Monday, October 5, 2009
Wine Country - First meal, the French Laundry
Unlike the first meal in downtown San Francisco, their first meal in the wine country was much anticipated and the table was reserved 6 weeks in advance. And above all, strict dress code is enforced in the restaurant. If not for the suit jackets they have on loan, dad would have to bring one specially from Hong Kong.
The French Laundry sits at a quiet corner of a residential area along a quiet stretch of Washington Street. I will spare you with all the accolades but you can find it all in the attached link. Due to planning restrictions in the surrounding residential area, the restaurant's sign is inconspicuous and one would probably miss driving by. Despite the manic rush, mum and dad managed to get there on time. The restaurant's decor tried to impart a cozy ambience
but the formal greetings at the door took some of the warmth and ease away from the coziness. The jacket imposed by the dress code didn't help matters for dad.
The French Laundry serves 2 different fixed price menus of US$240 per person (service inclusive), one of them being the vegetarian. The two carnivores never considered turning vegetarian, especially not at this night. One wouldn't expect anything less than perfection in terms of presentation and flavors from each dish and it managed to live up to expectation with some sparkling display of cooking. Even so, the meal was missing the "wow" factor for them. Something that really challenges your taste buds and makes you remember for much longer than just the course of the meal.
Maybe having been to Per Se before took some of the novelty out, as both restaurants share some of the same signature dishes. The canapes, "Cornets" - Salmon tartare with sweet red onion creme fraiche, and the appetizer, "Oysters and Pearls" - Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysers and White Sturgeon Caviar were both delicious and delivered intense flavors in two small packages. But they had the same signature dishes in Per Se just under 2 years ago.
Still it was a superb meal with some of the best beef (Snake River Farms whose cattle are crosses between Japanese Wagyu and US Black Angus) cooked to perfection and fish seared with a delicious crispy skin.
Another highlight of the night was mum continued her streak of encountering foreign bodies in Michelin top rated restaurants. The culprit was a small piece of black fiber. The prize for finding that in her dessert was she got a new one made at once and dad got a different one, since he finished his already and Guillaume, the waiter, didn't want mum to eat alone and dad to eat the same dessert twice!!
The final, final dessert was a doughnut and espresso semi-freddo, which had great presentation, but it was a bit too sweet for their liking. It's an all American dessert after all.