LOL! I will definitely return to share a trip report. It may be a bit fuzzy on details, as I'll be operating on limited sleep and I'm a woman who really needs her 7-8 hours of sleep per night. The time difference from the West Coast, combined with needing to wake up early, really disrupts my equilibrium. To compensate, I'll ask DH to chime in with his impressions when I report back.
Yes, I always make use of the "Special requests" box in Open Table to let them know of DH's dietary limits. In this case, I also mentioned we have a 3:30 flight at JFK and hope to be out by 1, which is a bit earlier than we absolutely leave. I figure they will aim for 1 and we should be ok if we can get out by 1:30. :)
Thanks for weighing in, Kathryn! I love that regardless of which locale I'm considering (NYC, Maui, Napa wine country, etc.), you always have great feedback. :)
I'll try calling Esca and Oceana tomorrow. DH had a long list and Blue Fin was the only one with an opening for a solo diner on Open Table. I am so accustomed to the convenience of Open Table but need to just stop being so lazy and call restaurants directly!
As for JG, I figure we don't have time for a tasting menu (and may not want one after the prior 2 tasting menus) so if we get the 3 course prix fixe lunch, it should be do-able. I'll call them to confirm, too.
Thanks for pointing this out! I didn't notice that the first time I glanced at their menu, Balaboosta looks great, but DH decided he wants lunch and not brunch. Since he's playing tourist, he will stay on PST while I must wake up no later than 4 am PST for my conference. So he won't bother getting up earlier for breakfast and is fine having lunch as his first meal of the day.
Just wanted to come back and update the thread. Finally met our window for next month's reservations but failed to get the EMP res (added our name to the wait list, though). wd-50 isn't an option when we visit, the restaurant must be closed by then.
For now, we still have our Friday dinner reservation at Annisa and added dinner at Daniel on Saturday. I had to call them as Opentable didn't show any availability. I reluctantly booked Jungsik as DH decided he wanted to try it and it was one of the few available options for Saturday night. But then I found out from here that just because Open Table says no tables are available doesn't mean the restaurant hasn't held some back. So I called and voila! We now have a very late night Saturday reservation at Daniel. That foie gras stuffed grouse has my name written all over it!
DH will be going to Blue Fin for lunch on Saturday before his show (he loves seafood and it's a convenient location). He wanted Momofuku Ko but the show is at 2 so he can't do a leisurely lunch.
I initially thought we would go to Marea for an early Sunday lunch since I love Italian and DH loves seafood and that seems like a great hybrid. But I saw a 11:45 lunch res at Jean Georges was available so I snagged it. But now I'm wondering how realistic that is, since we have to get on a 3:30 flight at JFK. Is it totally unrealistic to think we can get out of JG in about 1.5 hours and get to JFK by 2:30 on a Sunday? We will have only carry-ons but we still have to get through security. Thoughts?
I'll post brief reports when we return. Thank you all!
wd-50 would certainly be a very distinctive and innovative meal! The sample tasting menu is intriguing...I wonder if trying to secure a reservation is going to be realistic but I think I will try when our window opens up and just see what we can get! Thanks for the rec.
Thanks for the rec...I have to say, I'm normally highly suspicious of any restaurant with a view. In my experience, they tend to be tourist traps where the view makes up for lackluster food. Can I ask what you enjoyed most about this restaurant? The menu looks good--that Hudson Valley foie gras immediately caught my eye! Of the main entrees, the lamb or lobster would be my choice since I don't like fish (unless it's raw) or poultry. The photos of that view are breathtaking!
Great photos and write-up, Melanie! We went for my birthday on 9/20 (the day before you posted this) and also got the porron of Sangria and followed it with the Barca gin tonic, as recommended by our server. It was amazing: both in presentation (beautiful accoutrement) and taste! I highly recommend it the next time you head to Coqueta.
We also greatly enjoyed the paella. I remember also having the albondigas, grilled octopus, and a few pintxo, but the stand-out really was that cocktail!
We've hit Ohgane's AYCE lunch buffet (but it's pre-cooked meat) as well as Palace BBQ down in Sunnyvale (which does let guests cook their own meat) but that's a trek for us. Did Jong Ga actually offer kalbi (the short ribs) as an option? The menu also refers to just marinated beef, so I wasn't sure if that was just the bulgogi (which is boneless strips of beef and not as tasty IMHO).
