Imagine something you’ve been trying so hard to get for years without any success – then it magically falls into your lap. That’s what happened when I finally got reservations at French Laundry. Out of the blue, one of my friends called to tell me there was an opening on OpenTable for 4 people on May 31 at 17:30, so I immediately booked it!
For those that haven’t heard of French Laundry, it’s one of the hardest restaurants to get a reservation at. It’s been awarded three Michelin stars every year since 2006 and the head chef is Thomas Keller. The restaurant is located in Yountville, CA, about 56 miles north of San Francisco.
Since I had 4 open spots, of course the first person I invited was Esther. She and I have been talking about going to French Laundry for years. I excitedly called her and she agreed to drop everything, rearrange her schedule, and drive 6+ hours to be here on May 31st. Score!
When the day finally arrived, we all got dressed up, which was nice, since we don’t get dressed up all that often. It took us about 1.5 hours to drive up to Yountville. We got there early, so we even had some time to take pictures and hang out.
I was finally going to French Laundry!
The hubby all dressed up.
The backyard of French Laundry. They had a couple of tables set up during the summer.
Cute napkin holder. I liked it so much I took it (!) and the rest of the gang followed suit. Haha. We weren’t sure if we were allowed to take it, but thankfully they didn’t ask for it back. It would’ve been quite embarrassing if they did.
So here’s how the menu works: You have a choice of a nine-course Chef’s tasting menu or a nine-course tasting of vegetables, both for $295 / person. We all choose the Chef’s tasting menu.
Our meal started with this tartare and cheese puff. The tartare cone had a nice crunch. Surprisingly, there was creme frachie at the bottom of the cone, kind of like a savory ice cream drumstick with chocolate at the bottom. I didn’t try the cheese puff since I don’t eat cheese, but my husband said it was very tasty.
“Oysters and Pearls” (“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar). The oysters, caviar, and cream went together perfectly. Deliciousness!
Royal Ossetra Caviar (Cauliflower “Bavarois,” Maine Lobster “Gelee,” Horseradish Creme Fraiche and Toasted Broiche) – upgraded course for an additional $75. My husband got this upgrade and I liked it even better than mine. The gel-like consistency at the bottom was refreshing, and the two lobster claws complemented it nicely. This was one of our favorite dishes.
After the first couple of dishes, they served bread baked from Bouchon Bakery and butter made locally.
“Salade Vert” (Young Fennel, Garden Cucumbers, Green Tomatoes, Brokaw Avocado, Castelvetrano Olives and Green Goddess Dressing). All the ingredients from this salad was grown organically in their backyard garden. Very delicate and yummy salad.
“Macaroni and Cheese” (Hand-Cut “Macaroni,” Braised Hobbs’ Bacon, “Parmigiano-Reggiano,” Fava Beans, and Preserved Black Winter Truffle) – upgraded course for an additional $100. My husband got the upgrade for this course as well. They first brought out the mac and cheese and then another server came holding an elaborate wooden box containing a single, whole truffle. Finally, a third server took the truffle out of the box and grated it into the dish. So all the black specks you see in the picture below are fresh truffle shavings. Even though it doesn’t look all that appetizing, it was delicious! I even had a small bite (though I don’t eat cheese) and thought it was quite good.
Slow-Cooked Fillet of Wild King Salmon (Crispy Sacramento Delta Asparagus, Garden Beets, Creamed Arrowleaf Spinach and Ruby Beet Essence). I thought the salmon was cooked well, even though I’m not a big fan of poached salmon and usually prefer it prepared sashimi style or fully cooked. I’m not a big fan of beets either, but the way they made it was unique and tasty! The crunchy asparagus was yummy too!
Georges Bank Sea Scallop “Poelee” (Sweet Corn “Porridge,” Chanterelle Mushrooms, Brooks Cheeries and Watercress Salad). The bacon-wrapped scallop was a bit salty, but it went perfectly with the sweet corn porridge.
