4-Year-Old Restaurant Reviewer Gets 5 Stars for Cute
To be a restaurant reviewer these days you need an early start. Really early. Like four years old. That's the age of Lyla Hogan, who recently passed judgment on the French Laundry, a culinary landmark under chef/owner Thomas Keller, in online magazine the Bold Italic. And even if you aren't a foodie, you'll still probably like her take, because the world can always use a little bit more innocent cute.
According to Bold Italic staff members Isla Bell Murray and Jessica Saia, there's never been anyone younger to sit through a full tasting menu at the French Laundry. This is hardly the place you'd normally take young children. As the restaurant notes, it has only 15 tables in a two-story stone house originally built in 1890 as a French steam laundry. Patrons make reservations two months in advance and the dinner lasts between three and four hours.
If that doesn't make the setting clear, television personality and former professional chef Anthony Bourdain has reportedly called the French Restaurant "the best restaurant in the world, period," according to the blog Food Republic and a number of other sites. We're talking about a $270 per person dinner, not including wine. The cloth napkins are held together by clothespins bearing the restaurant's logo. You get a choice of multiple types of table salt.
In other words, don't even ask about a Happy Meal.
So, it was a very adult selection of 14 dishes, including bread but not including the hit of the evening-- ginger ale--which Hogan bravely faced. Her discriminating palate, incisive insights, and child's propensity for brutal truth shone through.
An allergy kept her from trying the salmon cornet, so instead the kitchen whipped up an avocado and lime crème fraîche version wrapped in a sesame-seed tuile. (Translation: avocado and lime whipped into a soft fresh cream cheese and wrapped in a thin sesame cookie curled into a cone shape.) "I like the white part better than the green part," Hogan noted.
A summer melon soup with Fresno chili, toasted cashews, and wild arugula was her favorite dish and tasted "like a Tinker Bell Popsicle." A tough act to top, and Hogan refused to try the oysters and white sturgeon caviar: "It looks really not good." And one glass after another of a ginger ale that captured her taste buds sent her on multiple trips to "the most elegant bathroom I've ever seen." Remember, décor is a vital part of the dining experience.
She loved the bread except for a roll that looked like a bee hive ("AND I HATE BEES") and noted that a salad course was "not very much salad," referring to the tiny sizes of dishes in a tasting menu. As for some lamb: "This one isn't delicious."
This is one review, though, that you have to see, because most of the charm is in the series of pictures documenting Hogan's unfiltered reactions to each dish.
This isn't the first time that Bold Italic has had four-year-olds reviewing restaurants. Saia and Murray have taken children to four other tony spots. They originally saw the French Laundry as the pinnacle and likely end point, but apparently the view has changed because "these things are WAY TOO CUTE to stop now."
And if that's not enough, Eater NY has a brother and sister team, who started in 2011 at 4 and 7 respectively, scoping out the dining scene.