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stephen wall

L'Ambroisie

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For members who joined subsequent to the applicable period, Pacaud's langoustines wth curry dish and Gopnik's discussion of it in "Paris to the Moon" were discussed in various threads on the board, including:

"French and American Menus" under "France"

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?s=...,and,curry&st=0

"Has the light dimmed on French cooking?" under "General"

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?s=...&hl=pacaud&st=0

"Fusion Food -- Profoundly dishonest? Discuss" under "India"

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?s=...=5822&hl=pacaud

"Indian Spices in Michelin 3* Kitchens" under "India"

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?ac...2f057d769e026c5

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stephen -- Pacaud's L'Hiver 2001 (Winter)menu is below. Note that, although the menu was still in place during 1Q 2002, there will have been at least one or two menus released since that set forth below. On the right hand side of the Winter 2001 menu is a picture of a relief attributable to Jean Goujon (16th century) from the Hotel Carnavalet, Paris. A different relief from the Hotel is included in the Autumn 2001 menu.

Marbre de foie gras de canard, celeri-rave et truffe (Duck foie gras, celeriac and truffles) Euro 75

Viennoise d'oeufs de poule mollets, mouillettes a la truffe (Egg dish with truffles) 82

Soupe de noix de Saint-Jacques en parisienne de legumes (Scallop soup; vegetables) 68

Huitres "speciales" chaudes au caviar, sabayon au cresson (Oysters with caviar in a hot preparation, sabayon of watercress) 84

Feuillantine de langoustines aux graines de sesame, sauce au curry (Langoustines with sesame and curry sauce) 71

Fricassee de homard sauce civet, puree Saint-Germain (Lobster fricassee, puree Saint-Germain) 110

Blanc de turbot braise aux deux celeris, julienne de truffe (Braised turbot with two types of celery; truffles) 90

Escalopines de bar, poelee d'artichaut et tapenade de truffe (Bass; artichokes; truffle tapenade) 86

Corolle de noix de Saint-Jacques a la mousseline de persil, beurre au safran (Scallops with a parsley mousseline, safron butter) 73

Suggestions du jour selon les arrivages (Daily suggestions according to the market)

Feuillette de truffe fraiche "bel humeur", salade de mache (Truffle pastrywith mache salad) 120

Carre d'agneau en nougatine de truffe, etuvee de legumes d'hiver (Lamb with a truffle nougatine; winter vegetables) 80

Poularde de Bresse "demi-deuil" en hommage a la Mere Brazier (Bresse chicken in "half-mourning" in honor of Chef E Brazier) 85

Filet de boeuf de Salers poele aux echalotes grises, bordelaise a l'anchois (Pan-fried filet of Salers beef with grey shallots, bordelaise sauce with anchovies) 82

Canette de Barbarie rotie aux ecorces d'agrumes et baies de genievre (Barbary duck roasted with citrus ?) 150 for 2 persons

Fromages frais et affines (Cheese) 26

Biscuit tiede et sorbet a la mandarine (Warm biscuit and sorbet of mandarin) 26

Tarte fine sablee au chocolat, glace a la vanille (Chocolate tart, vanilla ice cream) 26

Millefeuille au caramel, pommes vertes cristallisees (Caramel millefeuille, crystalized? green apples) 25

Miroir de chocolat aux marrons glaces, sauce moka (Chocolate "mirroir"? with candied chestnuts, mocha sauce) 28

Salde d'oranges et pamplemousses roses en gelee (Salad of orange and pink grapefruit with gelee) 24

Assortiment de desserts et patisseries (Assorted desserts) 34 :laugh:

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Thanks very much Cabrales :biggrin:Looking at the menu it seems to be extremely expensive, even compared to some of the other 3 stars i.eGordon Ramsay.From your experience,do you think it'd be worth it or would the money be better spent elsewhere?