Herb-Roasted Four Story Hill Farm Poularde (Garlic Scapes, Cerignola Olives, Opal Basil and Spiced Tomato Conserve). The chicken was cooked perfectly – not dry at all and very tender. It paired nicely with the tomato conserve. But sadly, the guys didn’t appreciate the tomato conserve, thinking it just tasted like salsa.
“Chateaubriand” of Marcho Farms Nature-Fed Veal (English Peas, “Pomme Fondante,” Pickled Ramps and Morel Mushroom “Blanquette”). This was my husband’s dish. He thought it was interesting and very unique. The mashed potatoes and tatter tot were delicious.
Charcoal-Grilled Japanese Wagyu (“Petit Oignon Farci,” Oregon Cepes, Garden Carrots and “Sauce Bordelaise”) – upgraded course for an additional $100. This was my upgrade dish. Perfectly cooked wagyu beef – grade A5. So good!
Andante Diary “Acapella” (Silverado Trail Strawberries, Graham Cracker, Cutting Celery and Pink Peppercorn “Gastrique”). This was the one dish I skipped, since I don’t eat cheese. My husband said it was a very unique dessert, since it’s made of blue cheese. A very interesting combination of savory and sweet.
“Assortment of Desserts” (Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate and “Candies”).
I don’t like cream so I just ate the peach, bread, and gelatin on top. Pretty good.Ice cream with cake. The cake was a bit too sweet for me so I couldn’t finish it.Hazelnut chocolate cake. Pretty good but I also couldn’t finish since it was too sweet. I was so full by the time the doughnuts, macaroons, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, and ice cream toffee came out. I was only able to finish one of the macaroons and one of the doughnuts. They also let me pick a piece of chocolate out of a fancy box, but I wasn’t even able to eat that one. Luckily they had to-go boxes for me to take the rest of the food home.For souvenirs, they gave us the menu and shortbread cookies in a cute tin box. Makes sense that we get to keep the menu since 90-95% of the dishes on the menu change daily.
Overall we had a great experience at French Laundry. I wasn’t blown away by the food but agreed that they did a good job cooking and pairing the food. Everything was perfect.
I was initially wary about people being snobby, since I read about some of that in the reviews, but we were warmly welcomed and had wonderful servers. For example, Esther’s husband is allergic to wine. When we mentioned that to the server, he brought out complimentary chai cola, which I thought was really sweet of him. I would definitely recommend French Laundry if you’re a huge foodie, since this is known as one of the best restaurants in the world. This was the most expensive meal I had (beside my wedding), but I’m glad I got to share this experience with my husband and good friend.
Tips on getting a reservation at French Laundry
- Check OpenTable between 10:00 – 11:00AM. I read that’s when French Laundry updates the system on how many tables are open. Use the time “7:30 PM” since OpenTable will check two hours before and two hours after for open spots, which is perfect for French Laundry since they offer seatings between 5:30 – 9:30 PM. Play with 2-6 people to increase your chances of finding an open reservation. This was the method that worked for me.
- Book a private room (707.944.0456). You’ll need at least 8 people. I told Esther about this option so she and her husband called, left a message and actually got a call back. The only problem was that the dates they had available were all during the work week.
- Use your or your friend’s credit card concierge service. I heard American Express Black or Platinum can get you a reservation.
- If you have a friend that works at Google, ask them to book a reservation through their concierge service.
- Book a nice Napa or Yountville hotel at least 3 months in advance and ask the concierge there to try to get a reservation for you. I’ve heard some of them have some pull.
- Contact Nate (firstname.lastname@example.org) to help you get a reservation. He needs 2 months advance notice and will charge a small fee if he’s successful. I’m not sure how much the fee is, but you can read about his success stories here.
- Try to book during the summer since they have more seatings, which means a higher chance of you getting a table. They set up tables in the backyard to accommodate more people.
- Reservation lines (707.944.2380) open at 10AM PT. Recruit some friends to start calling at 9:59AM PT. I’ve tried this before, without much luck.
Where was your most expensive meal? Was it worth it?