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stephen wall

L'Ambroisie

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I've been thinking about going to this place for a while but I can hardly find any information on it.No website,hardly any hits on Yahoo and no result when searched for here.Could any members who have dined there or have any information on it ie menus, availability of reservations etc please reply.Thanks in advance :smile:

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stephen -- I have dined there, and typed up some of the menu items while comparing the menus applicable during meals in 2001 and this year (see the most recent posts first):

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?ac...4d7e10054e9a271

B Pacaud's signature dish is langoustines with sesame and curry, and that has been the subject of some discussion on the bord in the context of the utilization of spices, etc. in French cuisine. The restaurant has no prix fixe menu, and is a la carte (If you are interested in a 1Q 2002 menu, I could consider typing it up over the weekend -- it's not particularly long). The restaurant is open Saturday lunch, among other times, and is therefore a potential target if you are visiting from London for the weekend, unlike certain other three-stars that are not open on weekends.

There has been speculation on the board that it might be easier to secure reservations when the caller speaks French, rather than English. Reservations have to be secured way in advance; I forget the exact policy, but an interested diner should just call. Where one is seated has been reported to have a significant impact on the meal experience. It is less desirable, generally, to be seated in the "back room", where it has ben reported US diners might be placed. I have not yet been seated in the back room, and cannot comment. When one enters from Place des Vosges, one will pass through the better areas for seating first.

Among others, lizziee and Bux have dined at L'Ambroisie and might be able to provide additional input. Not a personal favorite of mine, but well worth a try and clearly better than such places as Taillevent, in my assessment. :smile:

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http://fat-guy.com/article/articleview/88/

Also when I search for Ambroisie on this site I get 25 results. With French words it's always best to eliminate the excess baggage of L' and such. Also as an aside it makes life easier for searchers if our users use English spellings always, in other words no accent marks.

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My one intersection with Ambroisie. A friend and I were staying near the Louvre. She being an opera fan, we decided to walk to the new Bastille Opera and buy tickets. It was before lunch and a warmish overcast November day in 1997 and I was wearing an open shirt and slacks, no jacket,

under a raincoat. On the way I mentioned Ambroisie was a short detour and we could stop and ask about lunch. We did. It was just about noon and given our appearance the maitre d'hotel looked us over sceptically when we told him we told him we wanted to lunch there and would be back after buying our opera tickets. He acceded hesitatingly probably quickly calculating the possibility of the empty table being populated by better prospects. We came back about a half hour later and were seated in the front room at a central table in all our casual American dress. Neither of us is fond of most "nouvelle cuisine" and we decided to have a cote de boeuf for two and a bottle of Cahors. We refused to have an entree or desert and only added cheese to finish the wine. The beef, wine and cheeses were excellent. We ate what we wanted and warded off all the blandishments put to us. We loved the new opera house had good seats purchased the same day and enjoyed the production we saw that night.

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Reservations have to be secured way in advance; I forget the exact policy, but an interested diner should just call.

Where one is seated has been reported to have a significant impact on the meal experience. It is less desirable, generally, to be seated in the "back room", where it has ben reported US diners might be placed.  I have not yet been seated in the back room, and cannot comment. When one enters from Place des Vosges, one will pass through the better areas for seating first.

Reservations can only be made 2 months in advance.

Cabrales, it is the other way around. The front room is for non-French and the back room with the tapestry for the French. Note pirate was seated in the front room.

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lizziee -- I could easily be wrong, but my impression has always been that the "front" room is the one closer when one walks in, and it definitely has tapestries. It also leads into a little nook where there is the kitchen door. It is quite a large room. The "back" room is the one after that, no? Does the "back" room have tapestries too? :blink:

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The "back room" is the little room that you reach by going through the big room, I assume. Is there a third room? I'm glad to hear we weren't bansihed to Siberia. I found that room more intimate and far nicer in scale, but I thought the tapestry was in another room, so maybe what I thought was part of the front room was actually the back and I was in a coat closet. Who knows, but outside of the staff, the only person who seemed to speak French like a native was in our room. We hard nothing but English as we walked through the other room to get to our table. A large part of the clientele was Asian, but speaking English. That went for our room as well.