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stephen -- L'Ambroisie is more expensive than Gordon Ramsay RHR and likely more expensive than Waterside Inn (whose Menu Exceptionel is 75-80 pounds, or around 120 euros??). However, subjectively, if a diner had already dined one or more times at GR and WI, I would imagine that the potential incremental fulfillment from visiting another three-starred restaurant might be somewhat greater than an additional meal in the UK. Also, to the extent that GR and WI are accessible from London without transportation to Paris (if not hotel accommodations), there is another cost consideration that might be relevant. Note L'Ambroisie is open on Saturday for lunch, such that theoretically a day trip on a very reasonably priced Eurostar or discount airline ticket might be feasible. Whether lunch at a three-star is a substitute for a dinner at a three-star is, to some extent, diner-dependent.

Among the Paris three-stars, I would say Taillevent is definitely more inexpensive than L'Ambroisie. A 3Q 2002 Lucas-Carton menu (very rough translations; two prices indicate without and with glasses of accompanying wine chosen by the chef) is below (Appetizers only described below):

Feve beans, chanterelles, "new" onions, asparagus points, zucchini flowers with crests of chicken (57 euros; 73)

Duck foie gras pan-fried with Szechuan peppers, mango, papaya, lychees and passion fruit (58; 81)

Appetizer of Brittany lobster with polenta based on corail (89, 124)

Langoustines with crunchy vermicelli, cream of clams and related items and almonds (93; 124)

Oscetra royale and white onions from Cevennes with Sicilian pistachios (145; 1995)

Asparagus from the vally of Durance, raw and cooked (71, 86)

Entrees are in the 49-75 euro range without wine, and 83-108 euro with. The exception is the Brittany lobster with vanilla, which is 120; 157. Interesting appetizers are rather expensive a la carte at L-C.

Note, however, that Lucas-Carton has a prix fixe menu during both lunch and dinner (lunch is at under 75 euros, with significant choice; dinner as of 4Q 2001 was without choice in the prix fixe). I cannot recollect how much the prix fixe dinner price was.

As of 2001 (likely; I have several versions, and did not date them), Taillevent's very reasonable a la carte prices were (1) 210 through 240 for appetizers (IN FRANCS!), and (2) 260 through 310 FF for mains (except for a lobster dish at 460 FF). I had thought, prior to reviewing the Taillevent menu, that the restaurant did not have any tasting menus. However, at the bottom of the menu, there is an indication that a tasting menu in six services suggested by Michel del Burgo is 850FF. Note Taillevent is rather inexpensive relative to other Paris three-stars.

Guy Savoy prices are discussed in one of robert brown's three related threads on the French board.

For me, it's the quality of the cuisine against which prices should be considered. Thus, I might consider L'Ambroisie to be more expensive than Taillevent (prix fixe and a la carte), Grand Vefour (I have only eaten at this place twice at lunch, during which there is a 71 euro prix fixe; a la carte would likely be less expensive than L'Ambroisie, though), possibly Ledoyen (I have menus from 1Q and 2Q 2002, and could type them on the board if you were about to go to the restaurant; I didn't think the place was more expensive than L'Ambroisie), and Pierre Gagnaire's prix fixe (no comments relative to Gagnaire's a la carte). However, for me, the cuisine of L'Ambroisie, while not subjectively compelling, is likely more appealing than the cuisine of the other restaurants described in this paragraph (except for Ledoyen). Note certain other members have a more favorable assessment of Gagnaire than I do.

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I'd like to add that I like the cuisine at Gordon Ramsay RHR considerably. I also like the cuisine at WI.

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As a fan of lunch, I find lunch at the 3 stars very nice indeed. I've been to three that have prix fixe that are bargains - Le Grand Vefour, Lucas Carton, Arpege. It seems that L'Ambroise does not, nor did the old Alain Ducasse. Anyone know about the other 3 stars (i.e., do they have a prix fixe lunch that is significantly less than the dinner?). If you've been there, please let us know how much you liked it.

