Conceived by chef Thomas Keller, this restaurant in Yountville is a great way to sample Keller’s cuisine if you cannot get reservations to the French Laundry. The daily-changing menu focuses on American comfort food and is a four-course, fixed-price. It’s delicious and informal. Note: while the restaurant serves dinner only throughout the week, a Sunday brunch is also offered and is fantastic.
Reservations are hard to secure at celeb chef Michael Chiarello's Bottega, but locals and visitors agree that this elegant Italian eatery is well worth the effort. Much of the menu is farm-to-table, and dining on the terrace is wonderful in warm weather.
From French Laundry chef extraordinaire Thomas Keller comes another precious culinary destination, this one only a few blocks away in Yountville. Heavier on ambiance and drawing a more casual, late-night clientele, Bouchon bistro is a jewel box affair. The red- and gold-bathed interior teems with heavy potted ferns and flickering votive candles. The kitchen serves up traditional brasserie-bistro dishes with such high-quality execution that each flavor emerges enhanced, refined and most certainly seductive.
Considered by many to be the best restaurant in the country, the French Laundry was awarded three Michelin stars in 2007 and has kept them ever since. A meal here is more of a sensory experience, akin to going to the opera or touring the Louvre, than about simply eating. The two nine-course menus are exquisite (expect a three-to-four-hour dining time), and reservations are hard to get. There’s a one-month advance reservation policy, so be sure to plan early.
Chef Thomas Keller presides over the run-like-clockwork kitchen most nights, and his signature dishes, which make the most of seasonal produce, are revelations of taste. Where else can you discover that artichokes have a vast range of flavor and sweetness? But unlike his grand restaurant in New York, Per Se, here the atmosphere is true California, with no pretension permitted. The small dining rooms resemble those in a simple country house. Getting up between courses and wandering out to the pretty enclosed back garden by the kitchen is encouraged, although appropriate attire is required (that means no t-shirts, shorts or tennis shoes).
You may spend hours and a small fortune, but it’s a dining experience you are unlikely to ever forget. The trick: gather a group and book the semiprivate dining room, which seats up to twelve and can be booked a year ahead.