Thanks for sharing.
Those are really broad parameters. It would be helpful to ask your sister to specify some favorite types of cuisine, location limits (e.g., will they taxi anywhere in the city or are they trying to stay near downtown?), and even restaurant formality (e.g., "hole-in-the-wall" restaurants can be great for foodies and kid-friendly, but they're not known for great service or ambiance).
On the other hand, you did mention AQ (which I haven't been to but peeked at their website), so maybe that's what you're aiming to find for them? I personally don't bring toddlers/preschoolers to any restaurant with a formal tasting menu. Children that age can be noisy and disruptive to other diners. Even if they're perfectly behaved, the mere presence of a preschooler can be jarring to others who are shelling out $200+ per couple for dinner. I try to be sensitive to that and only bring my girls to more casual (and noisy) restaurants.
For what it's worth, I hate chain restaurants, so we never go there, but noisy and more casual doesn't mean we have been limited to the ethnic hole-in-the-wall places. There are a surprising number of good places that aren't necessarily "kid-friendly" (e.g., no high chairs), but are busy/noisy enough that we didn't feel too out of place with our kids. We also try to eat an early lunch right when they open or an early dinner right at 5 pm so we can get in and out before the big rush. I also think it can be helpful if you target restaurants that are accustomed to tourists (as they know families on vacation can't leave kids alone).
When they were around 4 and 7, we brought our girls to lunch at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana (which is on the Embarcadero so it definitely attracts tourists). They even had crayons and paper for them to draw. I could also see taking a well-behaved preschooler to an early dinner at Coqueta (which is just up the way). The other issue is gauging what the typical crowd looks like. When DH and I went a couple years ago on a "date night" to the old location of Marlowe (closer to SoMa), it was noisy (which fits one of my criteria for a kid-friendly place) but also super crowded full of young hipsters, so not the kind of place I'd bring a preschooler.
DH and I are heading to NYC in mid-November without our kids and really looking forward to trying some of the high-end restaurants that are not kid-friendly. We will have 2 dinners and 1 lunch together, and he also will have a breakfast and lunch on his own while I'm at a conference.
Last year, when we were there for this same conference, we had Bouley, Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park. EMP was the clear winner, with Bouley a delicious second place and Le Bernardin a disappointing last place. DH went to Ma Peche for lunch last year but found it only ok. He was looking at trying Momofuku Ko for lunch this year, but it's a long lunch and he has a ticket to the 2 pm showing of Book of Mormon.
We would love to eat at EMP again, but I don't know if we will get lucky enough to snag another reservation. Since we're still too early to try to reserve EMP, I currently have reservations at Annisa and Recette. DH's friend (the same one who rec'd EMP to us, as well as some other SF Bay Area favorites) suggested Emporio for delicious home-style Italian food. We were thinking of visiting there for an early brunch on Sunday before we fly back to CA.
I'd love to hear other recs/feedback. A few factors to consider:
- DH has lactose intolerance and/or mild dairy allergy (no ice cream, no heavy cream, but he can tolerate very small amounts of butter and aged cheese). Most chefs can accommodate this but I mention it because he has had lackluster alternatives at some French restaurants.
- Budget is not an issue, nor is capacity/appetite. We are the crazy ones who had French Laundry and Meadowood on the same day (11:30 lunch and 5:30 dinner) for our anniversary this past summer because FL had a last-minute opening for lunch. We had the full tasting menu at both restaurants and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I don't know that I'd recommend doing it, but it was a glorious, once-in-a-lifetime indulgence to hit both of those places on the same day. For what it's worth, we preferred Meadowood (I have a report here on CH if anyone's interested).
- I would LOVE to have some foie gras, since it's been outlawed in CA. Had some lovely preparations in Chicago earlier this year on another business trip and am eagerly looking forward to having some more in November.
- We both enjoy shellfish as well as game meats. No poultry or fish for me, but DH would eat fish and duck.
- We have plenty of authentic and tasty Asian food in CA so I want to avoid Chinese, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese, Thai, Afghan (which I know is more Central Asian), etc.
