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Napa and Sonoma Restaurants

French Laundry

Updated 05/01/2014

Fodor's Review

An old stone building laced with ivy houses the most acclaimed restaurant in the Napa Valley—and, indeed, one of the most highly regarded in the country. The two nine-course prix-fixe menus (both $270), one of which highlights vegetables, vary, but "oysters and pearls," a silky dish of pearl tapioca with oysters and white sturgeon caviar, is a signature starter. Some courses rely on luxe ingredients like calotte (cap of the rib eye), while others take humble foods

such as fava beans and elevate them to art. Many courses also offer the option of "supplements"—sea urchin, for instance, or black truffles. Reservations are hard-won here; to get one call two months ahead to the day at 10 am, on the dot.

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Restaurant Information

Address:

6640 Washington St., at Creek St., Yountville, California, 94599, USA

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Phone:

707-944–2380

Restaurant Details:

  • No lunch Mon.–Thurs.
  • Reservations essential

Updated 05/01/2014

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Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Nov 14, 2009

French Laundry Review

Simply fabulous! Lovely spot to spend with good friends having good conversation and great food. We had a great time!

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Mar 6, 2007

A Bit Too Stuffy And Self-Important For My Taste

All right...there were some stellar moments as far as the cuisine goes, but there were also one or two iffy ones. Service was impeccably doled out by an uber-serious tight-sphinctered staff and the dining environment was extremely formal (We were constantly shrouded in that "Hush-Hush, Because You Are Very Close To Jesus Here" feeling). I like to laugh and talk to my companions at dinner, and didn't feel like I could here...at least not without

getting the hairy eyeball from my whispering neighbors. At $650/per couple for this dinner (and we were economizing), this should've been the best meal we've ever had...but it wasn't. Wasn't even in the top 20. There were, however, some tiny icecream cones filled with capers, creme fraiche, and smoked salmon, which will be idelibly (and delectably) etched on my brain). If you have cash to burn, are capable of speaking in hushed tones for three hours or more, have the tenacity it takes to get a reservation, and don't mind shelling out a minimum of $100 for the low-end bottle of wine, this could be the place for you. I'm a die-hard foodophile, and am glad I got the chance to experience it...but I will never spend that much on a meal again. Especially in a place that takes itself so very seriously...I want my fine dining to be a s filled with great conversation, laughter, good food, and warmth; I don't want to feel like I'm dining in church.

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By mbasil

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Feb 28, 2007

Remarkable!

As a budding "foodie" I have have tried before several trips to the Bay Area to get in. Finally our 10 a.m. call got through! That effort and the $700 for two was worth it, it really is a remarkable experience. Everything about the service was impeccable, from the staggered arrivals, the 11 tables, and the staff. The food is the star of the show, however, and diners are expected to show rapt attention). Keller is an extrordinary chef, and every

morsel is stuffed with taste. Amazing.

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By Mike

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May 16, 2006

Best Meal Ever

We had a truly memorable meal at the FL on 4/24/06 - my wife and I agreed it was our best ever (apologies to Georges Perrier of Le Bec-Fin and several venues in pre-Katrina New Orleans). The 9 courses plus extras over 3 hours, 6 of which for us were truly extraordinary and 3 "merely" superb, left us giddy like kids on Christmas day. As others have said, the staff was attentive and professional without being stuffy. And the wines recommended by

the staff went wonderfully with the meal. The price of this perfection was high, but what price can you put on the memory of such a meal and such an evening?

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By Sarah

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Nov 21, 2005

Didn't meet expectations...