I don't want to focus on the room, but I have to say that I found an atmosphere that called to mind an superbly elegant funeral home. I refer to three star restaurants as temples of haute cuisine and I dislike loud diners, but when we were at l'Amroisie, the conversations were in such hushed tones that it felt as if everyoe else thought they were trespassing in a private chapel. The food is deserving of a that sort of respect, but it also merits some sense of sensory pleasure even if the food is as cool and precise as the room. With only one meal under my belt and that taken quite a few years back, I'm reluctant to categorize the cuisine, but I'd have no trouble in saying I found it classic.

I had that langoustine, curry, spinach and seasme wafer dish and participated in the threads that emanated from it's description (by another) in From Paris to the Moon. At that point in my relationship with French food, it seemed to sum up haute cuisine in one plate--a couple of perfect crayfish on a bed of spinach with a contemporary version of a classic French curry sauce garnished with disk of phyllo with sesame seeds. I do not recall if the sesame wafer was merely balanced on the crayfish or floated an eighth of an inch above the food. Had it done the latter, it would not have been the most impressive thing about the dish. That may explain why I took so poorly to seeing Pacaud criticized in any way for that preparation. There was no apparent slight of hand to be seen in my main course. There's no magic involved in securing the perfect lobe of sweetbreads, studding it with truffle and seeing it gets placed in front of the diner at precisely the right point in it's short existence. At least it seemed simple from my position. With little or no experience I was able to do it just by sitting down in the right place and asking for it. My wife ordered lamb chops coated with minced truffles. I find that a bit like gilding the lily, but it was my wife's dish and she said it was perfect. "Perfection," rather than "nouvelle cuisine" seems the term to describe the food best.

Paris is far less formal than it used to be, but with three stars and four forks and spoons, all in red, l'Amboisie is the kind of place I'd suggest a jacket and tie. I'd also note for whatever cross cultural value it might have, that I feel the French might regard having a single course in a formal restaurant as some thing bordering on disrepect towards the restaurant, if not their overall culture. Does anyone have another thought on that? I may be overly sensitive in this regard, but I tend to avoid even smaller restaurants when I'm not going to order at least an entree (appetizer in the US) and a main course (entree in the US) and head for a cafe, brasserie or creperie if I'm in a town large enough to offer me that chance.

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I don't know whether there are two or three rooms because I have been seated on every visit in the first, large dining room with tapestries when one walks in from the Place des Vosges door (I think there is only one door, but can't be sure). There are large mirrors, lots of flowers, chandeliers and light and space. I had assumed that was not the less desirable room, but perhaps the other room(s) is even nicer. :wink:

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I find Pacaud's cuisine perfect. Steven's descriptions from Fat Guy are very accurate; Pacaud handles the best ingredients with such care and delicacy. This is anything but overwrought food - you will never see or taste an extraneous flavor. Everything is precisely prepared and every dish is precisely plated. Pacaud rarely comes out of the kitchen; he uses his food to introduce himself to the diner. Bux also used the word perfection; it is hard to think of another adjective to describe Pacaud's food.

We have eaten there a number of times over the last few years, but I only have notes on 2 of these meals.

Our meal in 2000:

First course was oeufs de poule mollets, sabayon a l'oscietre - the eggs were soft-boiled, perfectly peeled to resemble a hard boiled egg enrobed with sabayon sauce and on the side a "quenelle" of caviar and tiny asparagus spears. My notes say the following, "to say my husband died and went to heaven is an understatement .. before the evening was over he was conspiring 1. how to get back to L'Ambrosie for breakfast 2. how to have the eggs delivered by room service 3. how to make L'Ambrosie the first stop directly from the airport in 2001."

Second course was darne de turbot rotie aux epices, poelee d'artichaut a cru. The turbot, roasted on the bone, was perfectly seasoned and the artichokes accompanying the dish crunchy and the perfect compliment to the turbot.

Next course was compose d'agneau en nougatine d'ail, ragout de fevettes a l'estragon - lamb was served three ways - the chop, the loin, the brains with caramelized garlic for crunch. Absolutely perfectly prepared and presented.

Again, I find myself over-using the word perfect, but there is no other way to convey Pacaud's cuisine. The wines we had were a good value - '90 Puligny Montracet Les Pucelles by Leflaive and a '90 Bonnes Mares by Trouqueray.

