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.
Twist by Pierre Gagnaire
3752 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89158
Dining date: 5/8/15
I first dined at a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant in Tokyo a few years ago and enjoyed it. Gagnaire’s restaurant in Vegas has been open since 2009 (the only one in America), but it took me a full 6 years to visit. Part of it was my parents’ less-than-stellar impression of the restaurant during their first visit, but they were game to give the restaurant a second try.
The restaurant’s located on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It’s a beautiful restaurant providing beautiful views for any table next to a window. The grand tasting menu offers four courses for $135 and five for $155. However, ‘courses’ is used very conservatively; our five course meal could easily have been called twelve with all of the extras. Even more approachable is a four course vegetarian tasting at $70 (five for $85), which presumably also includes a bunch of additional plates. A very reasonable way to try a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant.
624 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 4/16/15
I first dined at Republique soon after it opened at the end of 2013. That meal had its ups-and-downs but was generally a little disappointing. Since then, the restaurant has been one of the most oft-praised and highly acclaimed restaurants in town over the past 18 months. I was due for a return to the restaurant hoping the kitchen and service had worked out any kinks.
The menu’s changed a fair amount since I was last here, though there are a few menu mainstays. On this visit, the focus was on new dishes getting a sampling of appetizers, a couple of main courses and a dessert (we skipped dessert last time).
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019
Dining date: 2/27/15
Le Bernardin is one of the legendary fine dining restaurants in New York City. Originally opened in 1986, the restaurant has stayed at the forefront of NYC dining up through this day. Currently helmed by famed chef Eric Ripert (Executive Chef since 1994), the restaurant has be given a full 4 stars by the New York Times, 3 Michelin stars, and ranks #21 in the World’s Best Restaurants, 2014 list. Few restaurants have received more acclaim than Le Bernardin. I wasn’t sure if/when I’d be able to try the restaurant, but was excited to dine here on this most recent trip to NYC.
A four-course a la carte menu is offered for $140, while the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu offers seven courses for $170 and Chef’s Tasting Menu with eight courses for $205. We opted for the Chef’s Tasting Menu for the ‘full experience,’ although this would be my dad’s second time having it.
8265 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 1/18/15
Terrine opened at the end of last year on popular Beverly Blvd a block away from Jar. The restaurant is described as a “California brasserie;” typical French brasserie items do make an appearance along with a bunch of salads, pizzas, pastas and a wide-ranging variety of dishes.
I’ve enjoyed Kris Morningstar’s food as he’s bounced around the city (Blue Velvet, Casa, Ray’s and Stark Bar) so Terrine was definitely on my list of restaurants to try. We came during one of the Friends & Family preview events, but the overwhelmed kitchen wasn’t able to send much out with consistency. Having given the place a few weeks to gain its bearings, we stopped in for dinner.
3228 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 12/26/14
Nico opened in late 2013 quietly garnering a following as a sort of neighborhood restaurant nestled between Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. SF Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer has been a fan since the restaurant opened; on Christmas Eve, he wrote a review calling it a “destination restaurant” and gave an impressive three-and-a-half stars (out of four). While looking for post-Christmas meals, my dad snagged a last minute reservation here for the family to try.
While Nico is tasting menu-only, it’s priced very reasonably especially for San Francisco standards. $45 buys three courses while $55 buys 5 courses with an optional wine pairing for $45. In a city where it seems fine dining restaurants continue to push the envelope with quickly-increasing prices, it was nice to find something a little more value-conscious here. We opted for the 5-course menu.