A Four-Year-Old Reviews the French Laundry
Reviewing notable restaurants via the simple yet extremely judgmental palate of a four-year-old has kind of become a “thing” here at the Bold Italic. Back since our second restaurant, whenever anyone has asked how I plan to end the series, I’ve always said that if we were ever able to get a four-year-old to review the French Laundry, that would be it. Looks like I’m going to have to eat my words (or have Isla take photos while a four-year-old eats them), because here we are, already, and these things are WAY TOO CUTE to stop now.
For our fifth installment, extreme fanciness edition, we took Lyla Hogan (favorite food: “good ice cream in a hard cone”) to what Anthony Bourdain has called “the best restaurant in the world, period.” (It won that title officially in 2003 and 2004 and is still the #1 restaurant in California and #3 in the country). Lyla is the youngest person to eat a full tasting menu at the French Laundry. With all the widespread and well-earned prestige of the restaurant, it’s not difficult to find countless multiple-syllable reviews from professional critics. Here we prove that there is no purer critique than the facial expressions of a teeny tiny child.
Avocado and lime crème fraîche wrapped in a sesame-seed tuile
The meal began with a salmon cornet amuse-bouche. Lyla’s bouche is staunchly unamused by salmon (rather, she’s allergic), so the kitchen made her a special avocado version. She was pretty skeptical after discovering that it was NOT a tiny ice cream cone but forgave the staff eventually and gave it a try.
Summer Melon Soup
Fresno Chili, Toasted Cashews, and Wild Arugula
The soup, or the bowl of art that TFL is calling soup, came out as the first official dish. After all five and a half hours of eating, Lyla said it was her favorite part of the whole meal.
Oysters and Pearls
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
TFL’s signature “melted popsicle fairy-soup” is a hard act to follow, and this was one of two dishes that Lyla just straight-up refused to try. One hopes the regret won’t be too deep when she Googles her name 20 years from now and realizes that she once passed up TFL caviar.
Citrus-Cured Pacific Yellowtail
Brokaw Avocado Purée, Cilantro Shoots, and Finger Lime Vierge
NOPE. Not going here either.
Lyla was obsessed with the ginger ale. She drank so much of it that she had to take more than one trip to what she called “the most elegant bathroom I’ve ever seen.”
Hen Egg Custard
With a Ragoût of Périgord Truffles
Lyla was shocked by this dish. SHOCKED! She insisted that it was NOT a real egg because, as she said, “They can’t get the top of it off without cracking it!” Once she got in there, though, she loved it, even if she was tenaciously confused about what exactly was inside the “definitely not an egg” shell, explaining, “To me, the chicken inside is a fluffy marshmallow.” (It was neither.)
Tour de Canapés Viande
To adults this course was charcuterie heaven. (Do you like bacon? Cool. Imagine if the French Laundry made you some bacon.) To Lyla, though, this was a one-way ticket to Breadsville, and she had the key to the city. We had to ask for more because she ate all of it, but then she ate most of the second round as well.
Jardinière de Légumes
“At least it’s a salad, but it’s not very much salad,” she said, finally giving a voice to pretty much everyone’s internal monologue at most “small plates” restaurants.
Lyla was pretty satisfied with the tasty–albeit petite–salad, but she had some rather unsettling tasting notes regarding certain elements.
“This pepper tastes like babies.”
When I accused her of eating a baby after she chewed up half the pepper, she explained, “No, I just ate the legs and the feet, not the eyes or the mouth.”
(So sweet, but she ended up just cutting it to bits on the tablecloth.)
EVERYBODY TRY TO CHILL OUT. IT’S MORE BREAD!!!!! I believe this was supposed to accompany the upcoming lobster, but who gives a crap. IT’S BREAD. This bread came with two types of molded butter, which Lyla had opinions on.“It looks like the house that bees live in. AND I HATE BEES!”
Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster
Black Mission Fig Jam, Garden Turnips, Marcona Almonds, and Wild Arugula
Russet Potato Gnocchi
With freshly shaved truffles
Oh, the decadence. After the gnocchi was served, a humidor of black truffles came out to be freshly shaved on top. Lyla called them "black diamonds." This ended up being one of her favorites.
Herb-Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb
Slow-Baked Ratatouille, Charred Eggplant Béchamel, Fino Verde Basil, and Kettle Garlic Jus
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
Garden Broccoli, Pain Perdu, Young Onions, Petite Lettuces, and Burgundy Mustard.
I’m not going to list descriptions for all the desserts, because HOLY CRAP they never ended.
Because what goes with dessert better than MORE DESSERT!
In the end, Lyla was impressed with the French Laundry. Apparently, when her mom told her that their next dinner out would be pizza, she said, “But I want to go to the French Laundry. WHY CAN’T WE GO TO THE FRENCH LAUNDRY?” Champagne tastes, that one. Or rather, ginger-ale tastes in a champagne glass.