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Last weekend, my husband and I had our most expensive dinner ever, and it cost over $1,000! Yes it was at the famous Michelin three-star French Laundry in Napa Valley. But was it worth all that money?
Getting a reservation at French Laundry through Amex
First let me put in a disclaimer — we don’t normally dine like this, though we had many expensive meals over the years. But my husband and I are foodies, so we always knew we want to visit French Laundry, the acclaimed Thomas Keller restaurant in Yountville, just two hours from where we live.
I have heard how hard it was to get a reservation at French Laundry. The waitlist was supposedly almost six-month long. We have friends taking two days off during the week just to dine here on a Wednesday night, the only reservation they were able to get after months of being on the waitlist. So when I got an email from American Express while I was vacationing in Maui this summer, I called the Platinum Concierge almost immediately!
The rep I talked to was wonderful. We ran into a little difficulty as I did not have my Platinum card with me. Since I was waiting for hear back from another couple to see if they wanted to join us on this exclusive dining opportunity, I didn’t put our name on the list as it would become nonrefundable once Amex confirms our table. But the rep agreed to call me back the next day to follow up, and he did! He was able to put us down for 7pm reservation, and a day later our card was charged $1700+ for a table for four. The price included taxes, but not alcohol! Too bad the Platinum card does not earn extra points for dining, nor can you redeem Membership Rewards points for the dinner. 🙁
The Dinner at French Laundry
French Laundry is located in downtown Yountville, my favorite town in Napa Valley. The restaurant is right cross from its own garden along Washington Street. The sign is so hidden that I never noticed it even though driving by so many times before.
The restaurant is housed in a two-story building. There is no parking lot, let alone valet parking service. Parking though doesn’t seem to be issue as you can find parking on the street. We got lucky with front row parking arriving just five minutes ahead of reservation.
We were led upstairs dining area, which had tables for four to eight people. Unfortunately it was a bit loud, and we weren’t able to hear our server well until after one party of six left.
The dinner included a nine-course chef tasting menu or vegetarian menu. We uniformly opted for the chef tasting menu without any hesitation.
The wine list was extremely extensive, with 80 pages shown on an iPad. Paring would have cost over $300 per person, so we opted to order a bottle of red wine instead, and it was among the cheapest but still cost over $400! Ouch!
The food came at a nice pace as we expected, there was no rush in between. Each dish did have incredible flavor, most I liked but a few I didn’t.
We were given a bag of short bread cookies and a nice box of chocolate to take home. Before we headed out, our server offered a tour of the new kitchen. We also got to keep our menu!
Was my $1,000 dinner worth it?
Our dinner lasted almost four hours, at a wonderful pace as we would expect from a restaurant with this price level. But was the meal really worth $1,000 for two? Sadly we don’t think so. While we know there is no valet parking, it is odd for restaurant of this kind of fame. And picking a wine from an iPad without a real sommelier to navigate the extensive wine list? That is disappointing and almost unacceptable! We were also surprised how noisy it was where we sat, and disappointed that we could hardly hear our servers when they presented each course. Yes the ingredient all came from their own garden, but there are plenty farm-to-table restaurants in Napa Valley, in fact farm-to-table is the theme here!
At the end of the day, we are happy that we had a wonderful night at French Laundry. We had an incredible weekend hanging with our friends, wine tasting and fine dining, without kids in tow! Life is good! But we won’t do it again. We still prefer Redd 10 times more at less than 20% of the cost (Redd a restaurant down the street from French Laundry) or Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco near Fisherman’s Wharf.
But if you want to experience French Laundry at least once like we did, give Platinum Concierge a call, they will help you get in! Otherwise, call them exactly two months ahead of your desired date, you just might get lucky with a reservation!
if you do end up going, bring your own wine to save some serious dollars! Guests are allowed to bring any wine that are not represented on their wine list. There is a corkage fee of $150 per 750ml bottle with a limit of one bottle for every two guests at the table.