I have, for a very long time, wanted to eat in a Michelin star restaurant. I hadn’t planned on doing it on our trip to San Francisco, but when our friends scored lunch reservations at the world famous French Laundry, I couldn’t say no.
Here is a brief account of our meal:
We arrived about 20 minutes early, giving us a chance to go across the road and have a brief tour of their kitchen garden where most of their veggies are grown for their menus. They had honey bees, chickens (for the eggs I assume) and a huge greenhouse with just about anything you can imagine growing inside.
Once inside the restaurant we were promptly seated and offered an extensive wine list, which came on an iPad. I appreciated the fact that none of the waiters (there were several for each table) were stuffy or snooty at all, but very welcoming and friendly. They didn’t try to sell us the most expensive bottles on the menu, but instead helped us pick out a modestly priced (for French Laundry standards anyway) half bottle of Pinot Noir and a glass of white for Raji who can’t drink reds.
This was a lovely wine that went well with everything we ate.
First up: their famous salmon cornets, inspired by an ice-cream cone. The “cone” was so delicate, and the cream cheese and salmon like nothing else I’ve tasted before.
Next, some cheese puffs.Wow!! A mouthful of heaven.
Next, their signature “oysters and pearls” dish, with a sabayon of pearl tapioca, Island Creek oysters and caviar. I could have eaten about ten of these!
I didn’t take photos of the bread, but there were about four different bread courses. One of the favourite parts of the entire meal was the homemade butter they served with the bread…one salty, and the other sweet. I had forgotten how amazing freshly made butter tastes and I now plan to make my own for times when we are having guests over for dinner. The course shown in the photo is Salad of Hawaiian hearts of peach palm. It came with a soy milk mousse, asian pears, pea shoots and a white seame puree. The textures and flavours reminded me of when I was a kid and I ate those candies that exploded in your mouth (I think they were called pop rocks) only a thousand times better.
This was another of my favourite dishes. It was John Dory fish with a little pastry stuffed with stinging nettles, some sunchokes, black truffle on top of the fish, and a red butter and wine sauce.
Then it was off to Maine for the butter-poached lobster “fricassee”, with fennel, hazelnuts and a sauce called “Maltese Mouseline”. At this point the four of us were saying very little to one another…we were all totally immersed in what was going on in our mouths!
The next course was rabbit sirloin, with bacon, savoy cabbage, Fuji apples and mustard. The most remarkable thing about this dish for me was the cabbage. It looked like one brussel sprout but was indeed a cabbage leaf stuffed with ground rabbit liver. Another of my very favourite elements of this entire meal.
Next up: the veal tenderloin with black trumpet mushrooms, pureed spinach, carrots and a port wine-shallot jus. The veal was my least favourite, not because it wasn’t delicious but because I don’t care to eat veal generally. My favourite part of this dish was the spinach, which was incredibly smooth and creamy.
The cheese dish: a goat’s cheese called “contralto”, apricot marmalade, golden beets and black pistachios from Sicily.
The palate cleanser: jasmine tea ice cream, white grapes they dried themselves, and a honey crisp on top.
The first dessert (there were a few!) was called passion fruit “swiss roll”. It included a chocolate truffle (best truffle I’ve had in my life), a caramel mousse and banana ice cream.
Next they came around with a wooden box filled with home made chocolates (they have two people on staff whose one job is to make these). There were seven different kinds and they told us we could take as many as we wanted. Of course I wanted to try all seven but I thought that would be rude so I settled for two: coconut and salty caramel.
This isn’t a photo I took, but one I found on the internet so you can see the various types of chocolates they make.
“Coffee” and doughnuts. The coffee is actually a coffee-flavoured mousse. I have no idea how they are able to get their doughnuts so light and fluffy.
Sorry this is out of focus. This is the ‘take home’ – a tin box of short bread cookies. I am eating the last one as I write this.
After our meal, the head waiter took us back into the kitchen. They were prepping for the evening service and were very focussed on what they were doing, but Thomas Keller was kind enough to stop his work to say hello and sign our menu, which we brought home with us as a souvenir.
So was it all worth it? Well, the price tag took my breath away, but I was prepared for that. For anyone who has any ounce of reverence for food, it’s a once in a life time experience that I’m sure you would never forget. I know I won’t.
A fitting souvenir given the fact that the restaurant did start out as an actual laundry.