Wednesday, August 28, 2019

L'Ambroisie Bernard Pacaud - 8th visit

L'Ambroisie, named after the food of the gods according to the Greek mythology, is arguably the Parisian restaurant I'm most familiar with at the moment. This haute cuisine temple is known to consistently serve traditional French cuisine at a very high level and its location is hidden in the serene and elegant Place des vosges. People walking around the square might easily miss this place as even the Chef-patron Bernard Pacaud did not bother to put the word "restaurant" in front. The menu is very seasonal and one could familiarize himself with what dishes to expect during certain season / month. Here I was in the January's cold Winter once again re-visited my favorite restaurant in the world. Lunch has always been my preferred time as I could see and walk around the square with plenty of natural lights. Furthermore, reservation was easier (on average, only 10 people eating lunch here) with the same menu and the same staffs as dinner. It's also guaranteed that the master chef Pacaud himself would also be cooking in the kitchen. 

After having been warmly greeted by the maitre d', the kitchen brought out black truffle kouglof as the nibble when I perused the menu. The kouglof was nicely done, like any other things created at this restaurant - thin crust at the outside, light & fluffy on the inside, with right flavor. For the bread, I picked the wheat and sesame; good to be consumed with the butter. Possibly for the first time that I did not consume any fish or seafood dishes for my meal at L'Ambroisie. You could see below on what I had ...

Amuse-bouche: Oeuf coque à la truffe (Soft-cooked egg sabayon served in its shell with black truffle and small toasted bread) - The delicate & slightly sweet sabayon was in harmony with the creamy egg yolk and fragrant Winter truffle. Dip the bread in the egg to get different experience or to clean up the yellow "sauce" - a very promising start

Salmigondis de cuisses de grenouilles à la diable, mousseline de persil (Frog legs "stew" served with sauce diable and parsley mousse) - The appetizer was half portion and it consisted of 7-8 small, kinda soft and flavorful frog legs (thanks for the sauce); they're easy to eat with the hand. The parsley gave more balanced taste and there was crunchy biscuit for texture variation. Trying at least a new dish while eating at L'Ambroisie was accomplished ... did not disappoint

Carré d’agneau de Lozère en croûte de poivre gris, salsifis glacés au jus (Rack of Lamb from Lozere covered with the crust of black peppercorn and served with salsify and 'brown sauce') -  I ordered a half portion of lamb dish here about a decade ago in the late Summer. Given my "passion" for lamb, I think it's time to eat another one and this time in full portion.
As far as I could remember, this was better (than last time). The preparation was classic and did not seem complicated with perfect execution. The tender lamb was really delicious with deep flavor; the outer layers of pepper coating, lamb's skin and thin layers of fat were outstanding ... tasty and complex; rather sweet and a little spicy. The jus was light but somewhat intense at the same time. The side dish of salsify was spot on for the season. An amazing lamb dish!

Accompanied by wine: 2009 Frederic Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes (good pinot noir, medium body with fine tannin, cherry & floral aromas, supple in the mouth).
This 1/2 bottle of red wine accompanied me throughout my meal

Feuilleté de truffe ‘’bel humeur’’ (Puff pastry containing Perigord truffle and Foie gras) - A legendary dish during Winter at L'Ambroisie; well-known for it was both extraordinary and expensive. However, it's worth it ... at least for me. Everything was flawless: the puff pastry was buttery & fragrant with the right thickness yet felt light. Late Jan to Feb was the ideal period for remarkable and mature black truffle. The duck liver, sandwiched in between the thick truffles, supported and generated different taste to the dish. Ultimately, the feuillete was cooked with precise temperature and time to produce this ethereal creation.
Through this kind of preparation, Bernard Pacaud was able to release the "powerful" Winter truffle aroma at its best, and at the same time, allowing guests to taste the excellent texture of cooked black truffle with a hint of "spicy" taste. The black truffle sauce (a bit coarse) underneath the pastry ensured that the dish would always be moist when we slowly savoring every heavenly bite from the beginning to the end - splendid!

Frisée niçoise à la crème - (Slightly) bitter green salad of curly endive with light cream dressing and black truffle. Some people might find the truffle pastry to be too rich, then the kitchen provided this simple salad to balance any intense flavor. It was still good even to be consumed on its own

Mont d’Or à la truffe noire (Vacherin Mont d'Or cheese with black truffle) - This seasonal mont d'or was probably one of the best raw milk cheese. Chef Pacaud had his own 'recipe/way' when serving this cheese course every Winter. Generally not a huge fan of cheese, but this gourmet cheese was surprisingly delicious (a sign of good maturity) with unique nutty and earthy taste. The texture was gooey and sticky, meaning we got to eat it with a spoon. The Perigord truffle elevated the cheese even more - it added some complexity and another layer of depth without being overpowering

Palate cleanser: Pineapple and coconut sorbet with some pomegranate - pleasant sweet and sour taste after the savory courses

Tarte fine sablée au cacao amer, crème glacée à la vanille Bourbon (Fine Chocolate tart dusted with bitter cocoa, served with Bourbon and vanilla ice cream) - It was the signature dessert of Bernard Pacaud, which many gourmands concurred as one of the finest (flourless) chocolate sweets of all time. The most incredible part was the sabayon - as light as the air yet really rich and intense. The sable below (sometimes I ate it separately) provided decent 'support'. The slice of this refined dark chocolate tart was accompanied by concentrated vanilla bean ice cream with some notes of smoky bourbon. Chef Pacaud, once again, displayed another sophistication in balancing texture and flavor. Truly a timeless dessert ...

The meal ended with satisfying mignardise such as almond and hazelnut chocolate, madeleine cake. The pace of the meal was excellent. The staffs, as always, were warmed, kind and helpful. It was a slow lunch ... despite known for its formality, the service was more relaxed towards repeat guests. Many staffs have been working with and for Bernard Pacaud for at least a decade, so building a relationship with them was very possible. A few people dressed more casually in the past 5 years or so but for the locals, especially the gentlemen ... they all were wearing jackets.  I liked following this habit, probably because when I started this "hobby/passion" in the mid 00's, jacket and tie were required. This made the overall ambiance and look of the dining room more elegant and classy IMHO.

The 17th-century decoration and furniture inside the tranquil dining room were well-maintained (consistent with the surrounding history and atmosphere). It might not be the most glamorous / luxurious dining room in France, but certainly one of the most elegant and uniquely Parisian. The routine at L'Ambroisie of searching and using the best ingredients, handling and taking care of the produces carefully, preparing and executing them in the best possible way (usually only using 3-4 items in each course), and serving them at the right moment - could hardly be replicated elsewhere, let alone at home. Simplicity with perfect texture, temperature and flavor as well as clear aroma has always been the key success of Bernard Pacaud's food. If I could choose, I hope to discover the Summer creations of Chef Pacaud next time ... it has been a while. The photos of the dishes above are here L'Ambroisie Jan '19 

Food (and Wine): 98 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 96 pts

Overall: 97.5/100

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