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stephen wall

L'Ambroisie

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Based on the glowing reviews I read here at egullet, I tried to get into L'Ambroisie for dinner. It turns out that it was only a few minutes away by foot from my apartment in Saint Paul. Although it was booked solid for dinner for the next month or two, I was able to snag a reservation for lunch on a Friday. First off: food really expensive. The cheapest plates were above 80 euro, and most dishes cost 120 euro and up. Staff was a bit stuffy, too, but they eventually warmed up to me. Food was really good: had the langoustines in a bed of spinach, sandwiched between two sesame crisps and plated with a curry-butter cream. Langoustines were plump and juicy, the spinach added a nice bitterness, and the sesame crisps added a nutty note to the dish. The curry sauce did not overpower the langoustines. The entree was a John Dory filet pan-fried, served with a relish of tropical fruits. The sweet and sour flavors from the relish were a perfect foil to the fish, and it was just lovely. I ordered the dessert assortment, which at 42 euro seemed like a steal, and it was: I was served a nice lemon sorbet, three different desserts, and a plate of petit fours consisting of chocolate bonbons, cannelles, pralines and strawberry macaroons. Wine selection was topnotch. Before I left, I received a copy of the menu from the maitre'd, signed by the chef himself: a touching end to a good meal.

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My wish to eat at Ambroise during the black truffle season finally became reality in early 2010.

Food (and wine) - 98/100

Unlike my previous visits, I know exactly what I want to eat this time so I didn’t really bother to consult with the maitre d’.

- I chose sweet and barely heated scallop with truffle on top; the tender scallop is bathed in thick watercress (& truffle) veloute. A great appetizer to begin my meal

- Lobster is a dish that I always had every time I eat here – this time is no exception. My 2nd dish was firm and meaty lobster prepared with rich peas puree and intense red wine reduction, another tasty dish yet my favorite lobster here is the one prepared with star anise sauce, usually served in autumn

- Then come, possibly the most discussed dish in any Ambroise’s forum – feuillete truffle bel humeur: foie gras is sandwiched by thick and smoky black truffle wrapped in fragrant and airy pastry. As if the truffle was not sufficient, there was truffle puree below the delicious pastry and on the salad. The truffle was of good quality; it was a very filling and rich dish. It’s just that when I cut it into two, the smell did not really truffle to the surrounding, only wrapped within my table – the ‘a-ha’ moment was not as bizarre as I thought. Overall, it’s excellent

- After many strong-flavored dishes, there was no better dessert than a kind that mixed sour, freshness and (a little) sweet. A warm melting biscuit with mandarin sorbet was a brilliant answer for this

All of these were accompanied by a half-bottle of Mersault ’05 and Badoit sparkling water. I was told that monsieur Lemoullac, its respected sommelier and manager, retired at the end of ’09. Christophe was the replacement – he’s rather lacked in charisma and communication skill of his predecessor. Though I didn’t talk too often to Mr. Lemoullac, but I felt that something was missing at L’Ambroise without his presence. This is indeed my best meal at L’Ambroisie – only a few other places such as Arpege, Veyrat Annecy ever received such high score in my note – no doubt 3-star or even should be in the group of “4-star”

Service (and ambiance) - 93/100

There have been mixed reviews about the hospitality at Ambroisie – some people, often newcomers, said that they’re mean while the regulars usually received wonderful service. I visit this place about once every 1.5 years, so perhaps I fell in between category (more towards new comer). Generally, they will treat with you as a gentleman (and ladies); they will greet you with smiles and serve you the basic and necessary things for the standard of 2-3 star restaurants. But if you expect to be treated like a ‘king’, the expectation was too high. You will not get Alain Ducasse or Guy Savoy kind of service where the staffs would go the extra miles and do whatever they could to make you happy. The food is king here. The décor is more like luxury Parisian house in the past – full of classic chandeliers and paintings. They’re exactly the same as my earlier visits; this place indeed never changes – the people, the décor and the dishes (seasonal). As I consider overall experience when visiting Michelin-starred restaurants or other fine dining places, I would give this place 2 ¾* for the general score of 96.5

More detailed reviews - l'ambroisie review 2010

Pictures - l'ambroisie pictures winter

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L’Ambroisie, Paris

My Full photo and text review: http://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/182/

Event: Lunch at restaurant L’Ambroisie, Paris

When: Friday March 25th 2011 12:30

Overall rating:

10/10 for the food.