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I have reservations at L'ambroisie in a few weeks. Any suggestions? What should dinner for two run?

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ellenesk -- You might want to consider the "Search" function (right-hand-side top corner of the board) to locate older threads. :wink:

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I have reservations at L'ambroisie in a few weeks.  Any suggestions?  What should dinner for two run?

On our last visit we had two courses each, with Kir Royale to start and drank a modest sancerre ($50 or so). The bill came in under $400 for two. Each plate is priced at $50 to $75. Specialty items, such as the Bresse chicken, are at the higher end. :biggrin:

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L'Ambrosie - dinner

Normally, the 7:30 PM traffic is horrendous from the Arc de Triomphe to Place des Vosges where L'Ambrosie is located. We allowed 30 minutes and arrived in 20 to a closed restaurant with the chefs all out front smoking.

Pierre Lemoine, the Maitre d' saw us at the door and motioned, mouthing the words "come back in 10 minutes (or so). We had a terrific driver who took us on a driving tour of the area around Place des Vosges pointing out many of the sites of interest.

We returned to get down to serious dining at L'Ambrosie. We were promptly seated in our favorite middle room.

The room is magnificent; 4 huge mirrors are set in the middle of each wall, small lamp sconces flank the mirrors and elegant tapestry acts as "wallpaper." The floors are hard wood covered by a large oriental rug. Flanking two of the walls are marble side boards that serve as guerredons. A huge crystal chandelier hangs in the center of the room. The over-all effect is that of a beautiful, luxurious dining room in a fine home in the 17th century. It is absolutely elegant.

The candle on the table is lit. We are ready for L'Ambrosie.

With the champagne aperitif, we were served an amuse of salmon topped with a latticed shoe string potato round and a quenelle of chive cream.

For the past 18 days we have eaten dozens of salmon amuse. Chef Pacaud provided the gold standard--perfect salmon with crunchy potato and the sauce to add flavor and intensity. Perfection is the word of the day (everyday) with Pacaud and L'Ambrosie.

1st course--foie gras de canard aux epices salmigondis (literally means stew) d'artichauts violet.

2 slices of foie gras were surrounded by a "stew" of 4 artichoke hearts with cepes and shallots with a touch of balsamic vinegar reduction.

This sounds simple, but the quality of the ingredients, the perfect treatment of each ingredient and the very simplicity of the dish's structure made it wonderful. The foie gras was to be eaten on toasted baguette delivered hot from the toaster. When the baguettes started to cool off, the server replaced them.

2nd course--filets of rouget with cepes. A perfectly roasted rouget with crispy skin, and tender meat was covered with large, thinly sliced mushrooms that resembled apples sliced by a mandoline.

Under the rouget the chef presented a duxelle of cepes lightly seasoned with a light sauce. The sauce was a marvel--it was actually a mayonnaise made with egg yolk, vinegar cepe-infused olive oil that remains runny--the mayo process is stopped just before thickening.

3rd course--Selle d'agneau rotie au cumin, cannelloni d' aubergine.

Two perfectly done rose double lamb chops were presented in a simple pan jus with a slight crunch provided by sel de mer and a light cumin sprinkling. Two large eggplant slices formed the cannelloni.

4th course--cheese beautifully served

We skipped dessert and had coffee, mignardises, chocolate truffles and small patisseries.

Wine:

Pierre went outside of his list and chose:

85 Meursault, Le Poruzot, by Mommessin - the aged, caramel, slightly sweet Meursault was absolutely perfect with both the foie gras and the rouget.

95 Ch. Phelan Segur, Saint-Estephe--young, fruity, solid and well matched to the lamb and wonderful with the cheese.

Service:

L'Ambrosie should be the training ground for serving staff at any fine dining restaurant, anywhere.

There is no "B" team. The corps is all A+. They don't hover, but they anticipate. They concentrate. They know what to do and when to do it.