- I'd prefer to stay within Manhattan since we're relying on taxis and I'm not sure I want to travel too far (unless it's REALLY worthwhile).
Thank you for any tips!
Thanks, Kathryn! I think we're just too enamored with Eskimo Candy to appreciate other poke. :)
We didn't make it to Da Local Banana or Yee's as my husband and I aren't fruit fans (he hates bananas, actually!). But we did get 2 more days of decent meals.
We had an early dinner/Happy Hour meal at Monkeypod, which we had enjoyed on our last trip to Maui. We ordered a few appetizers (50% off except for the Raw Bar Mixed Plate) including chicken wings, fries, and the raw bar mixed plate, Margherita pizza (also 50% off), and a few cocktails (their signature Mai Tai is delicious!). DH says it's not worth returning. I think the Raw Bar Mixed Plate was good, but I agree that I'd rather go to Eskimo Candy or Coconuts Fish Cafe instead.
I was nervous, as Chef Sheldon was still there when we went last year and I wasn't sure if it would still be just as good. In short, the food really shined, especially when eating in an airport waiting room, where ambience is terrible, service is nonexistent, and one is self-conscious of strong smells. We ordered garlic noodles (a simple dish of very garlicky and chewy noodles), steamed pork buns (just as good as we remembered), ahi avo (outstanding--a true star and superbly seasoned), yakitori chicken (the girls INHALED this so I didn't even get a bite!), and tempura shrimp (soggy by the time we ate it 45 minutes later, which wasn't the restaurant's fault). It really isn't convenient to go there when based in Wailea, but I think it was worth the drive, especially if I could include other Lahaina activities. At least it was a pretty drive!
All in all, we had a wonderful time and thank you all for your suggestions!
We are here now, on Day 3, and I thought I'd post an update.
We then went to Ulalani Shave Ice and Sugar Beach Bake Shop for shave ice, Iilikoi key lime pie (yummy!), and some spam musubi (my 5 year old is allergic to fish so we didn't have anything from Tamura's for her). This was the best dining experience of the day, Kathryn! Thank you SO MUCH for the rec.
Then, since we felt like we didn't satisfy our poke fix, we went to Eskimo Candy anyway and split a poke bowl. I was surprised how dramatically better it was: crisp, clean flavors: firm cool fish chunks (versus small soft warm pieces that may have been sitting too long); and there's some sort of mayo-based sauce and ocean salad on Eskimo Candy's version ties it all together. I honestly think it was better than we remembered!
Dinner was at Amasia and we were sorely disappointed. It all sounded so good on paper! DH and I ordered the tasting menu (two for the price of one during Happy Hour!) while we ordered the girls $20 kids' bento boxes which had rice, Kula corn, and 2 entrees (which was downright bad, except for the chicken satay, which was ok, and the tempura shrimp, which was the only item that could justify what otherwise should have been a $5 bento box). They also had the POG flavored sodas (or maybe it was just passion fruit?) but since they don't normally drink soda, they didn't like the carbonation and I ended up drinking them. For our tasting menu, the short rib was a bit stringy, the Maui beef satay was surprisingly dry and crumbly after being bit (reminded me of hamburger!), and the sushi wasn't mind-blowing (passion fruit ceviche with Kampachi sounds so much better than it tasted). We all opted for malasadas for dessert--lilikoi filled ones for the adults. Sadly, these weren't as mind-blowing as I hoped. My malasada fell apart on me as I removed it from the Chinese take out box, crumbled into pieces with lilikoi filling making a huge mess everywhere. The girls liked their plain malasadas, which were huge and far better than the malasadas we got from Home Maid bakery on our trip last year.
At the end of the day, I told DH that at least the eating could only get better!
Later we went back to Eskimo Candy for lunch and each had our own poke bowl and split coconut shrimp. One daughter had fish and chips and the other had pasta (the girl with the fish allergy had a very plain in satisfying penne with butter and Parmesan). Kids' meals were disappointing but the coconut shrimp and poke bowls were delicious. Still, I remember thinking that the second day's poke wasn't as outstanding as the prior day. Interesting, huh?