Same for the impeccable service that I've experienced there.

The meal:

-Langoustine, ananas, velouté de crustacés - the langoustine itself was a treat (divinely tasty, moist) but the amazement did not stop there: that little complimentary ‘brunoise‘ of pineapple (mixed with dices of green, red peppers) was not your next-door brunoise. Think of a luxurious, geniusly-concocted brunoise that sets the reference for all other brunoise. The velouté was very tasty too.

-Chaud froid d’oeuf mollet au cresson , asperges vertes, caviar oscietre gold– The oeuf mollet (the egg is successfully half cooked as it should) was covered with a layer of watercress sauce (I enjoyed the interesting kick brought by the sourness of the watercress to the egg) and served along asparagus (they have mastered the doneness of the vegetable pretty well) and caviar (typical oscietra thin flavor, a rich quality salty fish roe as I expect at such heavy price).

-Another excellent dishes were the Sea bass and artichoke atop a caviar (Ocietra gold from Iran) white butter sauce (slightly less impressive than the first two, but largely a well concocted dish, with the idea of mixing caviar and fish being an absolute recipe for deliciousness) + the "tarte fine au chocolat".

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One of the most polarized gastronomy places in the world probably belongs to Bernard Pacaud’s L’Ambroisie. Some guests, in particular first timers, were often turned off by the stiffness or intimidated by the formality/seriousness of the staffs. And sorry, (often) diners were not “kings” here. On the other hand, lots of people are blown away by the kitchen’s superb creations and not too picky about the restaurant’s hospitality. I think I fit in to the latter group especially after my latest visit in Nov last year. After nearly 5 years of absent, I was glad to finally be able to return here.

 

This visit was different than my earlier ones in a few ways: I went to dinner with my wife instead of a solo lunch like in previous occasions; I was told that securing a table for dinner at L’Ambroisie was very difficult, but fortunately it was not really the case for us – I had no issue reserving a table for 2 about one month before. Booking for dinner understandably more challenging as during this visit, the restaurant was full-house including the 3rd room in the back; at my previous lunch meals, at most 60% of the tables were occupied. These days, Mathieu Pacaud, Bernard’s son, was an integral part of L’Ambroisie kitchen – not sure since when. They would try to follow the steps of other successful father-child chef team such as in the case of Bras, Arzak and Marcon family.  

 

The service, this time, was the best I’ve ever experienced and it was rather unexpected given I’ve been here 3 times before and did not see significant improvements in the past. The maitre de maison - Mr. Pascal was, as always, professional, elegant and focused. However, unlike my previous visits, he's more relaxed and much warmer this time. He smiled more often and talked with us in a few occasions; at the end of our meal, he even encouraged us to re-visit during winter to savor Bernard’s legendary roasted Bresse chicken with black truffles butter. There was also a younger staff that still recognized me, even though my last visit was more than 4 years ago, and his English has improved tremendously. Perhaps, it's true after all that, L'Ambroisie is the kind of restaurant where diners eat better and feel more comfortable after several visits. The only ‘fault’ of the service that night was when I returned to my chair from a rest room, I found my main course was already on the table although it’s still warm.

