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The French Laundry, street viewChef Thomas Keller at The French LaundryThe 10 Best French Restaurants in the World
Located Outside of France

"I call Thomas Keller a genius. But now we call everyone
with the slightest talent a genius. So I will allow the food
he produces do the talking. It speaks of a palate which is sensitive, refined and sophisticated; it speaks of an intelligence which is wide-ranging, adventurous and
playful; and it speaks of a technique which is disciplined, masterly and firmly rooted in the French tradition."

– Francis Bown, Bown's Best

Recommended articles and reviews about this restaurant:  Arthur Hungry  /  Francis Bown  / 
Business Week  /  Financial Times (UK) /  Fodor's  /  /  Forbes Travel Guide  /  GAYOT  / 
The Guardian (UK) /  Meg HourihanJason Kottke  / 
The Hungry Hedonist  /  Los Angeles Times  /  Relais & Châteaux  /  Sally's Place  /  San Francisco Chronicle  /  Simon & Baker  /  Trouble With Toast  / 
Vegetarian World Guides  /







Dinner seven days a week, with reservations available between 5:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m..

Lunch is served on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

$270.00 Nine Course Chef's Tasting Menu

$270.00 Nine Course Vegetable Tasting Menu

(service charge included)


Video provided by Savory Cities


  The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street
Yountville, California 94599

Timothy Hollingsworth



  (707) 944 2380


  (707) 944 1974

Chef de Cuisine:

  Timothy Hollingsworth

Chef Pâtissier:

  Courtney Schmidig

Chef Sommelier:

  Dennis Kelly
Maître d'Hôtel:   Larry Nadeau
Culinary Gardener:   Tucker Taylor
General Manager:   Michael Minnillo
TKRG COO :   Eric Lilavois
Chef Propriétaire:   Thomas Keller

Official Site:


The French Laundry – reviewed by Francis Bown

You can tell a lot about The French Laundry from the other side of Washington Street. Do not look at the building which houses America’s most famous restaurant. Instead, turn around and see what is behind you. It is a cultivated area with a flagpole. I took a photograph of it for you. Its three acres comprise perhaps the most valuable vegetable garden in California. It provides about a third of the produce used in the kitchen of the French Laundry by Thomas Keller and his brilliant Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth. The point is that nothing is too much trouble when it comes to Mr Keller’s pursuit of perfection. If it means growing his own vegetables on his own land, then he will grow his own vegetables on his own land. You will understand, I hope, why Thomas Keller is one of my culinary heroes. He is widely – and rightly – acknowledged as one of the best chefs in the world. But he is not only a genius at the stoves. He is also a man full of creativity and original thought.

Yountville is one of the prettiest towns in the Napa Valley. I am happy to wander up and down its flower-bedecked streets. But I am happier still when I am on my way to The French Laundry. The prospect of any restaurant with three Michelin stars pleases me, but this particular dining room has given me so much joy over the years that I now regard it as a friend – an elegant, witty and exquisitely turned-out friend (which, after all, is the best sort). This is partly because the people who look after me here are so charming and so professional, and partly because the food and drink on offer are so good that each meal is positively life-enhancing.

The building opposite the vegetable garden is discreet. At one time, it was, indeed, a laundry. Two stories of stone and a pretty garden are all we see – although, be assured, a mighty kitchen is tucked away, out of sight. There is a degree of serenity about the place, which is as it should be. I was greeted in the entrance hall by the Assistant General Manager, Martin Repicky – as is the case with everyone at The French Laundry, he was suave, dapper and friendly. He spoke to me the words I like to hear: “You are at your usual table.” And so I was – table number five, next to the wall in the downstairs room. I settled myself comfortably, as a spotlight shone onto the white damask and the Riedel glasses before me sparkled in its beam. Around, my well-dressed fellow diners murmured contentedly. (The restaurant insists that there be no jeans, t-shirts, shorts or tennis shoes – and thank goodness for that.) The waiters, smart in their dark suits, arranged French cutlery and replaced the napkins of those who left their places for a moment. Throughout my evening in this calm and intimate space, I was looked after exceptionally well by the splendid fellow who has looked after me before – Milton Higgins, one of the service captains.

The French Laundry is not in the business of serving breathless meals to those who are in a hurry. Its pace is measured and its plates are numerous. Mr Keller offers two set menus of nine courses ($250): one with meat and fish, and one of vegetables. In fact, I could describe my feast as a 15 course affair, but I know that the restaurant likes to describe the numerous opening dishes as merely ‘appetizers’. Allow me therefore to resort to the word which Rolls-Royce used to use when anyone was sufficiently vulgar as to enquire about the power output of its motor cars, and say that the number of courses was “adequate”. Lest I gush at too great a length, I will pick out some highlights.

