The French Laundry
6640 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Dining date: 5/24/15
I’ve been lucky enough to visit The French Laundry a handful of times. It’s always a memorable experience with delicious food, precise execution, and warm service. This most recent visit was thanks to a reservation I was able to obtain when the restaurant’s reservation books opened up following their closure since the holidays. The kitchen has been completely torn down in preparation to build a much larger state-of-the-art version; it’s currently replaced with four temporary shipping container kitchens (they’re much, much nicer than it seems).
A visit to The French Laundry isn’t complete without a stroll through the gardens across the street.
The famous blue door.
As usual, two tasting menus are available – the chef’s tasting and a tasting of vegetables. Both were $295 inclusive of service.
Modicum, “Schramsberg Vineyards,” Extra Brut, Blanc de Blancs, North Coast 2011
We started with a bottle of bubbly.
Two amuse bouches began our meal (and every meal here, I believe). Gougeres were warm, airy and cheesy while the cornet was cool and crisp with well-balanced salmon and creme fraiche.
“OYSTERS AND PEARLS” “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
Another menu staple and one of my favorites, this dish did not disappoint. Creamy sabayon was brightened by bites of caviar; warm oysters added some additional sea flavor to each comforting bite.
BUTTER Animal Farm; Andante Dairy
The next course offered two options, one with a foie gras supplement.
HAWAIIAN HEARTS OF PEACH PALM Garden Carrots, Coconut Puree, Toasted Cashews and Cilantro
ELEVAGES PERIGORD MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS AU TORCHON” Garden Blackberries, Sicilian Pistachios and Celery Branch Salad
Foie gras torchon showed off its minerality and rich flavor as expected, balanced by the celery and pistachio. Warm brioche was an ideal vehicle to eat it all up. Six different salts were fun to play with, but unfortunately they weren’t all described.
“CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE” Fillet of White Sturgeon, Rye Melba and Dill Pickle
Sturgeon was delicious, moist with a subtle smoke flavor. Cabbage and rye provided complementary flavors in this play on corned beef and cabbage.
MONTEREY BAY ABALONE “PICCATA” White Asparagus, Toasted Almonds, Spanish Capers and Brown Butter
A crispy topping was an ideal textural contrast to the tender abalone. A little citrus along with asparagus and capers with a brown butter sauce made for some really great bites.
WHOLE ROASTED LIBERTY FARMS PEKIN DUCK K&J Orchard Cherries, Belgian Endive, Arrowleaf Spinach and “Sauce Hydromel”
Duck was cooked beautifully but slightly chewy. The sauce was flavorful featuring bright cherries.
Modicum, “St. Helena” 2006
ELYSIAN FIELDS FARM SPRING LAMB “PORCHETTA” “Kielbasa,” Sacramento Delta Green Asparagus, English Peas, Garlic Scapes and “Paloise Mousseline”
In this take on a porchetta, lamb and its sausage were rolled and wrapped in pancetta. Everything was cooked nicely, but the meat wasn’t as moist as I expected it to be. It wasn’t exactly dry, but it was far from juicy. Asparagus and peas were good accompaniments but the dish needed a little more moisture.
CHARCOAL GRILLED JAPANESE WAGYU “Ris de Veau,” La Ratte Potatoes, Garden Onions, Watercress and “Sauce Bordelaise”
A supplement featuring Japanese wagyu was also available; my dad opted for this one. Unfortunately it was cooked to a medium-well temperature and had to be redone.
GNOCCHI Black Truffles and Brown Butter
When my dad’s wagyu retake was ready, the restaurant decided to put together an extra course for the rest of us so he didn’t have to eat alone. This gnocchi dish was delicious with perfect gnocchi in a browned butter sauce. Grated truffles provided an extra earthiness that really went well.
The cheese course was next, though a few of us substituted out the cheese course for something else.
CELLARS AT JASPER HILL “HARBISON” Cauliflower “Pain Perdu,” Royal Blenheim Apricots, Toasted Pine Nuts and Wild Arugula
ROMANESCO Banana Curry Puree
Romanesco was roasted and plated with a banana-curry purée. Both sweet and savory, this sauce accented the vegetable pretty well.
The meal progressed with an assortment of desserts.
BAKED LEMON TART WITH BLUEBERRIES
TRES LECHES CAKE Buttermilk Ice Cream, Fig Leaf Jelly
CARAMEL CUP Chocolate and Peanut
“COFFEE” AND DOUGHNUTS
CHOCOLATE COVERED MACADAMIA NUTS
Desserts were pretty strong with a variety of different flavors displayed. My favorite was the tres leches cake with the buttermilk ice cream, as well as the signature coffee and doughnuts featuring warm cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes and a cappuccino semifreddo.
The meal concluded with even more sweets – macarons, a whole tray of chocolates, and tins of shortbread to bring home. True sweets overload.
FENNEL-ROSE AND RASPBERRY MACARONS
Our meal at The French Laundry was a very good one. I don’t think it excelled to the same heights as some past meals though; surprisingly, the reliably flawless execution of past meals wasn’t completely present on this evening. Personally, I didn’t find this menu as compelling as others either, which wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. Still, this was a meal with a very high level of food and service and I look forward to the next trip.