Service was very attentive and good-humored, not at all stuffy. They are not used to seating non-French speakers in the middle room with the tapestry (it seems they like to seat English speakers together and use an English speaking staff to serve), but we had requested this when we made our reservation, saying we would handle French only. Note: there are three rooms at L'Ambrosie - the first as you enter from Place des Vosages, the middle room, and the back room which is normally used for private dinners. Bux described the ambiance well - it is formal - like eating in someone's elegant home. However, we did not feel a hushed reverence, maybe because we got into a lively discussion with the GM, Pierre, who was and is fun, knowledgeable and the best when it comes to front of the house. Madame Pacaud is also always there, but as she speaks little English, she is reticient with English speakers. (One time, when we went with a couple of French chefs, she was animated as well as engaging.)

The next year, 2001, we returned and were greeted by Pierre as "old friends." Again, we were seated in the middle room and were the only Americans seated there. One interesting note; the French seem to use L'Ambrosie as a celebration restaurant and are very judicious in their ordering of wines. Two separate tables of French couples ordered 1 bottle of red wine for the entire meal which they nursed throughout the meal, unconcerned that there was absolutely no match whatsoever of wine and food.

They normally do not do splits, but we wanted to have more than an entree and a main and they agreed. We again had the mollet eggs - cutting in half the egg, the runny yolk mixes with the sabayon sauce and then you add a little caviar from the side - wonderful. Next we had the frog legs with citronelle sauce and a tempura of vegetables. The frog legs were lightly battered and crunchy and my husband, who is not a veggie person, ate his veggies first.

For the main, my husband had the beef coated with black pepper and I had the lacquered pigeon with a mousse of tiny peas. Again, there is only one word to describe these dishes - perfect.

We had cheese and dessert both times, but I do not have specific notes on these. What often happens is that after 2 bottles of wine, my note-taking ability suffers.

I can only describe L'Ambrosie as a classic Michelin 3 *. It is expensive since there is no tasting menu, but I can honestly say that it is worth it.

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When you dine there, you can feel the power. Very early on you get the sense that there's not much for a critic to do there except tell people what the restaurant is like. I think it was Hal Rubenstein who made the analogy that asking whether Jean-Georges Vongerichten can cook is like asking whether Babe Ruth can hit. I'd have to say the same thing about Pacaud. Very few restaurants have that effect on me. Interestingly, Christian Delouvrier, who is one of the most technically proficient chefs practicing in the United States, told me that Ambroisie and Ducasse are in his opinion the best restaurants in Paris, or maybe he said in France. I think he described Pacaud as something along the lines of "the shit" and Ducasse as something along the lines of "the big guy." Although my preferences run strongly to restaurants like Pierre Gagnaire I can't say I disagree. It's Ambroisie and Ducasse at the top, in my opinion.

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I think it was Hal Rubenstein who made the analogy that asking whether Jean-Georges Vongerichten can cook is like asking whether Babe Ruth can hit. I'd have to say the same thing about Pacaud. Very few restaurants have that effect on me.

That is a home-run statement!

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Added comments to my earlier post. It was the room you first enter and that seems to be the front room. Perhaps all the tables in Siberia were reserved by Americans far in advance. At that time one got 4.8FF to a dollar so the 650FF

beef dish alone came to $135. It was boeuf de Salers and served with pommes de terre souflees

and a marrow bone. If we had made a reservation well in advance we would probably have come hungrier and ordered more. We ate what we wanted and isn't that what restaurants are for. Alas I'm a born d'ebrouillard. I refuse to be intimidated by restaurant personnel and I get repect for my knowledge of food and wine.

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pirate -- When you have a chance, consider discussing how the restaurant personnel might have been "encouraging" you to order more and/or otherwise increase your expenditures? :wink:

Also, do people know what the respective formal titles of Pierre and the younger, thinner and brunette Pascal (angular faced) might be? Pascal seems to be at least co-maitre d'. :blink:

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We ate what we wanted and isn't that what restaurants are for.
I don't know. I suppose different restaurants are actually for different things as well as some restaurants are for different things for different people. Churches are for praying to god, but if I entered a church and started praying out loud during the sermon, I might offend some people. I don't think offensive behavior is always so clear cut. That's why I raised the question. I'd be the first to agree that what a restaurant could and should expect from a diner with long standing reservations is diifferent from what they might expect from one who walked in requesting a table in an hour. In the case of the latter, the diner has not been anticipating the meal for some time and the restaurant is not losing more than a table that would go unsold. I'd also be quick to agree that a diner who demonstrates knowledge and appreciation of good food and wine can get away with things others cannot in a fine restaurant.

