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CHEZ L'AMI LOUIS

Just back from Paris. Once again, went for Sunday lunch to Chez L'Ami Louis. I know the place certainly has its share of detractors (‘way too expensive,’ ‘better food of this type to be found in Paris,’ ‘you can do better on a value/cost basis,’ etc.), but I have to say it really is my all-time favorite restaurant meal. Period.

This time skipped the foie gras appetizer and had the duck confit (cold), and my wife and I shared our favorite dish on the menu - the escargot. The escargot at L'Ami Louis are one off the most fabulous things that I've ever put in my mouth. The duck was a departure from the usual foie gras appetizer that I order, and the meat was sooo dense and flavorful.

For the main course, we ordered what we always have had in the past - the roast Bresse chicken, served with a potato galette. The roast chicken is really to die for - so moist, with wonderful gravy. Many people order the pommes frites, but those in the know get the galette - so crispy outside and fluffy inside with fresh garlic on top. And a nice salad on the side as well.

The cost is definitely high, and getting reservations a process in itself, but despite the costs and difficulties, when one finally sits down and partakes of a lunch such as this in Paris with someone you love on an early winter Sunday afternoon, there is simply nothing that can be improved upon. Worth every Euro.

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  1. Can you let us know the best way to make reservations? Also, what was the tab for lunch (and did you have wine)?

    1 Reply
    1. re: pjaym17

      When we went a number of years ago, we had our hotel call. The place was booked, but we decided to go by anyway to see if we could get a table (Sunday night at 9pm), which we did after a 45 minute wait at a nearby seedy bar - a v. interesting experience. If you decide to try this, I would strongly recommend that you keep your cab waiting until you've confirmed that you can get a table - at least when we went, the neighborhood was a bit dicey/empty, and we would not have been able to just hail a cab to go elsewhere.

    2. We had a fun time dining here summer of '05. Made the mistake of ordering both the fois gras & confit along with mains. I wouldn't say it was my favorite - but definitely memorable for many reasons above & beyond the food.

      I called the concierge at our hotel about 6 weeks before our arrival and had him make reservations. Actually, found that by calling and introducing myself we were able to then continue via email. Excellent concierge at an ok hotel on the Left Bank.

      1. L'Amis Louis is an institution. Agree its great. Best meal ever? Hmmmnnn. It's really in its own category and I agree its great... I love it. The dishes you mention are classic... killer. Its hard not to order the bresse chicken, but if its the right time of season, try the baby lamb. But its what it is... to my taste I'd put other places in the best meal ever category... like Robuchon, Troisgros, Bras, Veyrat, Boyer, Girardet... chefs like that.

        1. pjaym17:

          After many modes of dealing with the reservation line of L'Ami Louis, her is my suggestion -

          You can take your chances with a hotel concierge. If (and it's a big IF) they can make and confirm for you a reservation, than more power to you.

          Being the control freak that I am, I like to do everything myself, thus - I call about six weeks in advance. I always make it a point to reach then at about 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. their time on a Wednesday through Friday, as it's difficult to get them to answer the phone at any other time. When I call that early in advance they ALWAYS tell me 'call two weeks before, call two weeks before.' Fine. A couple of weeks later (about four weeks before I want the reservation) I call again. Sometimes (very rarely) they'll book you then - but most times they'll say again 'call two weeks before.' Fine. About ten days later (just outside the suggested two week zone) I call again. This time, I almost always get booked - especially if you want a coveted Sunday lunch reservation, because if you actually wait exactly until exactly two weeks before, they're suddenly 'fully booked, we have no tables!' When you call this time ask to speak to Louis (I don't know if that's his real name or not) - he's the only one who takes the bookings. Groveling is suggested and appreciated. Having someone who speaks fluent French call with you if you don't speak the language also helps.

          After you have the reservation, I call to confirm with Louis seven days before my date. Then I call about two days before AGAIN to reconfirm with Louis (or at that point have my concierge do it on my behalf) - they have been known to 'lose' some American reservations. And that's how I've never had any problem getting a table at that restaurant.