Since Pierre Lamoine arrived 4 years ago, he has professionalized the staff to the ultimate and eliminated a snooty, temple like atmosphere.

Everyone is friendly, gracious and helpful. This is not a "hushed culinary place of worship." It is a room of satisfied clients being served by well paid, well trained professionals - a true 3 Michelin Star experience--expensive but worth it.

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ellenesk,

Sorry, I didn't notice this until I had hit the new topic button for my post on l'Ambrosie. We were just there and had a wonderful, perfect meal. See my just posted thread.

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This sounds simple,

And therefore it's difficult. :biggrin:

It's the complicated dishes that are usually easy. The simple ones require perfection. There's no room for error and no place to hide. In essence they only sound simple. This weekend we had dinner at the Domaine des Hauts de Loire, a lovely inn not far from Blois whose food I haven't heard much about, although it has two stars. The maitre d'hotel, perhaps encouraged by the smiles on our faces, stopped at our table and we offered compliments on our simple but wonderful eel salad. He smiled and said that it was the simple dishes that are the most difficult to prepare well.

I'm happy to hear that l'Ambroisie has a lighter atmosphere. When we were there, I found the somber room, almost funereal and as much as I consider it a temple of haute cuisine, I found the food anything but dead. It was truly some of the most exquisitely prepared food I've ever had. I found the staff more formal than snooty. I thought they were professional and helpful enough then, but it sounds as if the change is for the better.

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As for a lighter atmosphere, it might arguably be lighter than it was before, but I would not call it friendly (note that is not a negative in my book). The atmosphere is professional and somewhat serious, including during a lunch I had during 3Q 2002 when I sampled the tuna pastilla appetizer dish (the dish had too much sweetness from the dried apricots). :hmmm:

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This is the three star restaurant in Paris I most want to visit. Maybe next year. Thanks for the report, Lizziee.

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"As for a lighter atmosphere, it might arguably be lighter than it was before, but I would not call it friendly."

Cabrales,

Pierre Lemoine, the GM/Maitre d', is anything but formal or stiff. He is the consummate professional with eyes in back of his head who truly makes you feel "at home." Even though we go to L'Ambrosie once a year, he greets us as if we were there once a month.

"It's the complicated dishes that are usually easy. The simple ones require perfection. There's no room for error and no place to hide."

Bux,

I couldn't agree with you more. Pacard is of the school that less is more and that is one of the reasons why I find the cuisine at L'Ambrosie so extraordinary. There are no extraneous items on your plate or unnecessary embellishments. This is anything but simple cuisine; it is true haute cuisine done with infinite care. Take for example the duxelle of cepes in the mayonnaise sauce. The very simple idea of halting the mayonnaise prep, just before thickening, and then enrobing the cepes in this sauce was perfection - no foams, no mousse, no special instructions on how to eat it, no layering on of 8 different ingredients --- just a classic mayonnaise preparation altered in such a way as to elevate it to the best of French haute cuisine.

Wilfrid,

Try to go in the Spring when the eggs mollet are on the menu.

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Pierre is nicer than Pascal, who is at least co-maitre d' or occupies some role at that level (or was as of 3Q 2002 at least). Pascal is tall and thin, and much younger. He has an angular face, and dark brown hair.

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- no foams, no mousse, no special instructions on how to eat it, no layering on of 8 different ingredients --- just a classic ... preparation altered in such a way as to elevate it to the best of French haute cuisine.

I know I've defended what I consider the best of the ultra inventive chefs, but I fear the kind of cooking you are describing is going out of style in France. I will miss it if that happens.

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- no foams, no mousse, no special instructions on how to eat it, no layering on of 8 different ingredients --- just a classic ... preparation altered in such a way as to elevate it to the best of French haute cuisine.

I know I've defended what I consider the best of the ultra inventive chefs, but I fear the kind of cooking you are describing is going out of style in France. I will miss it if that happens.

