Thomas Keller’s French Laundry has a reputation for being one of the restaurants that put the USA on the culinary map. My first visit there did not disappoint.
Dishes were executed to perfection; the ingredients of the highest quality and allowed to shine. Both a Snake Rivers calotte de boeuf grillée, a cut unique to The French Laundry, as well as a Maine lobster “fricassée” were superb.
Accordingly, I returned for a repeat visit this year with high expectations; however, the meal was hugely disappointing. The ingredients felt ‘overprocessed’ and flavours were confused. For instance, an Alaskan king crab “boudin” was bizarre – you could barely taste the crab and the texture was odd.
Worse of all was, the main meat dish, a herb-roasted Elsian Fields lamb rib-eye was served cold by mistake, an unforgiveable technical error at this level of cooking.
Clearly the kitchen had not lost all its skill – my dining companion, who had chosen the vegetarian tasting menu, substituted one of her dishes for crab and was served a simply cooked, succulent piece of crab, cooked to perfection and which showcased the quality of the flavours of the crab itself.
The atmosphere at The French Laundary is a little stiff but the service was impeccable (on both visits, by Leah). Given the recent meal, I have yet to decide whether or not it is worth the effort required to get another reservation.
The French Laundry
First visit (March 2013)
Quality: 4/5; CP: 3/5, Ease of booking: suggest using concierge (hotel or American Express), private bookings are possible but difficult
Second visit (April 2014)
Quality: 1/5; CP: 1/5, Ease of booking: suggest using concierge (hotel or American Express), private bookings are possible but difficult