At The French Laundry restaurant Chef Thomas Keller has created a world where every detail has been orchestrated for one purpose: your dining pleasure. The setting is a rustic two-story stone house is surrounded by a country garden with vintage roses and seasonal herbs. A friendly hostess guided us through a wooden blue door entrance to a sunlit dining room. Our server welcomed us with a glass of champagne, and thus began a dining experience to remember.
Our meal is a series of small servings of the most delectable food that looked like small works of art. Gazing at each exquisite creation on my plate, I wondered how many persons in the kitchen were involved in putting together all the components. The famous Oysters and Pearls dish, made of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar, had a touch of sweetness from the silky oysters and a salty sea burst from the finest caviar. The utensil was an adorable doll-size spoon made from mother of pearl. Another classic Keller creation, sweet butter-poached main lobster tail with figs and beets, was flavorful and decadently delicious. For truffles aficionados like me, the most exciting moment was seeing a server walk to our table holding an elegant mohagony box containing a one-pound piece of truffle. The aroma alone can make one dizzy with pleasure upon seeing the server shaving slices of truffles onto the hand-cut tagliatelle. It was one of my favorite entrees for its simplicity and depth of flavor. The meal spanned three hours, with a dozen courses served at a leisurely pace by waiters who seemed to float gracefully among the tables. The staff was attentive, unpretentious and helpful in every way.
The French Laundry features two menus for both lunch and dinner: a 9-course Vegetarian Tasting Menu and the Chef’s Tasting Menu (each are $325, service charge included). We toured the kitchen, where I noticed the five shining gold stars over the hood of the stove, signifying the highest Mobil rating. Everything in the newly renovated $10 million state-of-the-art kitchen was spotless, polished and perfectly organized. A large television screen on one wall shows a live feed of its sister restaurant, Per Se, in New York. To emphasize the menu’s connection to the land around it, Chef Keller serves many of the vegetables grown on a three-acre garden across the street. The lush garden is managed by Aaron Keefer, the culinary gardener for the French Laundry. We walked to the unfenced plot that provides about 300 items, including specialty vegetables such as oyster leaf, kohlrabi and ice lettuce. The affable Keefer plucked some white strawberries and gave us a tasty sample of what will be on the menu.
The sublime dishes using only the freshest harvests and unique ingredients make the French Laundry a spetacular meal. From the impeccable service, elegant ambiance to the extradordinary daily menu– the French Laundry is a dining adventure that you need to try once in your life.