For a special Yuletide treat, Santa Bauer revisits the French Laundry today. Thomas Keller's lauded flagship hasn't been re-reviewed in about four years, and with Timothy Hollingsworth recently stepping into the chef de cuisine role of the departed Corey Lee, it's a good excuse for an update.
Yet because of the whimsy that's incorporated into each dish and the countenance of the finely tuned staff, it never feels pretentious and stuffy... No corners are cut in the selection of ingredients, some of which come from the manicured gardens across the street, in the precise and exacting preparations or in the surroundings.
The review rattles off each of the items on the current bill of fare with simple menu-like descriptions (i.e., "That's followed by line-caught turbot on a cardoon gratin"). From start to finish, it's full of Keller's homages, signatures and the usual perfectionism. So naturally, the best restaurant in the land retains its four stars, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Bauer sums up the entire experience thusly: "a place where the reality always lives up to the fantasy." [Chron]
Paul Reidinger reminisces about the old Trader Vic's in his review of Le Colonial, the upscale Vietnamese Cosmo Place dweller whose stellar experience trumps the food: "But knocking a few points off a dish here and there does nothing to diminish the overall experience in a place as atmospheric as Le Colonial. As with a view restaurant, the temptation must be strong to lean on the enchanted setting and its storied past while letting the food and service discreetly slip. It's a credit to Le Colonial that if the restaurant served its menu in a setting a tenth as compelling, we would still judge it worthy." [SFBG]
Matthew Stafford heads out to the boonies (San Bruno Ave) to file on Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe: "The po'boys are tasty and substantial, but they're eclipsed by the house gumbo ($5/cup, $9/bowl). Too often gumbo is watery or tepid or lacking the stimulating qualities that make it the emblematic Creole dish, but Queen's starts with an especially rich, dark roux... The result is a spicy, smoky, invigorating brew that's even better with a little pulverized sassafras stirred in." [SFW]
THE ELSEWHERE: Matthew Stafford also pens the EBX review this week at the new Marzano in Oakland, the MIJ's Tanya Henry is at San Rafael's Cafe Trio, the PressDem checks out Sebastopol's French Garden, the Merc checked out Quince earlier this week, and the Bauer Sunday offering had just 1.5 stars for Hubert Keller's Burger Bar.