In any event my comments were not meant as personal criticism, but to offer my thoughts for those less experienced than you or I in the ways of France and to solicit other thoughts. My wife and I, for instance, do not agree on when and where we draw the line as to which places are suitable for having a single course. We often disagree on appropriate dress as well. In terms of dress, by the way, I believe there are appropriate clothes for certain restaurants, but at the same time, I'd urge diners not let the wrong clothes keep them from enjoying a meal if the cirucmstances arose where they were not dressed in the clothes they would have worn had they planned in advance. My desire to suggest an appropriate tie and jacket for those planning on dining at l'Amroisie is not meant to signal inflexibility.

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Lizziee, one of the nagging thoughts I've had about my meal at l'Abroisie was that on a Saturday afternoon, the composition of the diners might not be typical of a dinner or of a weekday lunch and that my sense of the clientele may be very false because of that.

I'd describe the service as I remember it as quite formal and attentive in the old fashioned sense. At one point in the afternoon, I wanted some information about the wine we were drinking (inexpensive on their list, but the price of a week's worth of bottles in Catalunya) and posed a question in French to the sommelier. He responded in French, slowly waiting for the comprehension in my eyes before continuing as necessary. I am sure he could easily have switched to English and I might have learned a bit more, but I never gave a signal that would indicate a preference to switch languages and I am indebted to his patience. Carrying on soley in French contributed more to my afternoon than the nuances I might have lost about the wine.

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Bux -- Your recollection of the service is consistent with mine, although I might be indifferent between that type of service and the "warmer" kind. The younger co-maitre d' (?) Pascal and Mde Pacaud are hardly following the Vrinat model.

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Lizziee, one of  the nagging thoughts I've had about my meal at l'Abroisie was that on a Saturday afternoon, the composition of the diners might not be typical of a dinner or of a weekday lunch and that my sense of the clientele may be very false because of that.

Bux,

I have eaten there for lunch on Saturday as well as dinners on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Our first time there was a Saturday and we sat in that front room so we were with mostly English, American and Japanese. At dinner, the front room was predominately the above mix, while the middle room, which I keep refering to, was French except for us. I should mention that the room is very, very small, maybe a total of 7 tables. The restaurant, itself, is small. It is by far the smallest of the 3 *'s and one of the reasons it is so difficult to get a reservation. There just isn't enough room for the demand.

My son, who worked in a 2 star in Paris, did mention to me that weekday lunch tended to be dominated by the French more than at dinner. Also, I have noticed that at lunch in Paris 2 and 3 stars, you see many more tables of "businessmen" dining and we are often one of the few couples in the room. From what I can gather, the French prefer a hearty meal at midday and would rather have a light supper.

Cabrales, I honestly found the service to be warm and welcoming, although formal and correct. It is a very formal restaurant, absolutely jacket and ties. However, my experience is much like Bux's; we struggled with the French, but there was no impatience, no rolling of eyes - only a great appreciation that we tried to use our French, albeit bad.

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to Cabrales: They didn't like us not ordering an entree and lusciously described the langoustine

dish to us which we noticed was being consumed at tables near us. We politely and graciously declined By the time we refused dessert they were resigned to us but brightened when we ordered cheese. We ate only small amounts.

Let me take this occasion to advance the cause of debrouillardisme (there's an accent on the first e). I travel a lot on business and have been in Paris twice in the past nine months. Lunch is my preferred meal since late heavy dinners make it too difficult to sleep and get up fresh for business. I generally don't make reservations. And I usually wear a sweater over a shirt sometimes with a tie. I ate at three two michelin rosette restaurants where rather than decline my clientcy (Nous sommes desole...) provided me with ill-fitting jackets. In all cases I was treated rather well. I did not stay at the two hotels.

