Corey Lee is definitely running the FL kitchen. He has changed the extended tasting menu that he does for us. He no longer wants to do one prep for John and one for me. (We discussed this after service) He feels that he would rather do the same preparation for both of us so that we can be more focused on a particular dish. I see his point. Sometimes we get so caught up in passing back and forth that we lose sight of what we are actually eating.
During dinner, John and I discussed the evolution of FL. Thomas was obviously always in the kitchen at the beginning. It wasn’t until Thomas’s empire expanded and Thomas spent less time in the kitchen that the French Laundry’s significant alumni put their own stamp on the cuisine. Ron Siegal, Jonathan Benno and Grant Achatz more or less executed Thomas’s dishes. With Eric Ziebold and now with Corey Lee you definitely feel his personal stamp on the cuisine.
Santa Barbara Uni with Granny Smith Apple Granite, Persian Lime and a touch of fleur de sel – Corey knows that if I don’t get an uni dish, I am a very unhappy camper. The star of the dish was of course the uni with the granite and salt adding a sub note.
Oysters and Pearls – always perfect
Monkfish Liver glazed with turnip cream, Satsuma Mandarin, Watercress, Watercress puree – this was just wonderful – the turnip cream was like a custard and enrobed the monkfish liver – unusual and delicious.
Grilled Kahala Belly, (Hawaiian yellowtail) Mizuna, tiny balls of Granny Smith Apple, Kohlrabi, Mustard Seed Vinaigrette – again Corey knows my love of fish canapés. The combination of the kahala, the apples, the shaved Kohlrabi was wondrous. Also when we are passing back and forth, we normally get only one or two bites; as we were getting a ‘full” course, it was much more substantial.
Mushroom Royale – basically a custard with eggs, cream, Matsutake mushrooms and a chicken stock bouillon with scallions and aromatics – rich and delicious.
Sweetbreads with truffle foam, cardoons and White Truffles shaved tableside. The supplement for the white truffles was $150 per person. This was the only real loser of the night. The truffles were completely tasteless and instead of enhancing the sweetbreads, they detracted. To FL’s credit, they deleted the $300 extra charge for the truffles.
Japanese Giant Fin Squid, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Globe Artichokes, Diced Serrano Ham, Piquillo Pepper and Barigole sauce – Back on tract and the dish had a definite nod to Spain. I loved the combination of the squid with the ham.
Lightly Poached Japanese Sea Eel, Small balls of Asian Pears, Perilla, Kabocha Squash Puree
Akita Komachi Rice with Pork Belly, Tamari, Ginger – Probably a first timer at FL would be horrified by this dish – a bowl of rice with pork belly – more or less a glorified fried rice in an expensive tasting menu. I loved it!!! This is when Corey knows that he can take chances with us – he knows this is not the once in a lifetime experience for us so he can play.
Butter Poached Lobster, Sunchoke Puree, Cippolini. Onion, Hazelnut/Coffee sauce – the star in this course was the hazelnut/coffee sauce.
Wagyu with Celery Root Puree, Ribbons of Fuyu Persimmon and Horseradish – a very, very generous piece of Wagyu that matched perfectly with the Fuyu.
Bravo Farms Silver Mountain Cheese with Cornbread and Honey Jalapeno – I have never been a big fan of the cheese course at FL.
We decided to forgo the dessert parade and John had his requisite doughnuts.
Musque de Provence with uni sabayon and black truffle coulis. This was served in a narrow cylindar and was cold on the top and then hot on the bottom – excellent
Sunchoke and applewood smoked bacon enclosed in deep-fried brik topped with Sterling caviar sitting on a bed of sunchoke puree – absolutely delicious
Kanpachi (yellowjack) sashimi with Satsuma, Young Arugula and dots of 100 year old balsamic – perfect fish
Cod Milt (cod sperm) Brandade topped with toasted brioche crumbs – this was marvelous in taste as well as texture
Cured Salmon Roe, Cucumber Foam and Gold Leaf –
Saute of Scottish Langoustine, Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Shaved White truffles (no supplement – done in the kitchen) – the truffles worked better with the langoustine than the sweetbreads, but still the quality was iffy. I think white truffles of this quality work better with pasta or risotto.
The next couple of dishes is why I love FL – Urasawa a la Corey.
Sashimi of Spanish Mackerel, Saute of Cauliflower florets, Haas Avocado Espelette Pepper sauce, Smoked Paprika. The Espelette sauce was superb and “made” the sauce.
Squid, Tokyo turnips, Baby Shiso, Umebushi – perfect
Savoy Cabbage Gratin with Compressed Asian pears, Yuzu and topped with Uni – I adore uni and the combination of the gratin with the uni was novel and extraordinary.
Lightly Fried Eel, Valley Oak Acorn Flan, Fuyu Persimmon, Black Truffle sauce – yippee course
Grilled Tuna Amandine with 1/8 inch dice of carrots, Celery, Belgian endive, Yuzu
Lobster Knuckle, with small carrot balls in a béarnaise custard made with lobster consommé – this was one of the best lobster dishes I have ever had at FL – small pieces of lobster in a béarnaise custard was just decadent
Air-cured Wagyu, Chestnuts, Asian pear, Nicoise, olive oil, Arugula
Buttermilk Fried Quail, FL biscuits, Coleslaw, Wildflower Honey, Dice of Sweet peppers – When Corey went to Tennnesse, he fell in love with Southern food
Crispy Kurobota Pork belly, Cippolini Onions, Globe Artichokes, Caraway and Mustard seed sauce
Brin d’Amour (sheep’s milk) Cheese with toasted pine nuts, crispy eggplant and olive puree
We did have some desserts but no notes and no memory.
Two excellent meals with only one huge loser – the sweetbreads and white truffle dish.