On the way back, we stopped for shave ice and lilikoi key lime pie again from Ulalani and Sugar Beach. Plus my 5 year old wanted more spam musubi from Sugar Beach (we have spam here but no rice in the condo). We also ordered malasadas for Saturday per Kathryn's tip!
For dinner, we went to Migrant for the Happy hour specials. We ordered pancit (yummy), tocino (delicious), chow fun (only ok), ahi belly (well executed and moist), and KFC chicken wings (my favorite of the meal!). DH had a couple of cocktails and I tried one, too. We skipped dessert and headed back.
Since we had a big snack of malasadas, we ate a late lunch (for us) at 1 pm: takeout from Coconuts Fish House. Fish tacos and coconut shrimp for the adults, Mac and cheese and spaghetti with marinara for the girls. Fish tacos were the best I've ever had! DH and I were both astounded how good they were: delicate, flaky fish, delicious mango salsa, sweet crunchy slaw, and 2 hearty corn tortillas. I think these coconut shrimp may also be better than Eskimo Candy's version. Needless to say, we didn't expect them to be this good, especially given how huge the portions were and how the operation looked like a fast food chain (you order and then sit down versus typical table service). The girls also had huge portions: twice the size of a normal kid's portion (heck, bigger than a typical adult portion!). Yet the Mac and cheese was bland and a bit too creamy so the girls split the spaghetti.
We ended up eating leftovers around 4:30 pm instead of going out, since we weren't hungry earlier and my 5 year old is usually in bed by 5 pm Hawaii time.
Two more days to go, so I'll be back to update. In the meantime, since we are here, please let me know if anyone has other suggestions for lunch/dinner or any questions. We still plan to try Longhi's and we know we already like Monkey Pod. I'm also guessing we will be going back to Sugar Beach Bake Shop yet again before we fly out!
Kathryn: you are AMAZING! Thank you so much for such a detailed list....I love it! I'm especially excited about the malasadas, as we've had so many disappointing malasada hunts. Plus, that Queen Emma cake sounds divine.
I loved our dinner at Hali'imaile years ago, but it's too far and too late for our 5 year old to stay up. Sadly, the lunch menu isn't as appealing so we'll have to wait another couple years before heading back for dinner there.
I know I saw the Joe's menu before our last trip but wasn't super excited about it. What else do you recommend besides the pizza? With the 2 kids tagging along on this trip, we spend most of the time on the beach with breaks for full meals.
We went to Maui for the first time as a family last year and loved our time in Wailea. We also hit some great restaurants and had wonderful advice from CHs. See that thread here:
We're staying in the same complex again and want to hit up some new options. Plus, since my youngest is 5 now, I'm hoping she can stay up later so we might make it to a few real dinners. Last year, we stayed on California time (3 hours ahead) and stuck to Happy Hours for our "dinner" meals so we could get her in bed by 5 pm HST. I think we'll stay on PST again, but I want to try some new places since my 5 year old can stay up later now. Like last time, I think we'll just make breakfast in the condo, since we're up by 5 am HST and hungry then.
The only places we plan to repeat again from our last trip are Eskimo Candy (thanks again to kathryn for that amazing tip!), Ulalani's Shave Ice, and Monkey Pod (it's 5 minutes from our condo and had great Happy Hour specials).
This time around, we have 5 days, 4 nights and I'm hoping to hit:
- Alan Wong's Amasia for dinner
I had hoped to try the O'o Farm tour, but we're only there Thurs-Mon and they only do it Mon-Thurs, so there's no time to do it and still make our flight. Ugh.
We will have a car, but I don't know that I want to drive all the way to Merriman's for dinner (and then have an hour's drive home). Sea House was good, but not worth the commute from Wailea, IMHO.
Any other suggestions?
Yes, I can't wait to return to try eating at the chef's counter! Thanks for the photo--that does look like the salmon "skin."
I'm exhausted from a whirlwind trip, but I absolutely loved Chicago and can't wait to return to try other places.
MONDAY DINNER: BOKA
Inside, it was almost all couples dining at 9 pm, dimly lit, and a bit overly romantic for a single diner, but I just discreetly people-watched (couldn't quite see what they were dining as the tables were spaced apart nicely).
Service was lovely.