One restaurant was the Bristol hotel. The waiters inquired about my reaction to each dish and relayed it back to the chef who sometimes replied. I had ordered a la carte and the main dish was magret de canard. It was cooked rare as requested but was not that flavorful. Certainly not up to the comparable dish I had in Japan previously (Seasons restaurant in Osaka Hilton. Chef had German name) . When the waiter came back he said that Frechon, the chef, admitted it was hard to get high quality duck. On to the restaurant at the Four Seasons where Legendre was in charge. There I ordered the 60 euro lunch (not worth discussing) For an additional 16 euros one could have wine with the entree and plat. One got coffee with dessert. The Sommelier came over and we chatted.I mentioned my preference for burgundy. I got superb wines with refills. A premier cru Chablis and a premier cru Chambolle-Musigny both in top condition. I had my usual no cost pichet of ice water. The sommelier in addition to the wines brought over a bottle of water for me to try which he said was in fashion. It was a still water with very small mineral content from Lorraine in the Vosges Mountains and started with a W. Name escapes me. Not imported to USA. Thirdly, Lasserre also provided me with a jacket. Good table. Service and food fine. Guy Savoy with three rosettes let me in without a jacket. I did wear a jacket to Lucas-Carton.

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For an additional 16 euros one could have wine with the entree and plat. . . . The Sommelier came over and we chatted.I mentioned my preference for burgundy. I got superb wines with refills. A premier cru Chablis and a premier cru Chambolle-Musigny both in top condition.

pirate -- You received the two glasses of wine you described for 16 euros total? That's wonderful; I am sold on sampling the restaurant on my next visit to Paris.

If you recollect, did Lassere have a reasonably priced lunch? Does Guy Savoy have a less expensive lunch menu?

For me, it's easy to go from not well dressed to adequately-dressed. When I am bustling about the city, in the summer I might wear a black fitted T-shirt, cotton pants and a pair of flats. I would carry a pair of black mules and a "stretch", wrinkle-free skirt in a large-ish, but nice looking, handbag. I change before going to the restaurant in a bistro's washroom. :wink:

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to Cabrales: Actually with refills 4 glasses of wine. The sommelier was rather famous and I've heard he left. Most of our conversation was about Chateau de Pibarnon, the Bandol wine. The lunch at Laserre was about 58 euros. Not memorable. I had a fish for the plat. Wine was a costly 75 euros for a half bottle of 1998 Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeots (Maltroye vintner I believe) and it was a disappointment. The menu at Guy Savoy is , I believe the same as at dinner. I ordered a la carte and probably paid as much as the big tasting menu. I happened to be staying at the new Radisson remodeled from the original Vuitton building on the Avenue Marceau almost at the Arc de Triomphe. At 12:15 I asked the Concierge to make a reservation for one and then walked around the Arc to the restaurant. Radisson is very stylish and very confortable. Savoy: liked the new decor, service is magnificent. Food very good but not what I would regard as 3 rosette. Actually my best meal was at a no rosette favorite of mine: Garnier just across the street from the Gare St.Lazare. Lunch started with eperlan frites served with a tartar sauce. The little fish were crisply fryed and not greasy. The tartar sauce was delicious and classiic (14 euros I believe). I followed this with sauteed bay scallops served with spinach with olive oil. The scallops were fresh sweet and delicious. (28 euros). I had a half bottle of Chablis (18 euros) which was a perfect match for the food. No dessert. Plain water with ice.

My physician would have congratulated me for this meal.

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My experience with L'Ambroisie has been 'bittersweet' in tnat Prousty-madeleine-ian way. I have eaten there twice in my life, once in 1987 and once in 2001.

The first time, I went with my mother & sister who were visiting me while I was at school, and it was by far the most upmarket, elegant and grown-up restaurant I'd eaten at the whole year. Someone had recommended it to my mother. I had called and made a reservation for lunch at what I thought was L'Ambroisie - but when we arrived at the restaurant, it turned out to be something else (L'Ambroisie had moved and I hadn't paid attention to the person who answered the phone when I made the reservation).

So I called L'Ambroisie from a payphone on the corner and explained the situation, that my mother and sister were visiting from the States and we had heard great things, blah blah blah and the gentleman on the other end of the phone said we should come over as soon as possible.

