Location: 9 Pl. des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France. +33 1 42 78 51 45
Date: June 29, 2022
Cuisine: 1980s Haute Cuisine French
This was supposed to be my fourth starred restaurant in Paris, but some complexities of the “2022 moment” led to us missing two of them. I also ended up going here by myself instead of with a big group, but c’est la vie.
L’Ambroisie is a traditional French restaurant in Paris, France founded by Bernard Pacaud and now run by his son Mathieu that has maintained three Michelin stars for more than thirty years. The name “L’Ambroisie” (“Ambrosia” in English) comes from Greek mythology and means both “food for gods” and “source of immortality.”
The restaurant’s founder and head chef is Bernard Pacaud. He was abandoned by his parents at age 13 and raised in an orphanage in the mountains of Lyonnais. Pacaud started cooking at age 15, in 1962, as an apprentice at the famed Eugenie (Mére) Brazier’s restaurant Col de la Luère located 20 km from Lyon. Pacaud spent the next three years as commis at the Tante Alice restaurant in Lyon before becoming chef de partie at La Méditerranée in Paris. Pushed by Eugénie Brazier’s encouragements, he applied to work in 1976 with Claude Peyrot, the chef and owner of the Vivarois (a Michelin three star restaurant) on avenue Victor Hugo in Paris. In 1981, he opened his own restaurant quai de la Tournelle (at the crossing with rue de Bièvres) in Paris. In 1986, he opened L’Ambroisie at place des Vosges and obtained three Michelins stars in 1988 which he has kept since then. His refined and classical cooking style makes it one on the most esteemed French restaurants.
The interior was very 1980s “le Grande Restaurant.” I didn’t photo much of it because the Madame en Charge was giving me the evil eye and I didn’t want to get boxed out of using my camera. As it was I didn’t dare even put the flash on, I could just tell that wouldn’t fly.
2015 Rapet Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. BH 92. This easily possesses the most complex nose in the range with its ripe yet cool array of green apple, citrus, petrol, soft wood and spice hints. There is impressive size, weight and concentration to the muscular big-bodied flavors that coat the mouth on the citrus and mineral-inflected finish. I would make the same observation here that while this could easily be enjoyed young, I would be inclined to give it at least a few years of bottle age first to develop more depth. (Drink starting 2022)
The menu. This is pretty close to the style of menu I generally encountered at nice restaurants in the 1980s. Dishes are vaguely clustered into courses and the intent is that you order one from each. Lighter eaters could skip one.
Special cornbread-like bread.
Amuses. Fennel tart (front). Delicious. Red pepper mousse (back left) on a crisp. Leek with Caviar (back right). I always enjoy the rich and varied tastes of amuses — I could do an entire meal of amuses trivially.
Sour dough bread and Normandy Butter. Sour dough seems a recent thing at high end French places.
The bread itself.
And le beurre.
I started (with the amuses) trying to shoot these dishes with my F1.8 lens and a tiny tripod. About one picture in the eagle eye’d manager honed in on me and made me ditch the tripod. Why me sitting alone at my large table with a 6″ tripod was “distracting to the other guests” is anyone’s guess, but as I had to make due hand holding in dim light with no flash I was basically shooting with a couple mm of depth of field — hence I present several photos (pretty hard to focus stack without a tripod).
Feuillantine de langoustines aux graines de sésame, sauce au curry. Langoustine feuillantine with sesame seeds, curry sauce. Lanougstines (course 1). Very precise. Perfectly cooked and the buttery mildly curry sauce was delicious. This was an excellent dish.
Interlude de homard aux pusses de legumes, nage a l’anis etoile. Lobster interlude with vegetable pusses, star anise broth. Lobster (course 2). Incredibly tender and another great beurre blanc. Basically you could think of it as perfectly cooked lobster in perfect beurre blanc — nothing wrong with that. The broth was so good that it made the vegetables awesome.
2013 Domaine Poisot Pere & Fils Romanée St. Vivant. BH 92. There is a fine sense of freshness to the cool and overtly spicy aromas of various floral, plum and sandalwood hints. I very much like the purity of the energetic, sleek and attractively detailed medium-bodied flavors that possess a highly refined mouth feel thanks to the fine grain of the supporting tannins, all wrapped in a balanced, persistent and beautifully complex finish. This is quite good and should age effortlessly over the next 10 to 15 years. (Drink starting 2025)
Supremes de pigeon laques a la Montmorency, meli-melo de betteraves confites. Supremes of pigeon lacquered with Montmorency. Pigeon (course 3). Good, and perfectly cooked, but touch heavy.
Candied beetroot medley. Beat side dish as part of duck. Kind of lovely.
Centerpiece on the table.
Pre-dessert. Very light.
Blanc-manger meringue aux agrumes, sorbet cerises a la Kriek. Blancmange meringue with citrus fruits, cherry sorbet with Kriek. Super fresh and great cherries and cream thing.
Mini strawberry tart.
Pastry with Chantilly cream and a caramelized top. It’s sort of related to a Saint-Honoré pastry and includes a slate of elements I love.
An immense amount of cocoa almonds.
Overall, this is a great kitchen and in summary a great way to experience the 1980s/early 90s style of high end French Cusiine, but I’ll break down the elements:
Food. Dated, without the heavy Asian or modernist influence that’s common these days, but extremely precise and and well cooked. This makes the cuisine more “French” than most other 3 stars. It also floats everything along with butter and creme instead of using some of the lighter newer “solvents.” The format also features a more or less 3 savory style which I found less exciting than a newer style with many more, smaller, savory courses. Being by myself, I didn’t get to sample that many things.
Wine. The by-the-glass wine list was surprisingly poor compared to my meal the previous night at Le Grand Restaurant – Jean-François Piège. I had to pick from the kind of “off vintage, off producer, a bit too young” Burgundies I won’t even buy anymore.
Atmosphere. The room is pretty, but formal in the classic way. I’m certainly fine with that. Tables were very spaced out and things were quiet. For me, being along, and in combination with the relatively small number of courses and the slow pacing and my inability to use a tripod or flash (which would occupy me a bit longer with my photography) the whole experience was kind of slightly uncomfortable and a bit dull. I was a little too far from the other diners to easily listen to their conversations. haha. The staff, particularly the manager, seemed more stern and disapproving, if always flawlessly polite, than the friendliness I experienced the previous night.