French Laundry -July 2008

I never see a menu at FL. Our normal approach to a FL meal is just have Corey cook whatever he wants to. Corey does know that we much prefer the small canapes at the beginning of the meal and don’t really care about the parade of desserts at the end.  Again, Corey is no longer doing one preparation for me and one for John; he feels that the constant passing of dishes back and forth is distracting and basically detracts rather than enhances the flow of the meal.

For the first time, I decided to take photos at FL. ( I did ask permission).



I have been trying to learn how to fold the cocktail napkins correctly for the cornets since I do make the cornets at home. I thought maybe a picture would help – I still get a D for napkin folding.



Tomato Sorbet, Heirloom Tomatoes, Sweet 100, Sundried Tomatoes, Nasturtium flowers and leaves – as lovely to look at as it was to eat – like David Kinch – seasonality with a capital S.


 Oysters and Pearls with Island Creek Oysters from Mass and California White Sturgeon Caviar – enough has been written about this dish to fill a small book – executed perfectly


 Pike Conger (Hamo), Santa Rosa Plums, Umeboshi, Tokyo Tunips, Shaved turnip, Perilla Shoots – there was definitely an Asian influence in this dish, but it was not a muddle of flavors; each ingredient added to the whole. The interesting part of this dish was the texture of the pike conger – pike conger has lots of bones, so it takes a really skilled chef with a razor sharp knife to prepare it, but still retain the texture.

From a google search:

The bones of the hamo are situated and distributed throughout the flesh in such a way that removal is just not an option. Some fish, with small, soft and thin bones are eaten bones, head, guts, meat and all. The hamo bones are thick and heavy though, so, this is not feasible.

Chefs solved the problem by drawing upon Japan’s sword culture. A special purpose knife was developed for slicing the bones in the flesh so that it could be eaten. The goal of an adept chef is to put down 26 slices per 3 cm of hamo. That leaves each slice of flesh (and bone) about 1 mm in width! The hamo is 1-2 meters in length, so this involved a whole lot of cutting! This slicing technique is called honegiri in Japanese, literally ‘bone cutting’.

The meat and bones are sliced and the skin is left intact. The bones are substantial enough that slicing through them produces a very audible sound.


Atlantic Fluke Carpaccio Marinated with Kanzuri gastric, Compressed English cucumber served on a bed on Akita-Komachi rice – What set this dish apart was a nod to a sushi bar experience with the rice serving as the “bed” for the fluke – absolutely wonderful.

 Big fin Squid, baby squash from the FL garden, lemon verbena, nicoise olive crumbs, squash blossoms – the squid could have been prepared by Hiro Urasawa – tender and just perfect.


Potato puree, Hobb’s bacon, lovage emulsion, golden corn kernels, Santa Barbara uni – OK, I will admit it; I am a sucker for uni, but to have 4 of my favorite ingredients in one dish – bacon, potato, corn and uni – just oh my.


Eel, Avocado, Creme Fraiche topped with Lime Zest. To the right was the crispy cylinder of brik. Again, texture was a key element in this dish with the addition of the brik. Also avocado and eel have an affinity for each other, given their fatty mouth feel ( just think of all the sushi bars that do an eel and avocado roll). Let’s just say I was a very happy camper.


Sautéed Rouget, Globe artichokes, 1/8 inch diced Spanish Piquillo peppers, Arugula, Italian emulsion of olive oil, garlic and butter – my take on this dish was don’t mess with a perfect piece of fish with a lot of unnecessary ingredients.


Butter poached Lobster, Belgian endive, watercress, Hazelnut crumble, hazelnut puree, Tahitian vanilla gastric – this was excellent, but our favorite all-time lobster dish was a dish Corey did in 2007 — Lobster Knuckle, with small carrot balls in a béarnaise custard made with lobster consommé. This is just a matter of personal preference.


Signature Truffle custard 


Salt presentation for Foie – Jurassic, Fleur de sel, sel gris, volcanic, Molokai, Crystal Rock from Western Siberia – I hope you are impressed that I got these written down given the amount of wine I had consumed.


foie presented whole

Foie gras, peach relish, cornichons, small onions, frisee, Dijon mustard – I hope the photo does the foie justice – cooked perfectly, no veins, no stringiness – just smooth and as good as the cold tourchon.


 Jardinere – carrots, fennel, radish, turnips, tiny peas, Iberico ham, banyuls vinaigrette, Black truffle foam, Australian black truffles – this is served in a bowl within bowl. Pine needles ring the second plate – hot water is then added to the pine needles so you are enveloped in the smell of a pine needle forest.


Grilled Snake River Farms cote de boeuf, broccolini fleurettes, lilly bulbs, Hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic sauce – excellent


Oregon Rogue River Blue Panna Cotta, House-made granola, Granny Smith Relish


Blueberry Sorbet, Crème Fraiche panna Cotta, Crispy Quinoa


 Coffee and doughnuts, as good as ever.


I don’t have a clue

What a wonderful meal. A tasting menu should have an integral integrity, a symphony of sorts. We all love different composers so obviously there are different strokes for different folks. But Corey Lee does know our tune so well, that it is a supreme privilege to have a French laundry Corey Lee meal.





9 Responses to “French Laundry -July 2008”

  1. 1 sygyzy July 31, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    You mentioned in a previous post that Corey doesn’t want to do separate preparations for you and John. I am curious how this came about. If he’s back of house, did another guest complain or perhaps a waiter? I can imagine that it is distracting to pass plates back and forth, but how did he know about it?

    Also, does that mean your meals are only half as many dishes now? Are you disappointed at the lack of variety now? Not that the number of courses is not enough, but before, with sharing, you had twice as many right?

  2. 2 lizziee July 31, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Corey and I had a long conversation about this. He feels that the diner gets too distracted and loses the symmetry of the meal with all the passing. Also, you know Thomas’s theory of the law of diminishing returns – i.e after 3 or 4 bites you suffer from palate fatigue. Well, when you only get 2 bites, you aren’t really getting the full impact of a dish. This is completely Corey’s idea – no one complained and he would probably be happy to do it the ‘old” way. In fact, a couple sitting near us was doing the passing back and forth. But, I actually see his point and can fully concentrate on the plate in front of me. Trust me, we had a lot of variety.

  3. 3 Ray August 1, 2008 at 6:48 am

    As I read more and more blog review from The French Laundry. I see the Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee establishing his Asian influences in the restaurant.

    Thanks for the great pictures!

  4. 4 S Lloyd June 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Did you get a chance of visiting the French Laundry after Corey Lee’s departure? If Yes, are they keeping up with the exact same touches? What differences did you notice?

    Now that Chef Lee is opening Benu soon, I am looking forward to go and see what he will offer at his new establishment.

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