Alas, we drove up to Yountville with our companions who regaled us with tales of their perfect dining experience at Taillevent. Besides exquisitely prepared food, Taillevent provided service that truly served the customer, making him or her feel totally comfortable, welcome and attended to. At French Laundry, the staff was young and earnest and seemed more geared to serving French Laundry's reputation. But no matter. That could have been just a slight

nuance and a quibble, although it was annoying to have our conversation interrupted by a young server bent on announcing the dish that was being served rather than waiting for a speaker to finish. Tables were a bit too close for comfort--we were seated upstairs and we felt that half the tables in our room should have been removed for noise control and privacy considerations. The nine-course chef's tasting menu was delicious, but I agree with another reviewer's comments that only a few dishes were in a class by themselves. $1,000 should have resulted in four people feeling grateful to the Universe that such a wonderful experience was possible. Taillevent two years later still evoked the same reverence. Unfortunately, French Laundry, just a day later, does not.

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By Peter

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Nov 18, 2005

Best meal Ever!!!

This is reputed to be the finest restaurant in the US. It is absolutely true. I had an 11 course meal there over 4 hr. Never had such a wonderful experience. Expensive and hard to get into but really worth it.

By David

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Nov 12, 2005

Over priced + over rated = double trouble

A recent visit to the French Laundry left four Epicurians with empty feelings and empty wallets. The waiter was fantastic but the $80 upgrade for Kobe beef was laughable. There are so many fantastic places to eat in the Wine Country that its hard to justify the cost for the experience.

By Rich

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Aug 9, 2004

Moderate your expectations

Our second visit (the last was three years ago) was fantastic, but somewhat less awe-inspiring than the first. Prices are up -- $170/person for the 9 course with foie gras, and $155-160 for the 5 course w/ foie gras. So, with a moderate wine budget, water, coffee, and the 18% mandatory service charge, you're looking at $1000+ for four people for dinner. The French Laundry image/brand is of dishes that are innovative, whimsical, and extremely laborious

to prepare. On this visit, this could only be said of three of our dishes: the well-known "oyster and pearls" dish (with a generous amount of osetra), the freebie caramelized popcorn dessert for the 5 course, and the strawberry dessert. The rest could have been found on the menus at many other high-end SF restaurants that emphasize presentation (e.g., Danko, Fleur de Lys). We noticed some weaknesses in the wine list. One of our friends is a Merlot/Cab drinker, and the wine list is seriously weak when it comes to reasonably priced Merlots & Cabs. Admittedly, however, the food pairs better with Pinots than Merlots or Cabs, and their red Burgundy recommendation was quite good. We were nauseatingly full when we left. With the extras (we lost count of our courses mid-meal), the 9 course amounts to about an 11 course meal, and the 5 course ends up as an 8 course meal. In sum, the food and service are simply outstanding. Unfortunately, the hype surrounding the restaurant makes you believe that the experience will be twice as good as that for its nearest competitor. In this sense, the expectations exceed the experience (albeit only slightly).

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By Paul

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Jan 30, 2004

You'll clean up your plate at the Laundry

Well, one meal, 4 people, 6 bottles of wine and a bill... ...for $1900! Was it worth it? Every cent. There is simply nothing better. Anywhere. I went with a top restaurateur, his wife and mine and we ate 13 courses of pure heaven. Reservations are harder to get than a hip operation on the NHS, but about as valuable and I would arrange your holiday around the reservation rather than the other way round. Tip for the French Laundry (actually

two) : Don't steal the little wooden peg from your napkin and take a break in between the 5th and 6th course by taking a walk in the garden and sneaking a peek through the windows into the kitchen.

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By Art

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Aug 20, 2003

Disappointing!

We had been looking forward to this visit for several months and were relly disappointed at the lack of originality in the food preparation and at the overall quality of the restaurant. If the price were $250 for the dinner, I would have rated the food higher, but it cost almost $700 and that puts it in a different category. There were a few successes on the 9 course tasting menu, but there were too many misses for a restaurant at this price level

and with this reputation. Frankly, it doesn't measure up to quite a few restaurants that I've eaten in during the past 10 or 15 years. Mr. Keller may fill the place, but his food doesn't impress.

