Thursday, February 24, 2011

L'Ambroisie Bernard Pacaud - 3rd visit

My third visit to L'Ambroisie (you could find the reviews of my earlier visits at the blog archive), the place that arguably presenting French haute cuisine at its finest, took place at early Feb '10 - finally I had a chance to dine here during the black truffle season. In L'Ambroisie, many things simply would never change: there are always two kinds of bread (white and wheat), one will start the meal with its wonderful gougeres served with delicate cheese and minimum salt, and the decor in the dining room was exactly the same as my first visit in the summer of '07, perhaps it's always been this way for a longer period. Except one thing change: Pierre Lemoullac, a legendary sommelier and restaurant manager, resigned at the end of 2009. It seemed trivial, but somehow I felt that something was missing. It would never be the same. It sounded funny since my previous interaction with Monsieur Lemoullac was rather minimal, but his presence made a difference. To me, he's L'Ambroisie's ambassador in the dining room, the same way Bernard Pacaud is the true master in the restaurant's kitchen. It looked as if half of the restaurant's soul was gone, but I think Pascal could take the baton and carry on. The current sommelier is Christophe - he's been with the restaurant on my previous visit as well.

I observed that the maitre d' always promoted two things: langoustine with curry sauce and chocolate tart for the dessert. No wonder these dishes became more and more famous though I don't think they're the best items L'Ambroisie could offer. However, this time I knew exactly what I wanted and did not really bother to consult with him for my main three dishes. Here are my dishes,

Crème de chataignes (Chesnuts cream) - Warm chesnut veloute served with truffle cream and foie gras. Luckily, these three ingredients were prepared in light flavors

Velouté de cresson aux noix de Saint-Jacques, emulsion de truffe noire (Scallop in the cream of watercress and walnut served with black truffle emulsion) - The tender scallop is barely heated to retain its texture and sweetness. The black truffle was not that strong but it gave smoky and earthy sensation; the watercress veloute is rather thick and focused

Fricassée de homard sauce civet, purée Saint-Germain (Lobster tail fricassee served with stew sauce of smashed Saint-Germain peas) - A beautiful presentation. Lobster tail cooked here is consistently firm, sweet and meaty while the claw is more tender. The peas puree balanced the strong flavor generated from the red wine reduction - rather intense, quite typical for winter dish

Feuilleté de truffe fraîche “Bel Humeur”, frisée à la crème (Golden brown puff pastry of fresh black truffle served with truffle puree and mache salad) - Thick black truffle sandwiching a tranche of foie gras. The airy pastry is excellent; the truffle including its puree is solid, smoky and earthy while the duck liver is relatively light. The zingy and sour salad is useful to bring down the truffle's richness

Biscuit fondant tiède, sorbet à la mandarine (Warm melting biscuit served with mandarin sorbet) - The tasty biscuit is slightly eggy, hence tasted like souffle. The tangerine sorbet is great - balancing some sweet and sour flavor. A good recommendation by monsieur Pascal, especially after eating truffe "bel humeur"

Confiseries et friandises (Sweets and petit four) - Canele (decent), Opera, Banana biscuit and excellent home-made dark chocolates

For this visit, I had a half-bottle of 2005 Mersault to accompany my entire meal. The wine was not really dry with medium aroma of citrus and light golden color; it has some apple and peach taste with a nice and balanced finish. The reservation at L'Ambroisie is relatively easy; similar to my previous two visits, only about another dozen of people filling its dining room. Despite being not so busy in general, it is still one of the ultimate places to eat for gourmands, especially during the truffle season. There are several wonderful dishes executed precisely with Tuber Melanosporum supplied by monsieur Pebeyre. As a matter of fact, this was my best meal at L'Ambroise, possibly because they know and understand me better. Service wise, it was a standard one (professional) within 2-3 star institutions, but do not expect enthusiastic and guest-is-king type of hospitality that's consistently offered at Le Meurice, Ducasse or L'Arpege. After visiting this place at a few different seasons, I'm not sure if I will return here in the near future since I've tried nearly all of its delicious dishes. Bernard Pacaud, the living legend of French gastronomy, is not getting any younger. If any gourmand has not been here, come before he retires and focus on the food - you will enjoy it. Don't be too picky about the service and ambiance (I enjoyed the atmosphere though). It's not my favorite, but certainly in my top 3 or 5. Below is the link for the pictures,

Food (and Wine): 98 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 93 pts

Overall: 96.5/100