Recently I had the opportunity to go down to San Francisco for a little bit of a foodie trip.
The trip was planned after I successfully obtained a reservation at The French Laundry, I was lucky to secure at 6pm reservation on a Tuesday for a table of four. Now normally you are suppose to call exactly 2 month in advance to the day you want to dine and hope you get through in time, as there is only 1 girl on the other end answering the phone.
I unfortunately did not get my vacation dates confirmed until approx 7 weeks out from my vacation, so when I called my Amex Concierge team to book the reservation, they told me that they will be unlikely to secure a reservation for me.
3 days later, my concierge called me to inform me that he successfully got a 4-person reservation for TFL for July 14th at 6:00pm (I had given him a window of 4 days at any time to work with).
To avoid getting caught in traffic and being late for our reservation, we booked a hotel night at the Westin Verasa in Napa, our friends came from San Francisco, they left at 3pm and got into Yountville at around 5:40 (cutting it a bit close...traffic was horrible)
If it wasn't for GPS I would've driven right past this restaurant, managed to find a prime parking spot (my rental porsche) as I think we were the first dinner service for the evening.
Where fine dining in America began
The signature TFL Clothespin
First of the amuse bouche was 4 cheese balls filled with Gruyere cheese
Followed up by Thomas Keller's signature Salmon Cornets
Everyone at the table went for the famous "Oyster and Pearl" dish featuring "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
All of us agreed that this was one of the most memorable dish.
The other option available was the "Royal Ossetra Caviar" for $75 Supplement which nobody at the table went for.
The next dish was the Summer Melon Salad
I cannot comment on this as I ordered the Duck Foie Gras instead
My "Slow Poached Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras"
My 6 choices of salt for my foie gras, it was served with fresh brioche, a very rich and tasty experience though I wasn't able to really distinguish the difference between all the salts.
Fresh bread was served next from the Bouchon bakery, I did take any photos of the bread but I did get a picture of one of the butter choices (salted and unsalted butter was the two options)
But just look at that presentation...for something a simple as butter
Next is the Sauteed Fillet of Gulf Coast Cobia, very sweet and succulent fish...and look at that food to plate ratio...you know you are at a fancy restaurant when..
Next was the "Sweet butter poached maine lobster", it was absolutely the best lobster I've ever had, perfectly cooked, so sweet and not even the slightest overcooked
One of my friend was not a fan of lobsters, so the chef was able to offer an alaskan king crab dish instead.
Next up was the "Wolfe Ranch White Quail" the quail was very well cooked, meat was tender and packed with flavor while the skin was nice and crispy with no fat.
One of my friends splurged for the "Chicken and Dumplings" Dish served with shave Australian Black Winter Truffles
Our server (1 of 4), Andrew, pouring the Double Chicken "Bouillon" into the bowl
Then came out the truffles, the moment the box was opened, the entire upstairs dining area was filled with the aroma of truffles, the smell in it self was worth the $100 supplement. via Imgflip GIF Maker
As you can see, they are very generous with the truffles
After we had the main meat dish, we had a choice of a nature fed veal or a japanese wagyu ($100 supplement), 2 of my friends ordered the wagyu, while another ordered the veal
Now I however, really wanted to try their lamb (was I am a huge lamb lover), so the chef was able to make me a lamb dish, the lamb was perfectly cooked and was great...
until...my friend offered me a bite of the wagyu
wow...the best wagyu that I had ever tasted ( comparing to Black and Blue, Octopus Garden and a few other establishment) , really wished I had spent the extra $100....
Next was a Andant Dairy "Acapella" essentially a goat cheese mixture on top of a short bread with figs and fennel....this honestly wasnt my favorite as I am not a huge fan of goat cheese.
The first (of many desserts)
All I remember from this was the popcorn ice cream
This dessert had the texture of creme brule
Macarons,chocolate covered macadamia nuts, super fresh doughnut holes and a espresso semi freddo
we were offered our choice of chocolate truffles, we could take as many as we wanted, however we took 2-3 each only as to try to appear "classy" (the asian in me wanted to take the whole box for later)
after dinner we were offered a kitchen tour, now the French Laundry kitchen is currently under renovation and they are working out of a temporary kitchen made from 4 seacans....but the kitchen is spotless, no yelling/screaming (this definitely is not a gordon ramsey kitchen)
one of the original 3-michelin star restaurants in the USA
A live feed of per se
the highlight of the night was meeting thomas keller in person, Chef keller asked us where we were from and how we enjoyed our meal. He asked if we were going to try Meadowood, Benu or Saison (the other 3-michelin star resturants in the area) while we are in town. We shook hands and took a photo, he also signed our copy of the menu which we got to keep.
All of us had to drive, so none of us went for the wine pairing option, but 1 friend and I did split a half bottle of wine (which was $150 for a half bottle...it was the second cheapest on the wine list...usually how I order wines at fancy restaurants lol)
The total meal came just shy of $2000, the gratutity was included but we felt inclined to tip an extra 15%.
the service level was absolutely amazing, it was not pretentious or stuffy (unlike say Canoe in Toronto, or Black and Blue in Vancouver), in fact the whole idea was to making the meal feel like you are dining at someone's house. We dined at the upstairs dining area, which consisted of 2 4-tops, 1 6 top, and 1 2-top tables, and there was total of about 8 or 9 staff looking after the 4 tables upstairs.
Hard to say if the food alone was "worth it", but the overall experience definitely was, $500 per person (can be done for less if you dont got for the substitutions and any wine) is only a little more than good seats at the cirque show in vegas or a broadway show in NY. for a 3 hour culinary "experience", I think its well worth the price.
Eating at TFL and meeting Chef keller is one item off my bucket list. As a frequent visitor of Chicago, the next 3-michelin star restaurant that I want to try is Alinea by chef Grant Achatz, and also Eleven Madison Park by Chef Daniel Humm. However my next foodie trip will bring me to Japan, and I am already working with my concierge to book some michelin resturants to try, however so far I'm not having much success in getting reservations.