I've been lurking here for almost as long as I have tried to get a reservation at the French Laundry. Now that I have made the pilgrimage, I figure it's about time to write up my first report.
First the reservation, we've been calling on and off for the last couple years, on the rare occasions that we got through, only to be told they were completely booked. When OpenTable started taking reservations, we jumped on it and got through right away. In fact we made an earlier reservation and had to cancel it. My boyfriend said it feels like a crime to cancel a reservation at the FL.
As it came closer to the date, I began to question whether we should go. After reading some negative reports of snobbish attitude, decline in quality, I was feeling nervous. Sometimes a dream is better left untouched. It didn't help either when they called two days before the reservation accusing us of not confirming it. Okay, I went back to check OpenTable and they did tell you to call the restaurant to confirm but who remembers after two months?
We set aside our misgivings and we were not disappointed. The food was amazing and the service was friendly and attentive and not at all snobbish, even when my boyfriend told them our favorite everyday pinot is the ten dollar Echelon.
I had the 9 course chef's tasting menu and made my boyfriend order from the 5 course prix fix menu. They had suggested that we should order the same number of courses but we went against the advice. (Strike two against us but it did not seem to matter.) It turned out to be a good strategy, we got to taste a lot more than we would have otherwise.
A lot of the courses were straight from the FL cookbook, down to the presentation. I am not going to go into each one. (If anyone is interested, email me and I can send you the menu). Not all the combinations worked for me, the "oysters and pearls" had an interesting texture with oysters, tapioca and osetra caviar but the oyster was lost in the mix, maybe it's just not oyster season.
The most memorable were the pea soup, the halibut and the cheese plate. The chilled pea soup had a perfect green color, some generous shavings of black truffle and a dallop of white truffle mousse. Its served with a tasty parmesan chip. It's so fresh and refreshing that my boyfriend said it remained him of eating fresh peas from the field. Somehow the truffles added an earthiness that enhances the sweetness of the peas, they go so well together. The halibut was perfectly cooked, it had a golden crust, yet the flesh remained very tender. It was layered on a bed of spinach and topped with abalone mushroom, every bite of it just screamed halibut.
My boyfriend's cheese plate is our favorite. The menu listed it as "Stilton, Royal Blenheim Apricot Clafoutis and coriander syrup". The stilton is just plain, regular stilton, and the apricot was enclosed in a wrapper that had texture between crepe and pancake. Its weird just to think of them together, but one bite of the stilton and one bite of the apricot, it worked like magic. One has to wonder what kind of sick mind came up with this combination!
If I can only say one thing about the food, it has to be the boldness of the flavors, they really respect each and every ingredient. One can taste each different components on the plate, yet they all come together to create a flavor thats bigger than each of its own (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?). The comment that came up over and over during dinner was that "it tasted like peas", "it tasted like halibut". Our waiter laughed when he heard my comment that my boyfriend's beef tasted like beef and I told him I really meant it in the most respectful manner. We really enjoyed the whole experience, I am tempted to go back for my birthday in couple months but I think I will hold off on it and let the memory linger for a while. Well may be next year.