Saturday, April 30, 2005
Some friends are almost too appreciative of a favor. We were recently invited to a dinner at Ambroisie, a Michelin Guide Red three star restaurant by these good friends. In French culinary terms, it doesn't get better than three stars.
The "Red Bible," as it is known, is a symbol of French culinary achievement and a guarantor of French culinary standards. It has long been a springboard to fame and riches for chefs, and the importance the chefs attach to Michelin stars has only magnified the guide's importance to restaurant-goers. In fact, a star can make or break a restaurant -- the loss of a star -- according to some -- will generally cut a restaurant's turnover by at least 25 percent. The addition of a star will guarantee prices to rise. Down the street we have a one-star Chinese restaurant. A meal there goes for 60 euro per person... for Chinese food!
With the highest three-star ranking you expect a wonderful, even magnificent meal and Ambroisie didn't disappoint. Located on the Place Vosges in the Marais, we walked in and were promptly greeted and shown to our table. Immediately, waiters were on hand to ask if we wanted an apperitif (bien sur!). Two of us ordered Kir royals and the other two champagne. After we were handed our menus, the waiter brought out some cheesy puff pastries. They were light yet flavorful. Then we listened to the waiters recommendations. When we ordered, if we choose his recommendation, he would say "merci pour votre confidence"/ thank you for your confidence.
If you look at reviews for Ambroisie, they all say that the chef, Bernard Pacaud, picks his menu by what is fresh for that season. Our menu was Printemps/Spring with lots of mushrooms and asparagus. I will tell you what I ordered.
To start I had the "feuillantine de queues de langostines au graines de sesame, sauce curry" -- beautiful big yet tender langostines (his recommendation) in between layers of a baked sesame (how do I say this??) crisp in a curry sauce. I was hesitant because I thought the curry would overpower the langoistines, but the sauce was mild and really complimented the fish.
After the first course, I ordered the "cote de veau double roti etuvee d'asperges et morilles" -- veal with tiny, flavorful morel mushrooms, not the lamb (as the waiter recommended, but the men ordered it and thought it was delicious). The veal came out perfectly cooked with most of the mushrooms and asparagus on a side plate. The flavors blended perfectly. To drink with the dinner we had a lovely 1979 Chateau Kirwan from Bordeaux.
The waiter recommended the chocolate tarte for dessert. The owner mentioned that it has been on the menu for 24 years. My husband wasn't going to take the recommendation and asked for the "soupe de fraise" or strawberry soup. The owner said , no the chocolate tarte is recommended monsieur. Backed into the corner, he ordered the chocolate tarte. A few minutes later the waiter brought out a "little surprise from the kitchen, because nothing is impossible at Ambroisie." It was the "soupe de fraises de jardin -cote de nuits- conversation aux amandes" and it was a little surprise for everyone. Delicious and light. Then for the real dessert... "tarte fine sablee au chocolate, glace a la vanille" -- a chocolate tarte with the most delicious, buttery and fine crust with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to balance the strong chocolate. I ate every bite and so did everyone else. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?
What a spectacular dining experience.
** Sorry no pictures of the food, my husband who barely tolerates my picture taking in normal restaurants would have surely died of embarrassment here.
-- said Auntie M in Paris
That sounds fantastic... I have yet to be in anything close to a 3 star dining establishment, so I can only imagine, especially in France where food is a huge production as it is.
# posted by Joe : 8:35 PM
Il est probable que le serveur vous a reercié de votre "confiance" et non de votre "confidence".
Bien à vous
# posted by : 11:28 PM
# posted by Becca : 3:12 AM
I agree with the comment above: the waiter probably said Merci de votre confiance or Merci pour votre confiance, rather than confidence. Confiance is "trust", whereas confidence in its everyday meaning signifies a "secret" or "something which should not be passed on". Je vais vous faire une confidence means, roughly, "I'm going to tell you a secret" or "I'm going to tell you something confidential".
This is another linguistic "false friend" to add to the list. (smile)
Thanks for this wonderful report on the resturant !
# posted by L'Amerloque : 8:56 AM
I have been reading your journal for quite a while now, I found it ages ago when searching for blogs on Paris. I must say that have been enjoying it immensely. I leave here to visit your home away from home in ten days!
# posted by shelagh : 3:59 PM
Glad it lived up to its billing.
# posted by Philip : 4:15 PM
# posted by : 10:06 PM
As for taking pictures of the dishes, it is very easy to do unnoticed with a small digital camera... Of course, without the authorization of the owner, you cannot publish them.
Auntie M. you must get a keyboard with the accents, cédilles & other cute signs...
# posted by Anonymous : 6:53 AM
are there any Indian restaurants in Paris, if yes have you ever been to any and did you like them?
# posted by : 8:03 AM
# posted by mrsmogul : 3:11 PM
NEVER do that AGAIN!!
# posted by Sammy : 10:07 PM
# posted by Anonymous : 1:21 PM
By the way, it is very very expensive isn't it ? Something like 200-300 euros per person minimum. Plus wine (say 400 euros or more...). Anyway, I'm sure it's worth it !
# posted by : 3:50 AM
Jan-Yves, Thank you for the clarification. It's very helpful.
Becca, It was!
L'A, This blog does have it's benefits! I would never have picked up on the confiance vs confidence. I heard what I thought I heard and never would have questioned it. Thanks for helping me along in my French.
Shelagh, I hope you have a wonderful time in Paris.
Philip, Thanks. It really did.
Frania, I know my keyboard is a problem without the accents and such! You are lucky to be married to a Frenchman who knows his way around the restaurants. My friends married to Frenchmen are the same way. I'm always asking them for recommendations.
Burf, There are Indian restaurants, but no restaurant that apparently comes highly recommended by my friends. I get invited to their houses for authentic Indian food, so I never go out for it. Someone once said that France doesn't do ethnic food well, and I tend to agree.
Melody, When I read over this post I get hungry too! It was a delicious meal.
Mrsmogul, I'd like to meet your husband!
Sammy, I was thinking about you when I wanted to take my pictures!
W, For your birthday... well I have a few years of potential planning before your next big one...
Pierre, Thanks for your comment. I'm no expert, but generally I think you can expect to spend 100+ euro per star per person. Much of the cost depends on your choice of wine.
# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 8:42 AM