          And to WineTravel's comment:

          Intelligent people can certainly have a difference of opinion. I've mopst of the chef's restaurants you've mentioned at one point or another and have had wonderful experiences. We just returned from Alinea in Chicago (the full 27 course flight) which was transporting!

          But I'm just one of those guy who feels that my best (or imaginary last) meal would not involve the fireworks of Robuchon, the finesse of Keller, the extravagance of Anschatz, or the wizadry of Gagnaire. My perfect meal would be something humbler like a great burger, or a simple bowl of pasta with white truffles, but the dreamiest for me - the escargot, the roast Bresse chicken with potato galette, and a little duck confit or foie gras at Chez L'Ami Louis - and did I mention being in Paris on a Sunday in early winter with the late afternoon light filtering through the front of the dining room where I'd sitting with my wife?

          6 Replies
          1. re: matsonjones

            That is some procedure to getting a reservation.

            1. re: observor

              It seems you are dredging up old posts, good. A friend here in Paris reserves for me two weeks in advance. l come to this restaurant once a year and no other restaurant in Paris is looked forward to more. Yes they are crabby, yes they are hideously expensive, yes it is a very worn look, the bathrooms are another story. However, as stated by me in another post on this thread and to agree heartily with Schatzieman, they are the best at the few things they do. The escargot are 38 euros for way more than a dozen so where Allwol got his $150/dozen l do not know. Last year with two not so modest bottles of wine our tab was 400 euros for two. l so look forward to my res in a few weeks. Also it is not just the Americans whose reservations get lost. A born and bred Parisian had it happen to him about six months ago. If l showed up and they said 'forget this address' l would probably not return either, and it would be my loss.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Someone characterized the cote de boeuf as tasteless...hope that isn't true. As for the rudeness aspect, I find that is a tired act...though I guess if you are in a high demand restaurant you don't have to be nice.

                1. re: observor

                  I (now, since I got caught out talking about a 1989 experience, truth in lending, I haven't been in decades but I do look at the window menu and recall my meals there, when he was alive, disabled and dead) never found anything tasteless just outrageously over-priced and apparently now over-Americanized. I say go if you can afford it, just don't tell us in 15 years there's better, cheaper, elsewhere.

                  1. re: observor

                    No it was not tasteless. Meat is from Desnoyers as is Chez L'Ami Jean. This is the best butcher in town. The cut here is thicker and bigger and IMHO better. They get a better char on the meat. They are not rude, at least to me, sort of like a Jewish Deli with major attitude. l find it funny as do they. Is it worth the tariff, who knows, l go and love it. CAJ charges 60 euros, LAL charges 120 euros for a hunk that is 40-50% larger, so who knows or really cares.

            2. I'm associated with a group which each year books the entire restaurant for the last Sunday evening in January. They have done so for at least the last fifteen years. I make it about every three years. Its an incredible experience, since we order just about everything on the menu. From memory the appetizers include the above mentioned escargots, foie gras and scallops. The mains include the great chicken, lamb and beef. The sides are the wonderful thin frites and the potato cake. The only area where we go light are with desserts where we have only the delicious fruit. Of course the wine flows freely. The only problem with the evening is that I eat far too much and feel bloated. I've never seen the final l'addition, but I think it approaches $500 per person.

              1. "You can take your chances with a hotel concierge. If (and it's a big IF) they can make and confirm for you a reservation, than more power to you.
                Being the control freak that I am, I like to do everything myself, thus - I call about six weeks in advance. I always make it a point to reach then at about 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. their time on a Wednesday through Friday, as it's difficult to get them to answer the phone at any other time. When I call that early in advance they ALWAYS tell me 'call two weeks before, call two weeks before.' Fine. A couple of weeks later (about four weeks before I want the reservation) I call again. Sometimes (very rarely) they'll book you then - but most times they'll say again 'call two weeks before.' Fine. About ten days later (just outside the suggested two week zone) I call again. This time, I almost always get booked - especially if you want a coveted Sunday lunch reservation, because if you actually wait exactly until exactly two weeks before, they're suddenly 'fully booked, we have no tables!' When you call this time ask to speak to Louis (I don't know if that's his real name or not) - he's the only one who takes the bookings. Groveling is suggested and appreciated. Having someone who speaks fluent French call with you if you don't speak the language also helps."

