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.
Peter Luger Steak House
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Dining date: 3/2/15
Peter Luger is perhaps the most famous steakhouse in the nation (and the world?), known for consistently serving top-notch steaks since 1887. Every single time I see a list of top steakhouses in the nation, Peter Luger seems to be at or near the top. I’ve always wondered if the restaurant was overrated, maybe finding its way to the top of lists due to a nostalgia factor. There is no doubt Luger’s been a pioneer in the field since opening, but surely restaurants have improved on the concept since 1887…right? Given my penchant for meat and potatoes, Luger’s been a must-try on my list and I was excited to finally try it. The restaurant currently holds one Michelin star.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
Dining date: 2/28/15
Eleven Madison Park was one of my most anticipated meals in a long time. Since chef Daniel Humm and manager Will Guidara took over the place in 2006, the restaurant has skyrocketed to be regarded as one of the best in the world. Consistently earning three Michelin stars, it was rated the 4th best restaurant in the world in the well-known S. Pellegrino list. Needless to say, expectations were sky-high; so high that I had considerable doubt the restaurant (or any, for that matter) would be able to meet them.
My dad had dined here just over a year ago but this would be the first visit for the rest of the party (though a couple of us have had Humm’s food when he was chef of Campton Place in San Francisco). Over the years, the restaurant has changed the layout of the menu multiple times; currently, it’s a multi-course menu with a fixed price tag of $225. The only choices were whether the foie gras be in terrine form or pan-seared and if the party wanted a duck or pork course.
4 rue Beethoven
75016 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14
After lunch at l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, our last meal in Paris was dinner here at l’Astrance. A Michelin three star and currently #38 on the world’s best restaurant list, it was our toughest reservation too as the popular restaurant has 25 tables and is open only four days a week. Luckily, we scored a table through our hotel concierge.
Pascal Barbot trained under Alain Passard at l’Arpege and brings many of the same principles, using high quality seasonal ingredients and simple preparations to allow the ingredients to shine. Barbot does incorporate more meat into his dishes, though. Having spent a bit of time cooking in Asia, there are hints of Asian techniques and flavors throughout. There is no menu; the restaurant creates a surprise tasting each night (€210).
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
5 rue de Montalembert
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/28/14
This Paris Saint-Germain location was the first of Joel Robuchon’s l’Atelier concepts, which is now a worldwide chain. Holding two Michelin stars and ranked #31 in the latest world’s best restaurant list (and as high as #12 in 2012), it’s oft-regarded as the best of Robuchon’s l’Atelier restaurants.
In my first trip to Europe seven years ago, this restaurant was easily the best (and by far most expensive) meal I had. It’s still one of the more memorable dining experiences I’ve had and I wanted to return once more to see if the restaurant was as good as I remembered. There are no lunch specials at this location, just a la carte and a €179 discovery tasting menu. A la carte starters and mains price in the €40-€80 range each so I figured the 10-course tasting menu was the way to go.
84 rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France
Dining date: 10/27/14
L’Arpege has been high on my list of restaurants to try for some time. When I first traveled to Paris seven years ago, I remember walking around the corner from the Rodin Museum just to see the restaurant from the outside. Having just graduated from college, I sorely lacked the funds to consider dining here and wondered if I ever would. On this next trip, this was my most anticipated meal in Paris.
L’Arpege has been around for almost 30 years and has become one of the most notable dining establishments in the city. Cheffed by Alain Passard, it’s a Michelin three star (and has been since 1996) and is currently ranked the #25 best restaurant in the world (the highest ranked Parisian establishment). Passard is known for being a visionary and pioneer particularly as it relates to vegetables. The restaurant maintains its own organic gardens to supply its produce and even removed meat from its menu for a period of time. Today, meat is back on the menu but the focus is still clearly on vegetables at l’Arpege.
As with many Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, it can get expensive. Very expensive. The restaurant’s current tasting menu runs at €370 with a vegetable tasting at €290. However, lunchtime brings one more option – a €140 lunch tasting. A relative bargain, we came for lunch and opted for this choice.