Monday, April 6, 2009

L'Ambroisie Bernard Pacaud - 2nd visit

As one of the most expensive and arguably the best restaurants in Paris, it is usually never easy to hold a reservation at L'Ambroisie. However, this is not the case for me (at least for lunch). For this 2nd visit, I asked the hotel's concierge to book this place and everything went smoothly. It was in the last day of September 2009; the weather was a bit chill and many leaves began to fall ... beautiful! It is not easy to resist a meal at L'Ambroisie where the master of perfection - Bernard Pacaud is notably always in the kitchen. However, due to the astronomical increase of (soft) commodity prices, I had to control my spending here ... the truffle season has not arrived yet, not sure whether it's a good or bad thing. As I was about to open the door, the staff greeted me. A few steps from the entrance, I could see both monsieur Pascal, the maitre d'hotel as well as monsieur LeMoullac, the sommelier (both of them are essential to the existence of this legendary institution). Unlike my 1st visit, this time I was seated in the middle dining room (there are crystal chandeliers and gilded mirrors in between two colorful tapestries) as requested. Nothing has changed here ... really - the food, the people, the ambiance - it is like dining in a museum featuring master pieces on the plates where many loyal clients would visit over and over again. 

The meal at L'Ambroisie always begins with comte gougeres, a fluffy, hollow and light "cream puff" followed by 2 choices of fresh breads: white and wholemeal accompanied by light and delicate butter. I decided to skip the champagne this time as I would like to have a half-bottle of wine. Once the dishes are set, Mr. LeMoullac recommended Chateau Kirwan Margaux Grand Cru 1998 which I obliged. This Bordeaux is well-crafted and enjoyable to drink after 2007 indeed. In addition, it's seductive with rounded palate and has black olive aromas, but no secondary development. This wine is not too strong, so it still goes well even with fish or sea food dishes. Earlier, I had a short discussion with Mr. Pascal and he agreed to serve the dishes in demi portion - all of them. The sad part, the menu is still from the summer season hence I was unable to order any game dishes. Anyway, my meal is pleasant nevertheless.

Mulet de rouget (Red mullet) - It's actually special dish of the day. Served in amuse-bouche portion, the thinly crisp skin & its meat fish are very tasty. The cooked mushroom puree as well as cepe with citron and olive are overshadowed by the red mullet 

Escalopines de bar a l’emince d’artichaut, caviar oscietre gold (Slices of line caught sea bass served with thin cut of artichokes and oscietra gold caviar) - The sea bass, light in taste, is pure and delicate accompanied by crunchy artichoke. For me, the best part is the creamy sauce with subtle acidity blended well with generous serving of caviar that is not soggy at all ... a harmonious dish 

Homard aux pousses de legumes, nage a l’anis etoile (Brittany lobster served with many vegetables and star anise sauce) - This is the 2nd time I tasted Pacaud's lobster ... I can conclude that he likes the lobster to be firmed with more emphasize on its texture instead of suspecting that he overcooked it (I prefer Passard's & Roellinger's version though). Nevertheless, it's still a scrumptions dish. The (sweet and silky) anise sauce is incredible, balanced with fresh carrots, leeks and zucchinis 

Agneau de Lozere en nougatine d’ail, barigoule d’artichauts violets et fevettes (A rack of roasted Lozere lamb served with garlic, artichokes barigoule and eggplant puree) - The "skin" is sinfully good, but the meat, cooked medium, has a bit too much fat. The smoked eggplant puree is tense, while the side dish may not be necessary. Overally, it's still nice except that I've tasted better lambs (cooked by Troisgros, Passard or Herman) 

Assortiment de desserts et p√Ętisseries (Assortment of desserts and pastries) – They consist of great madeleines, fresh figs as well as cheese cream-puffs. The wafer is sweet; the numerous chocolate biscuits do not disappoint 

I skipped the dessert because I was quite full and already exceeded my budget (also, I will have a dinner at Guy Savoy in the same evening). The restaurant was only about 60-70% full - most of the clients are foreigners, there are a couple from United States as well as a family from Spain; the front dining room was even quieter. The service is professional as expected, slightly more friendly and warmer than my 1st visit, yet it is not as impeccable as when one dines at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee or Le Meurice. It is a well-known fact that Bernard Pacaud only uses finest products and never serves anything that is out of season. All of these great features are executed with almost flawless technique focusing on the purity and quality of the raw materials. Even though one may not find any over the top cutleries or chinaware, every single dish is presented elegantly - there is hardly anything superflous. I find it a bit unusual when chef Pacaud walked around the dining room yet he did not feel very comfortable even to be present at his own "house"; kitchen is truly his real home. This being said, I left the restaurant happily after being well fed and I look forward to returning to this institution in the future, however only in the truffles or morels seasons. Please enjoy the pictures here, Ambroisie Paris 2008 

Food (and Wine): 97 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 93 pts 

Overall: 96/100