where we were at and what I had ordered. In the end, it makes for a great personalized souvenir.
I do have a tip for how to get past the phone games to get reservations, so ask and I’ll let you know. It worked flawlessly for me, but it was a result of trial and error. I spent half the year trying to get reservations before figuring the system out.
In summary, the entire dinner was about 4 hours of perfection. Was it worth it? Yes.