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l’Ambroisie, la cuisine qui vient d’un grand coeur

Part I

Le Restaurant l'Ambroisie

Le Restaurant l’Ambroisie

“If you asked 10 Parisians – what’s the best restaurant serving tradition French cuisine, 11 out 10 would answer you – l’Ambroisie.”

I suppose I am still at the age where when I find myself in certain great cities (or towns that are put on the map from having a truly great restaurant) I find myself almost unconsciously deciding to seek out the locations of these “temples”, not to arrive for a reservation, but just to feel what it is like to stand outside of them looking in and dreaming about what it will be like when I dine there.  And so it was 2 years ago, having just arrived in Paris, I went to the Place des Vosges and stood outside L’Ambroisie. Though I knew it is one of the best restaurants in France,  I didn’t realize that it is hidden in such a discreet corner at such a beautiful place.  It seemed have a magic to me, and I suddenly had a feeling telling me – I must come here at least once before I leave France.  And my wish came true:  I would experience four meals there before I moved back to Taiwan.

MY FIRST MEAL (A November White Truffle Lunch with my Aunt and Cousin)
The very first “touch” with l’Ambroisie was in November 2007, when my family came to visit me in Paris – especially good timing since it was white truffle season and the chef/owner, the great Bernard Pacaud, insists only on the best of the best ingredients (even when the ingredient is as rare and expensive as white truffles).   The situation in 2007 was the misfortune of a terrible season for white truffles, so the rarest of the rare that met the standards for L’Ambroisie were beyond exhorbitant.  I brought my camera to the lunch to photograph the beautiful plates of food.

For an ‘amuse bouche’ we were served rouget with leek and balsamic.  The skin was very crispy and the meat was extremely tender.

Parmentière de noix de saint-jacques au cresson, truffe blanche "O.Berluti".

Parmentière de noix de saint-jacques au cresson, truffe blanche

My aunt went for the Parmentière de noix de saint-jacques au cresson, truffe blanche “O.Berluti”.   I’ve been told the dish is named after a local Paris celebrity Olga Berluti, who creates the beautiful Berluti shoes that she sells from her boutique on the left bank.  The sliced white truffles were placed on top of the scallops (St-Jacques).  By the appearance of the white truffles, you could tell easily the quality is the top.  My aunt said the St-Jacques were executed very well and they retained their flavorful juices: the fresh sweetness of the St-Jacques.  The aromas of the white truffle are still well seared in my memory.  And I would say that egg could be the best company for white truffle.  The émulsion de cepes was also amazing.  The combination was just so perfect because of all of these great ingredients put together.
Œufs de poule brouillés à la truffe blanche, émulsion de cepes

Œufs de poule brouillés à la truffe blanche, émulsion de cepes

I ordered the “Œufs de poule brouillés à la truffe blanche, émulsion de cepes”.  I can say without hesitation that this was the best white truffle dish I have ever experienced in my life.  The aromas of the white truffle are still well seared in my memory.  And I would say that egg could be the best company for white truffle.  The émulsion de cepes was also amazing.  The combination was just so perfect because of all of these great ingredients put together.
Noix de ris de veau au céleri confit, râpé de châtaignes

Noix de ris de veau au céleri confit, râpé de châtaignes

For the main course, I ordered “Noix de ris de veau au céleri confit, râpé de châtaignes”.  La cuisson of this noix de ris was just perfect.  The texture was so chewingly soft.  The râpé de châtaigneswas also delicious, but it could be a bit too heavy if you finished all of it.  Well, I really wouldn’t mind if they gave me a little bit Œufs de poule brouillés à la truffe blanche, émulsion de cepes” as a side dish with this as well.

Agneau de Lozère en croute de noix, artichauts violets farcis à la ricotta

Agneau de Lozère en croute de noix, artichauts violets farcis à la ricotta

My cousin ordered “Agneau de Lozère en croute de noix, artichauts violets farcis à la ricotta”.  When she put the first piece of lamb in her mouth, she said “this is the best lamb I’ve ever had, so delicious…!”  To this day she still can’t forget the lamb she had at l’Ambroisie.  And the stuffed artichokes it came with are the most beautiful presentation of artichokes I have ever seen.
Suprême de volaille de Bresse aux écrevisse, turban de macaroni

Suprême de volaille de Bresse aux écrevisse, turban de macaroni

On the other hand, my aunt’s “Suprême de volaille de Bresse aux écrevisse, turban de macaroni” was unfortunately not executed perfectly.   The texture looked dry, but she was still quite satisfied with that Bresse. Well, the part of the Bresse she ate was chicken brest.  Most Asian people prefer chicken legs to brests, because the legs are more tender and juicy.  But it seems most Western people like the breast the most.
Strates de nougatine à la poire, sorbet "William"

Strates de nougatine à la poire, sorbet “William” Arlettes caramélisées au fromage blanc, citrons confits

When it came to decide a dessert, my aunt was too full to have something sweet.  So my cousin and I ordered Strates de nougatine à la poire, sorbet “William” and Arlettes caramélisées au fromage blanc, citrons confits.   Strates de nougatine à la poire, sorbet “William” was a very classic one.  My Arlettes caramélisées au fromage blanc, citrons confits was quite light.  The citrons confits had a pleasant tinge of bitterness which balanced well the sweetness.
The whole meal was exceptional, and I found l’Ambroisie was really my style.  We all enjoyed the dining room.  It’s not as big and glittering as Le Meurice (we had been to Le Meurice 2 days ago before l’Ambroisie), but it’s very classic with a more personal touch.  L’Ambroisie’s cuisine looks simple (less “fancy” than Le Meurice), but you could tell the work behind every dish is definitely not easy!  I even bought the DVD – Frederic Laffont’s film L’Ambroisie, les secrets de cuisine de Bernard Pacaud, and have watched it at least 5 times.  Of the dvd documentaries done on Pacaud, Roellinger, Gagaire, and Bras (all of which I have watched multiple times), I enjoy the Pacaud one the most.  The music in the L’Ambroisie documentary is particularly wonderful.  Of all these documentaries, I feel you get the most personal experience watching Bernard Pacaud.
The dining room of l'Ambroisie

The dining room of l’Ambroisie

(My 2nd time dining at l’Ambroisie will be posted at Part II)