Bux,

I am also a great defender of the "best" of the ultra inventive chefs. My latest post on Gagnaire will attest to that. But, I hate the thought that Pacard is passe. To have great food in a beautiful, historic room with exceptional service is what 3* means. But it takes a clientele who is willing to support it; a diner who doesn't just want the avant garde to be able to say, "I went there, too."

I hope both the ultra-inventive and the true perfectionistic classicist can not only co-exist, but more importantly be supported.

My own contradiction is that I support L'Ambrosie as much as Gagnaire. My problem is with the second string chefs who think they are avante garde and delivering nothing but a lot of absurdity on the plate. This is when I keep thinking of the Emperor's New Clothes.

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:sad:

After many attempts, I was able to secure a table at l'ambroisie this past Saturday evening. I had read with interest the reviews of this restaurant on this and other sites, as well as in many publications.

I think my expectations were too high, or maybe it was just an off night.

It really is a beautiful setting. Quite, with the tapestries adorning the walls. Perfect crystal, linen, silver and china.

Our amuse bouchee was a fried oyster, sauce remoulade. I love oysters, in any treatment. Although perfectly cooked, the oyster was overpowered by the breading. The remoulade was perfect.

On to appetizers.

I had the foie gras aux epices, chetney de coings. Perfect foie, with a spiced curst that was a great balance to its creamy richness. The chutney a nice change from the usualy straigh sweet accompaniments.

My friend had the lobster ravioli. It was perfectly cooked, and seasoned, but no better than the ravioli at Daniel

On to entrees.

My turbot rotie, echalotes, grises confites au vinaigre balsamique was a disapointment. The turbot was served almost as a chop, the sauce devoid ov flavoring ahd the accompanying vegetables overpowering. I did not finish it, nor did anyone arrive to ask how we liked our entrees. I remember dining at Arzak in San Sebastian, not finishing 3 bites of my multi course tasting menu, and Mr. Arzak running out of the kitchedn to ask what was wrong.

My friend's Bar a la emince d' artichaut, beurre leger au caviar was perfect. The epitome of what a 3 star dish should be.

The cheese course although in perfect condition, really didnt challenge or introduce anything new. It was also only about 12 options.

We passed on dessert, having not been overyly thrilled. The petit fours were pedestrian(excepting the chocoloate, which was perfect). Miniature apple tarts and eclaires were unremarkable.

Maybe I was expecting mre. In the past dinig experiences, the three star restauants and two stars, each course was memorable, and not replicable in this country. I do believe my last mel at Daniel and French Laundry were better than this, were better service. We filled our own champagne glasses at least once, and our water glasses ran dry at least once as well.

Maybe I am being overly critical, but at $520 for dinner for two(including a 1996 deutz that was excellent), I feel the right to

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:sad:

After many attempts, I was able to secure a table at l'ambroisie this past Saturday evening.  I had read with interest the reviews of this restaurant on this and other sites, as well as in many publications.

Oh ! oh :unsure: we have a reservation for this coming Saturday evening - Our host assures us that it a fine place a bit over-exposed but good nonetheless.

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My wife's first course several years ago at l'Ambroisie was oeufs de poule mollet, panes, mouillettes truffee -- a soft boiled egg with a yolk was almost red in color. (My wife is convinced that eggs with dark yolks have mroe taste than ones with pale yolks and this was one of her benchmarks.) It had been breaded on the outside and deep fried. It was served standing on a pool of chopped truffles accomanied by fingers sandwiches of white toast with truffles. I would agree that he's a master with eggs. If I found a fault, it might be that he tends gild the lily after he's found perfection.

I think Daniel and perhaps the French Laundry are under rated, but in the end, I can't account for personal taste and the subjective appreciation of a restaurant meal. There's not a restaurant in the world from which I've not heard disparate reports. I've been terribly disappointed by meals in restaurants that are highly regarded by everyone I know as well as the experts and I've met people who seem intelligent and discriminating and who have had terrible meals at my favorite restaurants.