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By Richard

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Nov 5, 2002

At the very top

Certainly, The French Laundry is one of the very best restaurants in the country. The vegetarian tasting menu shows off the chef's fantastic creativity and was wonderful. While we've had more earth-shakingly delicious meals at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and the old Lespinasse in New York, this place is right up there. Although the decor is too spartan [especailly upstairs], the service is exceedingly pleasant and accommodating, and the wine selection

excellent. Definately worth the effort and expense.

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By Lindsey

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Jun 26, 2002

Best Dining Experience - Ever

I went through the drill of hitting redial for an hour to get reservations at The French Laundry exactly 60 days in advance. After I made the reservations, I started to worry that I would be disappointed. Several times, I have found the hype was greater than the reality. Amplifying my concern was the response each time someone asked us where we were having dinner while in Napa. "You got reservations at The French Laundry? How? Can we go with

you?" No place can meet that expectation. I was wrong. The French Laundry prepared the finest dining experience my wife and I have ever had. Take that Alain Ducasse, Trois Gros and Marc Meneau. Service was attentive without being overbearing. Bobby, the sommelier, did a great job pairing wines and foods. They have so many great wines by the glass and half bottle, they don't need a flight of wines to match the courses served. First words out of my wife's mouth after taking a bite of the seared foie gras was "This is the best foie gras I have ever had, and may be the best single course I have ever had." Out of the ten courses served, 9 were outstanding and one was excellent. Pretty good batting average. So, start calling today for your reservations 60 days from now. It is worth the hassle and the price. You will not be disappointed.

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By Hans

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Apr 19, 2002

French Laudry - Garden table

Oh yeah, we ate at the fabulous French Laundry and even lucked out and got a garden table. The setting - magnificent. The food - better than sex. The service - perfect. The score - 10. Thomas Keller - genius.

By Cory

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Mar 18, 2002

The best experience

French Laundry is the best dining experience I've ever had. I went with a friend who is enrolled in a culinary program in Northern California. We were only able to get reservations for lunch, but we were delighted with the entire experience. The food was surreal. The combination of ingredients in each dish was spectacular. We each had the 9 course tasting menu, and our waiter was gracious enough to accommodate my friend who wanted the 9 course

tasting, but could not because she only eats seafood and chicken. The waiter gladly made substitutions for the rabbit and lamb and even made recommendations. One of the substitutes that he made was the best dish on the menu. In addition to the nine courses we were served an additional 4 'from the kitchen' courses including my favorite creme brulee. Our upstairs dining room with french doors overlooking a small vineyard and the mountain tops in the distance, the waitstaff, food, presentation, and Mr. Keller himself were perfect. Drinks were poured promptly, plates and silver were removed promptly, everything was in proper order. I can't imagine dining getting any better than this and I have experienced some top notch U.S. restaurants. French Laundry is worth the rude reservationists and the pricetag! Go and enjoy.

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By Bill

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Sep 26, 2001

Great food & excellent service at a leisurely ppace.urely

Be prepared to spend 3 to 4 hours here and enjoy both the food and your tablemates' conversation. If you are in a rush to do something else then you should try another restaurant. It is possible to get out in less time but why not enjoy the experience?

By Keith

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Jul 8, 2001

Exceeded All Expectations

Went to this resturaunt with very high expectations and it was incredible. Service was terrific, atmosphere was very subdued, food beyond description. Was it outrageously expensive? You bet. Was it worth every penny? You bet. I can't imagine that I will ever have a meal that will live up to the French Laundry.

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Jul 7, 2001

Better places elsewhere

I am almost local, and we go over to Napa regularly for dinner. If you want to put this one on your "I did it", Great. If not, believe the Phone lottery review. It takes over an hour to get a reservation 60 days in advance, then be sure to call and reconfirm. The atomosphere is cramped, food was only so-so and it was VERY expensive compared to other Napa must-do's. If you're only in town for a brief stint then skip this one.

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