photo credit: David Escalante
The French Laundry
It’s rare for restaurants that have been talked about as “best in the city/state/country” to live up to the hype in just one meal, let alone sustain it over long periods of time, but The French Laundry does exactly that. Landing a reservation is a lot like trying to score 50-yard-line tickets at the Super Bowl—it demands persistence, a lot of luck, and there’s absolutely a black market. Tables are released at the start of the month for the month after (so you’ll be booking your September table on August 1st), and you’ll need to call or go online (or, really, be trying both) at exactly 10am PT, and even then it’s a long shot. To get the other question you probably have out of the way: a meal here is going to cost at least $350 per person (wine not included), so this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime-kinda thing. But once you get past that and embrace it, you won’t be disappointed.
Once you actually make it to a table, you’ll have a choice of a chef’s or vegetarian tasting menu, with 12 or so daily changing courses. Things usually start with “Oysters & Pearls, ” a sabayon of pearl tapioca, oysters, and caviar that’s among the finest bites of food any human can consume. From there you might be served lobster galette or black winter truffle fondue, progressing from excellent dish to even more excellent dish. Service is impeccable, the wine list is (unsurprisingly) elite, and it all makes for an experience that every restaurant-obsessed human should try to have at least once in their life. If there’s any flaw at The French Laundry, it’s that, while it takes full advantage of all the amazing local ingredients Napa Valley has to offer, once inside the restaurant, you could be anywhere in the world. It doesn’t necessarily *feel* like you’re in Wine Country, but what we’ve realized over the years is that’s actually OK. The food is the star here, not the view.
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