I started with the Foie Gras Terrine (unable to eat foie gras here in CA!) and enjoyed it. I found it much tastier than the foie gras smear I had at Purple Pig later in the trip. I also ordered the Ricotta Gnudi, which was a revelation! One of the best tastes of my trip (it *almost* matches the amazing roasted bone marrow at Purple Pig).
For my main course, I had the grilled beef short ribs. Delicious but not as mind-blowing as the gnudi, nor as highly anticipated as the foie gras.
Since I was dining alone, instead of wine, I enjoyed a cocktail. I asked the waiter for a rec and per my receipt, it looks like I ended up with a "Date with Divinity." I believe I enjoyed it, as I know the server had great recs for both the cocktail and dessert, but I can't recall enough of this specific cocktail to comment on it.
I finished with the Roasted Peaches for dessert. I enjoyed the olive oil cake (my first time!) and it complemented the pecan ice cream nicely. All in all, it was a great first taste of Chicago!
TUESDAY: Lunch at NAHA
The space is lovely with huge nearly floor-to-ceiling windows. Yet with a nearly empty restaurant (only two other tables were filled in the hour I was there: one with 2 men in suits and one with 2 women in sundresses), the bright airy space felt a little stark.
My server was a bit brusque but professional. Combined with the emptiness of the restaurant, it felt a little cold. Yet she broke into a smile once or twice when I commented on something I liked, like the cocktail she recommended (a smoky mescal cocktail, which my receipt says is a Block Dog but it's not on their online menu).
I opted for the prix fixe lunch, but was immediately informed (at 11:30 am) that they were out of cannelloni. Alas! Ever the trooper, I then went with my second choice, the Armenian “Lahmajoon” (lamb pizza). I thought it tasty, but presentation was more akin to what I would get from a hole-in-the-wall Armenian restaurant.
It was hot outside (per my sheltered Northern California standards, where anything above mid 70s is hot), so I decided I didn't want a heavy meat course before my afternoon business meetings. That meant excluding the pork shank. I make it a habit to avoid chicken at restaurants (it's far easier for me to secure organic free-range chicken to cook at home than other quality meats) and I don't like most fish, so that left me with the pasta dish. My main course was the Strozzapreti “Twisted Noodles,” Green Asparagus, Rapini and English Peas, Meyer Lemon and Parmesan Reggiano.
It sounded light and refreshing for a hot summer day, but in execution, I was disappointed. The sauce, what little I got, was bright (thanks, Meyer lemon, for your sacrifice!) but it lacked sufficient body (too thin and watery) and didn't cover the pasta and vegetables. The unbalanced proportions left me with a bland and disappointing dish that lacked the richness a pasta should have.
Fortunately, I ended with the cheese plate, including a rich creamy goat cheese that gave me the unctuousness I was craving. I don't know that I would go back, at least not for the prix fix lunch.
"Dinner" Tuesday night was a casual work event with heavy appetizers from a local Mediterranean chain, Roti. Pretty good, and I absentmindedly ate too much while talking with a lot of folks so I never made it out to dinner. Plus, I was exhausted from a 12 hour workday with only about 5 hours of restless sleep.
WEDNESDAY: Breakfast at LITTLE GOAT
This was totally worth losing sleep and trekking out to West Loop. Instead of coffee (which I had already chugged back at my hotel), I opted for a Bloody Mary and it was delicious. I also got the Brandade and Belly Benedict. It was better than expected!
I love how it had the rich, "full-fat" mouth feel of a diner breakfast, but subtle flavor "tweaks" that surprised me and made this a distinctive breakfast. The buttery luscious biscuits made me think of an upscale diner, but the Kimchi, the salt cod flavor in the brandade, and the pork belly clearly told me I was not in any old diner. This was a creative yet still hugely satisfying meal. Many times, I find "creative food" is defined as a one or two bite, highly orchestrated, overly refined piece of art. I loved that this somewhat "messy" plate was full of flavor, full of fat, and yet also challenged me to tease out the various flavors.
Of course, after finishing this meal, I felt like I waddled my way back to my hotel and lay in bed for another hour before my first meeting (which, thankfully, did not require super brainpower as I was both sleep-deprived and lethargic from the heavy meal).
