l’Ambroisie, la cuisine qui vient d’un grand coeur
The dining room of l'Ambroisie
MY SECOND MEAL (Wakako’s Birthday Lunch)
The 2nd time I went to l’Ambroisie was February, 2008 for my friend Wakako’s birthday. This is late into and at the height of black truffle season, and Pacaud has an unparalleled reputation for sourcing the best black truffles and preparing them to perfection. Wasn’t I lucky?!
Because of my Facebook Group connection to Mathieu Pacaud, he was waiting for us at the entrance when Wakako and I arrived. So exciting! Before we started our meal, he proposed to show us the “core” of l’Ambroisie – the kitchen, and of course, my favorite part – the cave. Compared with the kitchens of Ledoyen and Les Crayers, the kitchen of l’Ambroisie is incredibly small! I was quite shocked that they could run in that way. Mathieu then took out a box and showed us all of the black truffles inside! He said the quality of black truffles that season wasn’t good, but they tried to find the best ones. (Of course, it’s l’Ambroisie!) He told us that they had to use about 10 KG of black truffles every week! Very impressive. The cave is also very “compact”. After the tour, we were led to the dining room. Both Wakako and I love Burgundy wines and we might have spent more time reading the wine list than the menu. We soon reached a consensus – that we would order a Burgundy red.
Louis Roederer Brut Premier - Cuvée Sélectionnée Par Le Restaurant l
Before having some wine, we also wanted to have some Champagne. At l’Ambroisie, their house champagne is Louis Roederer Brut Premier. It’s quite a good choice for an aperitif. It’s not a heavy style champagne, but quite light and fresh. Louis Roederer is a champagne house which is still run by a family and could be the most finanicially independent one. Its own vineyards supply nearly 75% of its grape needs which is a major advantage for this house. Plus, over 40% of Louis Roederer’s own vineyards are located in Côtes des Blanc, the finest area for Chardonnay. The Louis Roederer Brut Premier is one of the most consistently good NV champagnes.
1999 Domaine Hervé Sigaut Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers Vieilles Vignes
The Burgundy we chose was 1999 Domaine Hervé Sigaut Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers Vieilles Vignes. It’s a good choice for Wakako’s main course – Carré d’agneau au poivre, but not a perfect choice for my Feuilleté de truffe fraîche “bel humeur”. A white Burgundy, i.e. Meursault would go better with black truffle than a Burgundy red.
Velouté de topinambours et noix de saint-jacques, émulsion de truffe
Our amuse bouche was Velouté de topinambours et noix de saint-jacques, émulsion de truffe. Well, it’s of course amazinigly good. The saint-jacques was very tender, with that impeccable émulsion de truffe, I would say it’s a super luxerious amuse bouche.
Feuillantine de langoustines aux grains de sésame, sauce au curry
For the entrée, Wakako had Feuillantine de langoustines aux grains de sésame, sauce au curry. It’s a signature dish of l’Ambroisie. I had a little piece of Wakako’s langoustines, and it was so good. The meat of the langoustines was al dente. The sauce au curry was not attacking but elegant and the spiciness perfectly highlighted the sweetness of langoustines. No wonder it’s always on the menu.
Escalopines de bar poelees, étuvée d
I had “Escalopines de bar poelees, étuvée d’artichaut et truffe.” The quality of the bar is top. I wish the fish skin was quickly fried so it would taste crispy rather than too chewy. The étuvée d’artichaut et truffe was really great. The sauce was so creamy and aromatic. You’d be so tempted to use the bread to dip the sauce and even wrap the plate so you wouldn’t miss any tiny drop of this seductive essence.After the entrée, we started to enjoy our red wine. It was a very intense Chambolle. I would say it’s the characteristic of the terroir “Le Sentiers”, the old vines, and the vintage “1999”. Domaine Hervé Sigaut has practiced organic and biodynamic farming since 1992. Its property is mainly located in Chambolle Musigny, including 3 spectacular old-vine parcels of Chambolle 1er Crus Les Fuées, Les Sentiers, and Noirots. Les Sentiers is one of the premiers crus which lie under Bonnes-Mares. Say, compared to another very admirable premier cru – Les Amoureuses, Les Sentiers has more muscle, but it’s true Chambolle. The vintage 1999, needless to say, is a great vintage for Burgundy wines. Put these elements altogether, this wine was indeed a great wine. It still possessed a vivid life, and still young. If I had another bottle of this wine, I would rather wait for another 10 years to drink it. It will be incredible.
Feuilleté de truffe fraîche
When my main course was served, it was really a “wow moment”. Recall, I had ordered the Feuilleté de truffe fraîche “bel humeur,” a very famous signature dish at L’Ambroisie that consists of a perfect, very large black truffle sandwiching a perfect tranche of foie gras baked in pastry with black truffle sauce. “Please cut the bel humeur from the middle, and take a deep breathe when the aromas come out…”, when the waiter said this to me, he also winked, which implied me to be prepared for this – you’re going to be blown away. The shape of this Bel Humeur was so delicate and beautiful. I felt quite guilty to use the knife to cut it or “destroy” this art piece. Well, after appreciating it enough with my eyes, I eventually had it cut. And exactly as he said, the aromas blew up immediately. Before this dish, I’d never had a whole black truffle like this. Absolutely, it was a totally new experience to me. I had the same thing at Ledoyen one month after dining at l’Ambroisie. I have to say – L’Ambroisie’s Bel Humeur is much better! I am not sure having had this Bel Humeur as a benchmark if I will ever be satisfied with any other.
Carré d'agneau au poivre
Wakako’s carré d’agneau au poivre was also great. She claimed it’s one of the best d’agneau she ever had. Well, the other one was from Pierre Gagnaire. I also had the pleasure to eat a little piece of it and needless to say, I would also rate it with the highest score so far. Hugo Desnoyer (could be the best butcher in Paris) used to say – his toughest customer is Pacaud of l’Ambroisie. Pacaud has the highest standards of any chef. Therefore, you can get the picture why l’Ambroisie can acquire these ingredients of supreme quality.
Tarte fine sablée au chocolat, glace à la vanille
After enjoying the splendid main courses, Wakako and I went on desserts. She had the signature dessert “Tarte fine sablée au chocolat, glace à la vanille”, and I chose “Biscuit chaud et sorbet à la mandarine”. Both were incredible. I had a bite of Wakako’s Tarte fine sablee au chocolat and soon understood why it is be so admired. The appearance of this tarte is not fancy at all. It’s very simple. But the taste is defintely not simple; and it’s velvet like. The chocolate aromas are so rich and good. What a nice ending of this great meal.
We were the last guests to leave the restaurant. It was a truly memorable experience. After the meal, I took a walk around Place des Vosges to keep enjoying that very beautiful afternoon.
Place des Vosges
The point of view of Bernard Pacaud about his/French cuisine -
“French cuisine is an amalgam of influences, just as my cuisine is…”
“Some products are so lovely, I’m afraid I’ll spoil them. But it’s a question of touch and know-how. You can see the Japanese guy doesn’t want to spoil the fish. He has to scale it and filet it, but he wants to make it more beautiful than before. That’s real cuisine too: few ingredients, perfect cooking, and perfect seasoning. The product must keep its nature flavor. Maybe that’s my cuisine. But it comes from what I learned with Peyrot and Brazier.”