Throughout the world, Chef Thomas Keller is revered as an extremely talented chef. We’ve had the pleasure of heightened experiences at his restaurants, The French Laundry and Per Se, prior to this night. On those occasions, the meals and service, both food and wine were incredible and still to this day provide fond memories for us.
Many of the dishes that you see here were, from a taste perspective, up to Chef Keller’s standards. What was disappointing about this meal was the lack of outstanding service and knowledge compared to what we’ve received in the past. When a restaurant charges an exceptional price for a meal, all aspects of food and service are expected to be commensurate – exceptional. On this evening, the server could not fully describe the dishes and could not answer questions about the ingredients, much less pronounce correctly some of the ingredients. This happened on more than one dish presentation. We finally gave up asking, even though we longed to know more about the obvious painstaking efforts that the kitchen chefs took to prepare the courses. We were even more surprised to see this type of service as we spotted Chef Keller himself present in the restaurant and knew he would be horrified if he knew what was happening. We have dined at Chef Keller’s restaurants over a 9 year period. On each occasion, the Amuse Bouche has been the same every time. Has this been a coincidence or is it by design? We know that the “Salmon Cornets” are a signature dish for Chef Keller, but perhaps, if it is in fact by design, he could develop variations of it or ask if the diners if they would like an alternative amuse.
Now onto the positive-
Favorite Dishes: There were two dishes that were symphonic. The Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster was filled with layers of flavors that kept us wanting more. The Red Pepper Raviolo was perfectly prepared, and the contrast of its softness and ability to melt in our mouths while we tasted a crisp piece of Compressed Fennel Bulb was moving.
The Elysian Fields Farm’s Carré d’Agneau Rôti Entier was perfectly prepared, and the presentation on the unique antique silver rack holder was incredible and fun to eat from. The varied flavors of the apricots, cauliflower florettes, wilted spinach, cilantro shoots, and pepper syrup with Greek yogurt provided us with many combinations to explore individually and then finally eat all together.
Least Favorite Dish: Japanese Bigfin Squid Poêlé with Baby White Asparagus, Wilted Dandelion Greens, and Nasturtium Blossoms with Sour Cherry-Niçoise Olive Coulis – The squid was chewy and disappointing and had the same texture problem as our least favorite dish at Le Bernardin. As the meals were within 24 hours of each other, we began to wonder if they use the same purveyor and received a less than ideal delivery?
Other Highlights: Our hostesses were very attentive as we arrived and departed, making us feel welcome and hoping we would return. They exemplified the Thomas Keller service we are normally accustomed to. Starting our dinner around 6:00 was perfect as it gave us a long time to soak up the spectacular sunset view from the dining room. The varied setting of the sun on buildings with various heights and configurations created a lovely panorama.