WEDNESDAY: Lunch at ARAON
But that's ok, two bites in, I knew I was going to sneak out to Purple Pig after my last meeting and before I headed to the airport. I wasn't going to waste precious stomach space on subpar, overpriced "Asian" food!
WEDNESDAY - Snacks at PURPLE PIG
I love roasted bone marrow, but this version was particularly amazing because of the accoutrement. The herbs and capers were a bright contrast to the rich marrow on the delicious grilled bread.
Foie gras smear was ok, maybe because I had it second and it didn't pack the bright robust punch of flavor that the roasted marrow had.
At this point, I was getting really full so I was very glad I ordered the porchetta panini to go. I ended up being so full I never even ate it on the plane (had some before bed).
WED: More Snacks from O'Hare
All in all, this was a delightful taste of Chicago and I wanted to thank Polski, nsxtasy, and Gonzo70 for your great tips.
Thanks again for being so helpful! I didn't sleep well so I ended up waking up too late to go to a sit down breakfast. Just picked up a toasted bagel with lox from a bagel shop across the street from my 9 am meeting. Waiting for my food at Naha now!
Already ate at Boka & loved it (foie gras terrine, gnudi, short ribs and peaches and cream). Made res for Naha tomorrow! Maybe will try french market for breakfast?
Just made a dinner res at Boka. Thanks fir the tip!
Exceptionally helpful advice here! I suspect it must be the solo diner factor. I'll call when I get off the plane for lunch tomorrow but it's too late for tonight. I procrastinated making by reservations due to some other pressing matters. I will try opentable now as i can't call from the plane.
I'm at the Hotel Allegro. Thanks for any help!
I'm traveling alone on business to Chicago for a very quick 2.5 weekday trip (so no Sunday brunch for me). I will not have a car, but I am willing to taxi it if it's not accessible via the L. I don't mind eating alone, eat everything (though I'm super picky about Chinese food so I think I'd avoid it on this trip), and budget is not an issue.
My problem is that I have some business meals with others, so I have only a few meals on my own: 1 dinner the night I arrive, 2 breakfasts and 1 lunch (has to be less than 2 hours long for both meal and the commute to/from the Loop given other meetings).
I tried, and failed, to get a reservation at some high-end/popular places (Alinea, Grace, North Pond, Naha, Girl and the Goat), though I'm wondering if some of them have bar seating (I know Girl & the Goat mentioned it on their website). I'm thinking of going to Girl & the Goat and trying to snag a bar seat around 8 pm Monday night. Sound feasible? If not, a few friends recommended Purple Pig (no res required, late hours, and I see they have a foie gras smear--haven't had any foie gras since CA banned it), Publican (I love charcuterie and blood sausage), or Maude's (roasted bone marrow, foie gras, salmon tartare all sound good). I saw some recent recs for Purple Pig and Maude's here. I'm planning on grabbing food for the flight home from Tortas Fronteras, so I was going to skip Rick Bayless' other restaurants.
As for breakfast, I love savory breakfasts (not into pastries/pancakes/french toast). I'm considering Little Goat (if I don't get into Girl & Goat, but maybe even if I do as it's 10 minute L ride from my hotel). Jam's menu looks good, but it's a 25 minute L ride. I'd love recommendations that aren't too far from the Loop (just because I get hangry when I don't get food within an hour of waking up!).
LOL! I am still in awe of Melanie Wong, who seems to have eaten at every restaurant I'm ever been remotely interested in!
Thanks, hockey! I read your reviews before going--thanks for taking the time to craft such detailed ones.
FL was better at:
Meadowood was better at:
- innovative food overall
MEADOWOOD DINNER REVIEW
As I alluded to in my review of our lunch at FL, we vastly preferred our Meadowood dinner. I went in with some trepidation given reviews I had read of uninspired and small portions (some diners even going out for fast food afterward!). Perhaps I, too, would have complained of portion size had we not had the FL tasting menu at lunch, but I DEFINITELY think the dishes were creative and inspiring.
I have to say the meal didn't start off very well. The amuse bouche were 3 tiny (like the size of my pinky) garden vegetables that had been marinated in champagne, but they were over-salted and made me blanch. Then the first official course, the cocktail with shellfish, was also incredibly salty. I asked the waiter to request that subsequent dishes use much less salt. From that point on, everything shined!