I found the atmosphere too hushed and reverent when we ate there and the food almost too perfect for words. Lizzee assures us that the mood is much lighter these days and the staff less impersonal if I read her recent account correctly. Maybe it won't suit you, but it's not a place I'd recommend avoiding by any means. No better than Daniel is not a harsh criticism and if the still show less concern and are more aloof than Arzak, that's probably true of other restaurants as well. At any rate let me urge you to do as we'd like another report.

:biggrin:

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We had a very nice meal. Unfortunately, after our dinner, I along with one of the hosts, went Cafe-hopping (Pub-crawling); needless to say I returned back (sneaked in really) in the wee hours - thus forgot the details of whatever I had on my plate. Damn saturdays.......

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My standard for dishes in Haut Cuisine restaurants is to ask the question "can this have been any better?" Over the years and after many meals I have reached the conclusion that this tiny restaurant located at the Place des Vosges comes as close to perfection as any establishment to have such a claim. The truth about the cooking of Monsieur Pacaud is that one is not likely to appreciate the unique quality of this little gem on the basis of one meal alone. This is partially because, unlike some other chefs who concoct elaborate degustation menus consisting of 15+ small portions and resort to "awe and shock" tactics, Pacaud is a firm believer in harmony and restraint. Furthermore, Pacaud's sense of creativity runs contrary to our times which often mistake originality for creativity. Unlike some other very fashionable chefs who are inventing new techniques, new flavors and new textures, Pacaud is more than content to focus on perfecting a single dish before he puts it on the menu. His arsenal of dishes does not consist of 300+ tapa size portions invented over a year a la Veyrat or Adria, but his cooking is very sensitive to seasons and fresh products. He may not serve black truffles even in early December if he does not think they have matured enough to serve to his clientele. (As far as I know the new chef at Taillevent has offered a black truffle dish in May.) Not unlike Alice Waters of Chez Panisse at Berkeley, Monsieur Pacaud has longstanding relationships based on mutual trust with his suppliers and he refuses to bend to the will of a fashion conscious public who may be disappointed if asparagus is not on the menu in December.

The first adjectives which come to my mind when I try to describe Pacaud's cooking are: "intense", "focused" and "clearcut". The main ingredient, be it a turbot or lobster or truffle or game or soft cooked egg is always the center of attention here, but the individual touches via peripheral elements and saucing is such that the whole potential inherent in the main ingredient is brought to the surface, its qualities revealed, rather than obfuscated. Like other great artists and athletes, Pacaud makes a difficult process look simple, possibly too simple for our own good since some clients may feel underwhelmed by the experience. I suppose the cooking partly reflects the chef's character and one never sees Pacaud in the dining room, hopping from one table to the next. Over 10+ years I've only caught a glimpse of Pacaud on Friday June 13 when my wife and I dined there. He looked like an unassuming, moder person to the point that he may be shy. He is not an exuberant person and neither is his cooking.

It is hard for me to be unbiased about the quality of service at l'Ambroisie as I have interacted for some time with both Monsieur Pierre Lemoullac and Monsieur Pascal and consider them friends. But what strikes me most after so many visits is how gracious the whole experience of dining there is, how smoothly things flow there. I always grin at people and establishments who take themselves too seriously and who mistake professionalism for the lack of fun and good humour. Good humour and wit, on the other hand, exhibit an underlying intelligence and good will. I found these qualities to be quite pronounced in the three small dining rooms at l'Ambrosie compared to the other haute cuisine temples I have visited, and the absence of turnover among the staff may indicate that there exists an esprit de corps among the employees.

Let's hope that this unique institution which embodies the best and the most refined in French culture will continue to resist any temptation besides the pursuit of excellence in the years to come.

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It is hard for me to be unbiased

It would be pointless to be unbiased about any establishment that's proven itself to you in so many ways, and it would be a disservice to us.

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