L'Ambroisie still great?

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Philip Ente
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L'Ambroisie still great?

#1 Post by Philip Ente » January 16th, 2019, 3:16 pm

wanted to try L'Ambroisie when in Paris in 2 months. Never been there.
The rating scattergram and some of the recent reviews on French trip advisor are terrible:

Excellent59 % Très bon15 % Moyen11 % Médiocre7 % Horrible8 %

compare this to Epicure: (Wilfred Van Gorp's favorite)
Excellent87 % Très bon9 % Moyen2 % Médiocre1 % Horrible 1 %

This is an old restaurant and may be fading out. (Michelin has a great deal of inertia in pulling stars)

Will be within walking distance of L'Ambroise and still want to give it a chance, seems far more discreet/romantic than L'Epicure (sorry Wilfred)

Any recent feedback on L'Ambroisie?

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scamhi
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#2 Post by scamhi » January 16th, 2019, 3:35 pm

Michael Bowden was just there yesterday saw pictures on instagram. I would send him a PM or follow on instagram @mbowden19
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Phil Smith
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#3 Post by Phil Smith » January 16th, 2019, 4:09 pm

I was there in May if that qualifies as recent. The wine list is both expensive and not particularly exciting. It is an "old restaurant that's fading out" by most any measure. Rich, large, a la carte portions of very dated food with liberal use of high quality and expensive ingredients. It is, however, very well executed food and service. I can't think of another Paris 3* that offers quite the same experience, and it does come at 3* pricing. I don't regret going, but I wasn't expecting cutting-edge cuisine either.

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Jerry Hey
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#4 Post by Jerry Hey » January 16th, 2019, 6:56 pm

A beautiful restaurant in 1600's Paris, and while the food is good, it certainly isn't cutting edge but more classic French. The wine list is stupidly expensive and not much to choose from that is worthwhile. The service is old school stuffy and no sense of humor. We've eaten at Epicure twice in the last year or os and both meals were great. Excellent and friendly service, with a great wine list at reasonable three star prices. I can't recommend this highly enough. First rate all around.

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alan weinberg
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#5 Post by alan weinberg » January 17th, 2019, 6:23 pm

echoing Jerry, Epicure rocks.

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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#6 Post by Michael Bowden » January 17th, 2019, 6:55 pm

So, just to follow up in this thread I was there earlier this week and had a very good to great meal. The food is very well executed but as others have stated it is a la carte only, the potions are sizeable and it definitely leans to the classic side over anything new and innovative. Everything I had was properly executed. The room is well appointed and a bit dated but it matches the food being more on the classic side. Yes, the wine list is expensive but there are affordable options on there (at least in white burg were I was looking). The stemware is terrible and could use an update. (They also don't have Chateldon but that's another topic)

They are not shy on the luxury ingredients - my first dish was full of black truffles (sliced and pureed) and the second had a healthy portion of golden caviar.

I think the ratings that Philip provided are a bit low but you never know the dining experience of the people providing that information.

Service was formal/good but I felt that I was being watched (maybe I was as there was only 1 other table in the dining room). Rigid might be a good term to describe things here.

Not sure it is fading out but it's not leading the pack either (in Paris I've only been to Arpege, Pre Catalan, and Le Cinq for 3* in Paris). I would go back.

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Philip Ente
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#7 Post by Philip Ente » January 17th, 2019, 9:00 pm

Thanks Michael

Anyone know why they picked this restaurant for the Obama dinner?

S!mon C h ! n
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#8 Post by S!mon C h ! n » January 18th, 2019, 7:21 am

My one and only visit was in September 2017, but L'Ambroisie is the one restaurant in Paris I dream of returning to. (More than Gagnaire, L'Astrance, Arpege, etc.) I can't compare my dinner to what was being served there in the '80s and '90s, but it aspired to -- and came close to attaining -- an ideal of classical perfection that has pretty much disappeared elsewhere in Paris. The precision and intensity of flavors, and the quality of each and every ingredient, are unmatched by any other 3* in Paris I've been to. It *is* an old-fashioned style of cooking, but for me, it's unsurpassed by newer "innovations." That's probably why Hollande chose the restaurant for the Obama dinner.