Stand-outs include the abalone (and you should know I have never liked abalone but was surprised how tender and delicious this was), the wild salmon with the carefully and creatively constructed "skin" (can't recall what it was made out of), and the olive oil coconut borage (I can't even describe how AMAZING this was--the texture, the interplay between the ingredients, the taste!). DH loved the poussin baked in the sourdough bread, and I admit it was the most tender chicken I've had but I'm not a big chicken fan.
Even though the beef dish wasn't as good as the wagyu at FL, DH and I both agreed that it far exceeded the FL's other standard meat courses like the rabbit, the lamb, etc.
We talked about each course and looked forward to subsequent ones with excitement. Note that the waiter asked if we wanted to the see the menu at the beginning or if we preferred to get a copy at the end, and we said we'd be fine being surprised.
The meal was slightly longer than FL, but we were eager to see subsequent courses so it didn't feel rushed at all. DH preferred FL's decor/ambiance, but I liked Meadowood better. There was something peaceful yet upscale about the room. I also loved all the natural light in the room due to dining early in the evening (a summer evening from 5:30-8).
We decided to stick to cocktails instead of ordering wine and were delighted by the creative options and friendly bartender (who talked of making the limoncello from lemons from his mother's house, of making the syrup for the whiskey sour cocktail, etc.). Clearly, this guy loves his job.
So this meal was also about 2 hours, but we spent 10 minutes at the end waiting for our bill and menus to be brought to us. Then we were given a kitchen tour, which was wonderful. I really enjoyed it and noticed 4 guests dining in the kitchen--which the waiter mentioned one can do for a 20 course meal. I want to return to try that on a subsequent special occasion!
Service seemed friendlier and a bit more relaxed. Jackets aren't required here, but suggested, and most patrons were still in jackets (though one guy was in jeans with a casual button-down shirt).
Our menu listed the food in a very modern way as one long run-on sentence (with alternating courses bolded to distinguish between courses). I listed each course on its own line but left out the punctuation as on the original.
Unripe tomato shellfish "cocktail"
FRENCH LAUNDRY REVIEW
So let me preface by stating that overall, this was a delicious meal. Yet context is everything and we were shocked that French Laundry was not as impressive as some of its Michelin-starred peers, nor was it the exquisite meal we expected given its reputation. This is a well-executed meal, but it lacks the personality or edge one expects from a leading restaurant.
At this price point, I assumed it would be a meal in which each course exceeds expectations. Frankly, given the price and the difficulty in securing a reservation, it should have been mind-blowing but it wasn't. At our favorite gourmet meal at Eleven Madison Park in NY, we were astounded by every course--whether it was presentation, creativity, or new flavor profiles. I don't think anything at FL was a surprise.
Reviewing our menu and thinking back on the meal (which clocked in at 2 hours, not 3, so it was quite fast compared to others), the stand-outs were really the amazing desserts and the American Wagyu (which came with a $100 supplement price tag). I'm not even a dessert person, but the creativity, the depth of flavors, and the variety was really impressive. I tried 3 of the chocolate truffles but realized later I probably should have just taken the desserts to go--it would have been great to try more!
Yes, the salmon tartare coronet was delicious as were the "oysters and pearls" caviar dish--which made me optimistic about the rest to come, but the yellowtail, lobster, rabbit, and lamb courses were just good. I didn't care for the hearts of peach palm. We only shared a 1/2 bottle of wine, as we wanted to make sure we had room for dinner at Meadowood at 5:30. At the end of lunch, we left feeling underwhelmed and we both said, "Well, at least we know we won't have any problem eating again in 4 hours."
Service was excellent, as it should be, though the meal was a bit rushed. The building is beautiful and has a more rustic charm to it than one expects for a high-end restaurant. Both these factors may rank highly for others, but they are just nice bonuses for us. It's all about the food for us--whether it's from a charming French cottage or a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon.
The surprise is that so many reviews I read lauded FL and said Meadowood is just sloppy seconds (I thinks someone below even referred to this). So we went into our Meadowood dinner at 5:30 pm with lowered expectations. Will post that in the next post.
Here's the FL menu (not including the salmon coronet):
"Oysters and Pearls"
Let me know if you have questions or want to know more details about any specific course.