Mr Keller has both an appreciation of the theatrical and a keen sense of humour. Both were in evidence with the tartare of Bigeye tuna, with mission fig, onion flan and Sicilian pistachio. It arrived on top of four plates. When the glass dome was lifted, out came a cloud of wood smoke. The presentation was outrageous, and the subtle flavours were outrageously good. Of course, along came one of my favourite dishes, the truffled egg. Within an egg shell was egg custard flavoured with white truffle, topped with ragoût of black truffle. I have eaten this dish on every visit to the French Laundry, and I adore its satisfying richness. Delicate and exquisite, an aubergine salad led to the masterpiece of the evening: the simple but brilliant tagliatelle with black truffle. Yes, I know it sounds easy, but it reached as near perfection as we can hope to achieve in this Vale of Tears. And the sautéed foie gras and duck breast was very nearly as good.

45-day dry-aged beef sirloin now catered fully for my carnivore instincts. Then it was Cheddar cheese, raspberry sorbet and the ending to which I had been looking forward: coffee and doughnuts. Like the truffled egg, this is one of Mr Keller’s most inspired inventions and one which I could not bear to omit from a meal here. ‘Cinnamon-sugared doughnuts with cappuccino semi-freddo’ is the official description. I defy anyone who likes puddings not to find this one ravishingly delicious. For me, it embodies all the many pleasures of California.

A great restaurant must have a great cellar. The list at the French Laundry has 103 pages, in which you will find thousands of the world’s finest bottles. For those of you with deep pockets, think for a moment of white burgundy, sauternes, claret and red burgundy. Here you can choose between 24 Montrachets (including the 2002 DRC at $9,450), 1949 Yquem ($6,000), 1959 Latour ($5,510), 1982 Lafite ($11,000), 1961 Mouton Rothschild ($4,800), 1982 Pétrus ($12,875) and Romanée-Conti from 2004, 2005 and 2006 ($6,610, $10,045 and $9,250). But there are many bottles with much more modest prices, and, if you have one (but only one) special bottle which is not on the list, the corkage is $75.

From the substantial section of half-bottles, Head Sommelier Dennis Kelly recommended three of fine quality. The 2007 Rossj-Bass chardonnay/sauvignon blanc from Mr Gaja ($160, half) was brilliantly suited to the truffled egg – well-structured, carefully balanced and with seductive suggestions of peach and lychee. And the pairing with the tagliatelle was equally intelligent – a huge and complex Napa Valley chardonnay (Kongsgaard, 2007 - $125, half). The red was one of Mr Keller’s own wines, which are called Modicum. This one was a cabernet from Rutherford in the Napa Valley. Its smooth, silky 2006 vintage was densely and deliciously packed with ripe black fruit ($100, half).

As I walked back to my hotel on Washington Street, I saw again the vegetable garden. It was now in darkness, with the flag of the United States moving gently in silhouette against the moonlit sky. The symbolism was right. The search for perfection at The French Laundry goes on. And we, its patrons, know how often it so nearly reaches that impossible goal.

© 2010 Francis Bown.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.  For reviews of hotels and restaurants across the world, visit


To eat at Thomas Keller's Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry, is to experience a peak culinary experience. In The French Laundry Cookbook, Keller articulates his passions and offers home cooks a means to duplicate the level of perfection that makes him one of the best Chefs in the U.S. and, arguably, the world.

This cookbook provides 150 recipes exactly as they are used at Keller's restaurant. It is also his culinary manifesto, in which he shares the unique creative processes that led him to invent Peas and Carrots--a succulent pillow of a lobster paired with pea shoots and creamy ginger-carrot sauce--and other high-wire culinary acts. It offers unimagined experiences, from extracting chlorophyll to use in coloring sauces to a recipe for chocolate cake accompanied by red beet ice cream and a walnut sauce. You are urged to follow Keller's recipes precisely and also to view them as blueprints. To keep them alive, they must be infused with your own commitment to perfection and pleasure, as you define those terms.

Keller's story, shared through the writing of Michael Ruhlman, shows how this Chef was both born and made. After winning rave reviews when he was still in his 20s, it took a more experienced Chef throwing a knife at him because he did not know how to truss a chicken to open his eyes to the importance of the discipline and techniques of classical French cooking. To acquire these fundamental skills, he apprenticed at eight of the finest restaurants in France.

Grounded in classic technique, Keller's cooking is characterized by traditional marriages of ingredients, assembled in breathtakingly daring new ways, such as Pearls and Oyster, glistening caviar and oysters served on a bed of creamy pearl tapioca. Continually piquing the palate, his meals are a procession of 5 to 10 dishes, all small portions vibrantly composed. For example, Pan Roasted Breast of Squab with Swiss Chard, Seared Foie Gras, and Oven-Dried Black Figs require just three birds to serve six. The result: you are never sated, always stimulated.

The 200 photographs by Deborah Jones include more than just beauty shots: they show how to prepare various dishes; how Keller, shown stroking a whole salmon, respects his ingredients; and how the perfection of baby fava beans still nestled in the downy lining of their succulent pod, or the seduction of an abundance of fresh caviar, calls out the best from the Chef. --Dana Jacobi
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