If I had to guess, the low Trip Advisor scores could originate from 1) the period when Mathieu Pacaud, the son, was being groomed to take over the kitchen and Bernard Pacaud stepped back; that transition didn't take and the father is back in the kitchen; 2) first-timers having certain expectations for what their experience will be like and being met with an uncompromising kitchen and dining room.

Everything Michael says is right: the service is absolutely correct but does feel a little rigid or reserved (though our server did warm up to us over the course of the dinner). Wines, especially wines by the glass, are overpriced (bottles were relatively more reasonable, but only relatively). The restaurant, overall, seems to have a reputation for a cold, almost lugubrious atmosphere, though I didn't find that to be the case. We were warmly met by Madame Pacaud, who called out her husband from the kitchen to greet us before the start of service, and we were well taken care of.

Like Hollande, I'd choose L'Ambroisie over any other restaurant in Paris, but you have to know what you're getting into and want that particular style of food. L'Ambroisie is the last keeper of a flame that is, indeed, dying out, and when it is finally extinguished, it will be a great tragedy.

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Philip Ente
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#9 Post by Philip Ente » January 18th, 2019, 8:11 am

Great Post S!mon, thanks

We are now definitely going, two nights after Arpege.

I agree that trends dominate most fields. and L'Ambroisie is an outlier.

I used to work at the restaurant in LA called L'Orangerie, where the elegant French owner tried to create a L'Ambroisie type experience. He eventually quit and went back to France.

PS- IMO you cannot compare L'Ambroisie to Arpege. They have nothing in common.
The depth of Passard's brilliance is remarkable. I do not think it is a coincidence that some of the best new chefs in Paris are his former students. His food is not about "tasting good", but the brilliant creativity he comes up with every day. Someone here once complained that he got tired of eating beet dishes there. This shows that many people do not understand what he is doing.

People throw around "farm to table" but Passard has created a meaning out of this phrase.

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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#10 Post by S!mon C h ! n » January 18th, 2019, 2:25 pm

Philip,

Yes, agreed about Passard. It's an apples to oranges comparison, and they have different aesthetic/culinary value systems.

If you'd like a few more details about my dinner at L'Ambroisie:

-The langoustines, which are always on the menu, are close to a perfect dish: large and unbelievably sweet langoustines, accompanied by a rich and mildly spiced curry sauce, accented by spinach and the nuttiness of two sesame seed tuiles. Truly harmonious.

-The sea bass that Michael had is also a wonderful dish that's always on the menu, but the caviar sauce does really amp up the richness of the dish and cries out for an acidic white wine for balance.

-The roasted rack of lamb was a classic preparation and nothing distinctive in its composition, but the lamb itself was close to the Platonic ideal (tender, great depth of flavor, accompanied by a light but intense sauce). The accompanying side of ravioli was unbelievably delicious.

-We ordered the selection of desserts, and my favorites were the famous chocolate cake (the most intense chocolate flavor I've ever tasted) and the ethereal white peaches (now out of season).

Also, like Michael, we got the sense of "being watched," especially for the first 20 minutes when we were the only table seated in our dining room. But I just took that as a sign of well-meaning attentiveness, and that went away when the rest of the room filled up.

I hope you enjoy your dinners with Passard and Pacaud!

Steven Dilley
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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#11 Post by Steven Dilley » January 20th, 2019, 9:13 am

The service at L'Ambroisie has become more relaxed over the past four or five years. And while it's not effusive--like Le Cinq or Ledoyen can be--it's welcoming, and the staff is quicker to dip into English when I start butchering French, which wasn't the case 10-15 years ago. With Pacaud back at the helm, it's my favorite restaurant in Paris, but I still tend to recommend l'Arpege, l'Astrance, Le Cinq more frequently because it's easier to have a more up-to-date, fun experience at those places.

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Re: L'Ambroisie still great?

#12 Post by edwardmilstein » February 23rd, 2019, 7:34 am

I have such great memories of eating there on my honeymoon in '87. Wine list was good then and Jayer was pretty cheap. All in all, a perfect combo. One of the more romantic restaurants in Paris at the time, and I loved the Place des Vosges. Beautiful spot.
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