We arrived just as most people were on dessert...but we were invited to order at our leisure, which we did. I don't even remember what we ate (it was before I started taking notes!). We ate in the "second room". There was no tapestry, and there were lots of little tables for two and four. The lighting was soft. The waiters flirted and had a bit of fun with us. The chef came out to say hello and explained that our mistake (of going to the other restaurant) was one that others had made as well.

The proverbial piece de resistance came when it was time to order desserts, and we were totally smashed by then on food and wine and ambiance, and we couldn't decide what to have so the waiter brought over one of everything :-) We didn't finish until the staff were eating their dinners!

I had wanted to return ever since but didn't have the opportunity until a friend and I decided to book as a special birthday treat for our respective significant others. Since we had to organise Eurostar tickets and hotel way in advance of Christmas, I started working on this expedition in August 2001. L'Ambroisie said they would only allow bookings within a month of the reservation, which I respected and waited. One month ahead to the day, I called and was told they had been fully booked long before. I was really incensed and had a French person call to verify that this was not an anti-non-French person issue, and it was not.

Basically I had to pull strings to get a reservation, and it was down to the wire, but finally we got it.

Our dinner that night was as everyone has mentioned - technically perfect. The food was sumptuous, the wine excellent, and the service, extremely correct. We ate in the front room with the tapestry, there were only about six other tables in the room. It was extremely hushed, you could hear cutlery and glasses but no voices. As we gradually warmed to the occasion (two big birthdays), we were the only ones who seemed to be having any fun. None of the waiters cracked a smile the whole evening. It was all very cold and impersonal and ponderous, as if they were aloof servants.

So...my earlier memory was one of a lovely, fun restaurant - an "unforgettable" experience, although I could remember nothing of the meal itself. 14 years on, my experience was one of awe and splendour, I have notes on the food and have nothing but praise and appreciation. But, and I write this reluctantly, the total absence of "soul" and warmth would make me think twice about taking such trouble to go back.

Qu'est ce qui se passe?

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Below is a summary of a 4Q 2001 meal at L'Ambroisie:

1/2 Feuillette de truffes noires au foie gras [not official name -- this was a special not on the menu, but described by Mde Pacaud] (A pastry of black truffles with foie gras)

1/2 Feuillantine de langoustines aux graines de sesame, sauce au curry (Langoustines with grains of sesame, curry sauce)

1/2 Poularde Bresse Demi-Deuil (Chicken in half-mourning)

1/2 Carre d'agneau de Lozere en croute de noix, poelee d'artichauts (Lamb from Lozere in a walnut crust, accompanying artichokes)

1/2 Charlotte aux pommes a l'Ancienne, sabayon aux noix (Apple dessert, with walnut sabayon)

1/2 Clementine glace, beignets chocolatee (Clementine ice cream with chocolate donut-like items)

Puligny Montrachet, Jadot 1985 (good deal at 690 FF)

Corton Clos de Corton (1/2 bottle)

A dining companion and I swapped plates for each course. Large slices of truffle and foie gras filled the interior cavity of a puff pastry shell in one of the appetizers. It was good. The other appetizer was the famed langoustines with sesame and curry. While the flesh of the langoustine was well-prepared, I did not find this dish particularly impressive. The sesame is concentrated on a thin wafer-like item. The chicken in half-mourning dish had a cream-based sauce, in contrast to the version of the dish served at its origination point at La Mere Brazier in Lyons. The chicken was smooth and appropriate, and had one or two slices of truffles lodged underneath its skin. It had a country feel to it. I have described this dish somewhere on the board. The desserts were disappointing. The clementine ice cream tasted like Haagen Daz's orange flavor. Overall, a good-plus meal.

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to Cabrales: your post appears to back up my intuition about langoustines at Ambroisie. I was spoiled by the langoustines served at the Cafe de Paris in Biarritz when Lapointe was chef and it had two rosettes. The langoustines were wrapped in bacon, grilled and served with a sauce mousseline. The langoustines were very fresh and the combination of flavors still make me drool. A great dish! I would only consider ordering langoustines at Garnier, mentioned in an earlier post, or La Luna ,a French restaurant despite the Italian name in the 8th.

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Thanks for all the replys :smile: Cabrales,if its not too much trouble that menu would be great

stephen -- I'll type it in by Monday afternoon at the latest. :wink:

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