Founded by Chef Thomas Keller in 1994, The French Laundry feels like a European spot in the Western United States. Its cozy decor transports diners to the French countryside, where the culinary traditions remain intact; at the same time, the restaurant embraces the latest culinary developments. “When I was an apprentice traveling through France, I fell in love with the 3-star country restaurants, so fine and also so comfortable,” says Keller.
A decade later, decided to reproduce the feel of the French restaurants in America, Keller began looking for a place where he could open his business. “A friend suggested I visit a property in Yountville, north of San Francisco. Since I arrived, I knew that everything I had experienced in France could happen in this place”, recalls the chef.
Chef Thomas Keller.
With an inherent home atmosphere created by Keller himself, in collaboration with Laura Cunningham, The French Laundry offers diners something beyond the usual pairing of food and wine. What is brought to the table becomes an event to remember for life “because, ultimately, food is an emotional experience”, says Keller.
Every little detail at The French Laundry aims to create that experience, provided with loving care by all members of the staff— the chef refers to them as his “collaborators”. The restaurant’s exquisite offerings come in two nine-item menus—the Chef’s Tasting Menu and a Tasting of Vegetables -each with unique dishes: none contain the same ingredients. “We serve a series of small courses meant to excite your mind, satisfy your appetite and pique your curiosity”, says Keller. You will always want another bite, and “then the next plate arrives, and the same thing happens again, but in a different way, a whole new flavor and feel and emotion”. The flavors from Chef Keller´s kitchen are inspired by traditional French cuisine, but each dish is enhanced with elements of American modernity.
The building where the restaurant is located, built in the late 1880s, was initially conceived as a typical western saloon, but nearly four decades later, it became a French laundry. Then in the 1980s, the old two-story structure was adapted to function as a restaurant, and it was not until 1994 that the property that everyone called “French laundry” passed to the hands of Thomas Keller, who immediately opened his business, keeping the already familiar name: The French Laundry.
Its famous Oysters & Pearls, an exquisite tapioca cream with oysters and Greek caviar worthy of the most discerning palates, is highly recommended. Enjoy the Scottish Sea Trout “Confit a la minute“, a tasty sea trout with fennel, fresh radishes and Satsuma tangerines, or their emblematic house Tagliatelle, hand cut and served with winter truffles. Whatever your choice, you can be sure it will be unforgettable; however, the French Laundry experience will only be possible if you book two months in advance for dinner (any day), or for lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is the only drawback, but it speaks volumes about this place. For private events, you can also book an entire salon, but you’ll need to reserve it a year in advance. ■