 

Similar to my other meals here, I usually have one amuse, 3 courses and a dessert. It went as follow,

 

Amuse-bouche: flavorful red mullet with its crispy skin served with veal juice and celery & apple puree - a ‘lavish’ and good start. Well, prior to this, we’re teased with light paprika and cheese short bread – it replaced the restaurant’s famous gougeres

1st course: (big) soft-boiled egg, flawlessly executed, with white truffle and cep ‘sauce’ was amazing! The egg white was really soft, but nicely held the pretty & tasty runny yolk inside. Egg and Alba truffle was like a match in ‘heaven’. The truffle and cep mushrooms were intoxicating (in a good way); they added some complexity and enhanced the overall taste. An excellent dish and somehow it tasted even better than Passard’s legendary egg

 

2nd course: blue lobster fricassee (with the shell fish in beautiful red color) was the reason I had to decline Pascal’s idea of having scallop with broccoli & truffle and it did not disappoint. I love Brittany lobster and I had personal mission to savor all of Bernard Pacaud’s losbter dishes. I “gave up” demanding the kitchen to cook and serve tender lobster; it’s almost always a bit too firm for my taste. However, this time ultimately Pacaud got the right texture of the tasty blue lobster (quite tender for the tail and rather firm for the claw). This homard dish, served with pumpkin puree and chestnut, was rich, intense (but not heavy) and complex but balanced. I could taste the variation of sweet, nutty, & slightly spicy flavors altogether. This is the 4th creation I’ve ever had, did I still miss any?

3rd course: I was excited knowing my request of having the ‘peerless’ pithivier dish of wild duck pie (served with salad) had been approved. There was a group of French business men (8 people) who also enjoyed and shared this pie dish. When I saw the tourte, it was not as ‘big’ as I initially thought. But, as I savored the duck meats, duck liver and veal inside the golden and airy pie – it looked as if it never ended. Furthermore, I ate about 1 quarter of my spouse’s portion. The meat was indeed succulent and flavorful; an ethereal dish and probably among the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten at this restaurant.

 

My dessert: sugar in sphere shape with apple, sabayon, sorbet and pistachio. The sphere was thin; I kinda enjoyed its light texture and taste after intense courses. A decent dessert

My wife’s: a classic hot souffle in pralin flavor with mango coulis. It’s perfectly executed resulting in an airy and fluffy souffle with balanced flavor – an extra ice cream on the side should be nice

Bonus: flourless chocolate cake - I finally understood why Monsieur Pascal didn’t recommend this signature dessert for my wife ... because they would give each of us a tasting slice of this heavenly chocolate tart. It was as scrumptious as before, incredible consistency. However, this time it’s accompanied my mocha ice cream to intensify the chocolate flavor

 

A wonderful meal from start to finish and the hospitality was top notch this time. We felt very welcome in the house of Pacaud and left felt very happy and satisfied in terms of both food service. My meal at L’Ambroisie was simply getting better and better – a difficult task for any restaurant (which I’ve visited at least in 3 occasions) to achieve such feat. In my notes, I bestowed the food 98 pts (undoubtedly 3-star Michelin quality); as a matter of fact, it’s one of the two restaurants in the world with Michelin’s highest rating that I thought should receive “4-star” instead. If one day, there’s a restaurant that could topple my passion toward L’Arpege, L’Ambroisie (and possibly Matsukawa Tokyo) is probably the one .. Given Bernard Pacaud is not retired yet. With such great experience, I will certainly make a conscious effort to come here again in the future when I return to Paris.  

 

For more detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2015/01/lambroisie-bernard-pacaud-4th-visit.html

If you want to see the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/LAmbroisieParisFrance4thVisit

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L’Ambroisie is certainly a restaurant that will require little or no introduction. It’s widely considered as one of the best (pure) French restaurants in Paris. It’s also among the restaurants that I’ve reviewed the most after L’Arpege. It will be the last restaurant my parents and I visited during our Paris trip last March.

