Thursday, April 05, 2007

French Laundry play-by-play

Since I had the reservation, and I managed to find other people who were willing to spend the money, I ended up going to French Laundry after all.

In order to make sure that I would be able to consume the full nine courses, I ate a suitably large but light dinner the night before (theory: stretch the stomach) and then subsisted on cereal and yogurt on the day of the meal (theory: only eat quickly digestible foods). By 7:30pm, I was suitably hungry, but not starving, which was exactly what I wanted.

The front of the restaurant is pretty understated. In fact, we missed it entirely the first time we drove by, and had to U-turn back.

There is a cute little courtyard with a garden outside the door, and as soon as we arrived, we were promptly seated, even though we were fifteen minutes early.

Disclaimer: I usually take photos of food with flash, but we were seated in a very cozy back room with only two other tables, and I felt a little bad disturbing the other patrons, so I went without flash, which is why these photos are a little dim.

We started with Gruyère Cheese Gougères, which are like super-light cheese puffs.

Next, we were treated to tiny cones of salmon tartar. This was one of my four favorite dishes during the meal. (By the way, the much longer, official name for these? Black Sesame Cornets of Atlantic Salmon Tartar with Red Onion Crème Fraiche.)

After those few scrumptious bites, we started on the official menu, with the famous Oysters and Pearls. The pearls referred to both the warm tapioca inside the pudding, as well as the caviar. I really enjoyed how the textures of the two types of "pearls" were so similar but the tastes were completely different. This was another of my four favorites.

Next up, a mushroom salad. I wasn't that impressed by this one. Maybe I just don't like Honshimeiji mushrooms? I've never had them before.

I don't know what a Salade Nicoise normally looks like, but this particular salad was gorgeous to look at and delicious to eat. I normally hate artichoke, but I ate the artichokes in this dish. This was the third of my four favorites.

At this point the waiter started to serve bread. Over the next three courses, I managed to taste six different types of bread, but I've forgotten what kinds they all were. One was a mini-baguette, and one was an Italian bread that was particularly good.

I love both crab and lobster, and they taste especially good to me if they're prepared so I don't have to extract them from the shell myself. Here's the last of my four favorite dishes; three small bites of lobster dressed with potato and asparagus. I wasn't able to bring myself to eat the asparagus, though.

The meat courses were a fatty pork dish which had an almost Chinese flavor, and a lamb rib-eye. Both were good but not among my favorites.

The dessert courses began with a cheese dish. Interestingly, the cheese was presented together with the accompaniments (leeks and onions), rather than as on a traditional cheese board. I wasn't especially blown away by the cheeses themselves, though.

Next was the palate cleanser, a raspberry sherbet. I particularly liked the dish on which the sherbet was served.

There were two desserts. I had the white chocolate mousse, which had a hint of green tea flavor, and came with an intensely tart passion fruit jelly. I love sour foods, so I liked the jelly even more than the mousse, but I think it was a little too sour for some people. The other was baked Alaska; I tried a small bite, and decided I liked my own dessert better.

We were then treated to one of two additional desserts not on the menu. I had the Tahitian vanilla crème brulee, and also sampled a spoonful of the Meyer lemon pot de creme.

The menu mentioned "mignardises" but I wasn't sure whether to expect anything more, so when the waiter showed up with chocolate caramel macadamia nuts, I had three of them, to go with my coffee.

This was somewhat unfortunate, because he then came back with some orange-y, tuile-like crisps and a tray full of chocolates. Since I had just had three macadamia nuts, I limited myself to only six chocolates.

Here's a photo of the complete official menu, although it doesn't have any of the amuses or post dessert treats on it.

Apparently the waiter was impressed we were able to eat everything. I did notice the two tables behind us packing away most of their desserts, but I thought that was because they were both parties of older customers.

Anyway, I went home with a copy of said menu, the rest of the macadamia nuts, and an additional parting gift; a package of four small shortbread biscuits that I ended up eating for breakfast for the next two days. Yum.

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