Review: The French Laundry

The only imperfection of our four-hour afternoon — apart from one server bumping into the same chair twice — was the ringleader of the raucous table next to us complaining all too loudly that his poularde tasted like “dirty socks.” Hardly.

Otherwise, after 13 years, a meal at this wine country institution is as dreamy as you’ve been told — again and again — it will be. Waltz through the sunny, manicured courtyard, pull open that heavy blue door, and enter the refined, blazer-clad world of serious dining.

“Welcome to the French Laundry,” pronounces the waiter, with what could be perceived as a subtle smirk, as if to say: We know how happy you are to be here.

Not to mention what it took to get here, as reservations are as hard to come by as Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. But once you’re in, you’re in — and treated to a multicourse parade of flavors and painstaking preparations, from a creamy Moulard duck foie gras terrine with caramelized bananas, pickled ramps, and three types of salt to a sweet butter-poached Maine lobster tail with a delicate Serrano ham and asparagus omelet to a slowly braised rabbit shoulder with a simple Granny Smith apple puree.

Of course it’s accompanied by a dizzying 94-page wine list — and all the pomp, circumstance, and pampering an $800 lunch deserves.

6640 Washington St., 707/944-2380. $$$$ [4 stars]