 

At first, there’s a chance that our dinner plan might not become a reality this time. Not because it was crowded (though it’s fully booked again in the evening during our visit), but I was told that L’Ambroisie underwent a renovation for its dining room since early Feb. They didn’t know the exact date when it would open again. In early March, we tried to contact them again and managed to secure a reservation there – they coincidentally opened in the same week we’re in Paris. We’re gladly seated in the 2nd dining room with (surprisingly) a spacious round table. But I did not notice any significant upgrade in terms of its furniture or design

 

Since I’ve been here a few times before, my aim for this meal, in addition to please my parents, was to try several new dishes. Following my ‘greedy’ habit, I ordered 2 appetizers and 1 main – all full course which later I thought I should’ve ordered half portion in one of them. This time, L’Ambroisie served kougelhoph with onion+olive along with its bread selection for the opening. After that, we’re given creamy butternut veloute with buttery foie gras as the amuse. Then the ‘real’ food came:

 

For me,

-Plump warm oysters with luxurious salty caviar and intense but not heavy watercress sabayon. There were 5 of them and really good

-Thick, barely heated and sweet scallops (5 pieces) with pungent black truffle slices on top and earthy vegetable veloute (a mixture of truffle, leeks and potatoes); excellent

-Restaurant director Pascal recommended me to try veal sweetbread in “financiere” sauce. A succulent ris de veau with flavorful sauce (not cloying) was balanced with a small bowl of mild ricotta cheese ravioli. It’s delicious but the portion was huge, I almost could not finish the last 10% of this dish

 

For my parents,

-Both of them ate the famous tender, tasty langoustine with refined and light curry sauce as the appetizer. They loved them

-My mother ordered the most popular dish of the night (5-6 of these dishes were served in the middle dining room alone): divine Brittany lobster with mashed peas and (dark) wine sauce. She liked the lobster but could not finish the peas  

-My father had Sole in yellow wine sauce with Brussel sprout. These elements only were great, but he was not too fond of the sole flan and shaved black truffle. I tried a bit; I think the fresh truffle worked better on our nose but not so much on our palate. If the sauce had some black truffle in it, probably the flavor transition could’ve been better

 

Dessert time:

-As you might expect, my parents shared the airy yet intense chocolate tart with tasty vanilla ice cream. The restaurant game me half portion too – very delicious as always

-My dessert was good, but not superb by L’Ambroisie’s high standard. I had caramelized crisp Arlette with sour & smooth lemon cream and slightly bitter crystallized citrus.

 

Overall, it was a success. My parents loved the food and the fact that the a la carte dinner style did not last more than 3 hours. My last 2 meals here were probably better nevertheless this one still ranked very high (a convincing 3-star standard)

 

A few comments:

-I no longer saw Mathieu Pacaud’s name at the bottom of the menu. He should be busy with Hexagone / Histoires I suppose. It means Bernard Pacaud should be back in full time position at L’Ambroisie. I saw the legendary chef on the way leaving the restaurant. Mathieu, in his casual/stylish jacket, was also found talking with his friends & regulars during our dinner on Thursday night; perhaps he’s not always at his restaurants daily.

- For the first time, I had a conversation with Madame Daniele in our table. She seemed to be proud of his son’s 2-star achievement and put a hint that he attained it on his own (without any help from Bernard). In the past we just exchanged smiles and bonjour near the door entrance

-The service was impeccable and professional. Most of the dining room staffs did not change such as Pascal, Laurent, Joseph etc. Surprisingly I had a longer chat (and even some joke) with a couple of them; I still recalled a rigid and formal service from the same people during my first visit

 

It seemed natural & logical that the hospitality you experience would be better when you visit the restaurant more. But I don’t want to take it for granted the sincere gesture and excellent service rendered by L’Ambroisie staffs. Another restaurant I also visited quite often in the past (for example: Gagnaire Balzac for 4 times) – until now even I still could not build any meaningful rapport with the restaurant. Maybe because Mr. Parmentier usually leads from behind (hardly talk to any guest or serve the dish) and the staffs often change. I also meet Chef Gagnaire himself only once. Not saying that the service there was not good, but sometimes you expect to be able to build some connection as you visit certain place more regularly.  On the contrary, in L’Ambroisie, the husband-wife Pacaud have always been in the house and Pascal Veteaux is also there and would definitely (at least) take your order and talk to you

 

More detailed reviews: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2016/07/lambroisie-bernard-pacaud-5th-visit.html

Pictures of our meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157670560473065

 

 

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