                Sweet Jesus on a cracker, what's the big deal? I just picked up the phone and made a reservation. And, no, I don't speak French.

                1 Reply
                1. re: workintheater

                  workintheater - I do things this way because as I said, they have had (in the past) a regular habit of 'losing reservations' for Americans. I've heard endless tales of people showing up for lunch or dinner after having made a reservation, and being told 'sorry, we have no reservation, no tables available, you must come back another time.' So call me OCD, but at least I've never had that situation occur.

                2. Just back from Paris and I, as you, returned to L'Ami Louis for a Friday Lunch. This is our second visit and it was a good as the first. I had oysters and my wife foie gras, both were very good. We then shared the Cote de Boeuf and it was excellent. On our last trip we had the baby lamb. We, of course, had the galletes and then the pomme frites which came with the Boeuf. Desert was baby strawberries. We drank champagne and then a bottle of burgundy. yes it was expensive. Yes the portions are excessive. Yes the waiters have attitude( It is part of the act) . Will I return? Yes as soon as possible and next time I won't skip the snails

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: schatzieman

                    So how much was the lunch for two , more or less...???

                    One of these days I have to get there!

                    1. re: schatzieman

                      Fresh from a lunch at L'Ami Louis last week here are my comments. This must be the MOST over-hyped restaurant ever. I first ate there in the early 1960s and visited frequently up to the 1980s. I returned after a gap of 20 years for the worst disappointment ever. The decor is purposefully shabby it's a taking point. The surliness of the waiters is probably an act - we had a "good cop" and a "bad cop"/ The later was downright rude - unacceptably so for the offhand service. The menu did not feature a single fish dish, not even the wonderful coquilles St. Jacques which I have always enjoyed there. The fois gras IS fabulous but $90 is ott. The escargots probably the best ever but $150 per dozen ? The huge platter of cote de beouf on the bone with a massive blob of unnecessary butter on each serving was so under-seasoned it was fairly tasteless. The haystack of cold greasy frites was inedible. A half bottle of decent Bordeaux was the only fairly reasonable thing on the bill ($100). $22 for a small expresso did hurt though. This was a "never again" experience particularly as I had hoped to enjoy at least the nostalgia. Be warned

                      1. re: allwol

                        Thanks Allwol for posting prices. And how much for the famous roasted poulet de Bresse?

                        1. re: allwol

                          Anyone who wishes to try L'Ami Louis should do so, but I dined there 10 years ago, and will never return. The lady and I had roast chicken with the shoestring potatoes, preceded by a tub of lettuce dressed with olive oil, for two.

                          The food was good, but simple and unmemorable, undeserving of insane prices, and a modest red wine we ordered was marked up 700%. The waiter was courteous and very professional, though.

                          However, shortly after we were seated, I asked the maitre'd to recommend a bottle of red wine (there was no sommelier per se). He said, "No. Make your own mistakes." That soured me. At those prices, smart-aleck responses are unwelcome.

                          The evening was interesting, an actress who won an Oscar years ago, and her husband, both hugely successful Hollywood celebrities, were seated nearby, but I enjoyed dining elsewhere more. What I sought from L' Ami Louis, I found last November at Chez Denise on a bitterly cold evening.

                          We arrived fearful, without a reservation. The owner and his wife were most gracious, and seated us. The cafe was festive, food was terrific, service was good, almost all of the other patrons were French, and we happily returned for dinner again the following evening. We felt welcome.

                          I find it hard to imagine anyone regularly choosing the food and service of L' Ami Louis above that of the many other grand Parisian cafes.

                          1. re: allwol

                            Thanks for posting about your experiences. I always wanted to go there but will now cross it off my list. Just curious: Were most of the diners French? American?

                            1. re: erica

                              Sorry for the delay in replying, Erica. I hope you don't avoid L'Ami Louis just on my sayso. My experience might've been different if I'd ordered something else, other people were having sea scallops that looked delicious, and a pot roast was sitting on a rolling cart that my grandfather would've loved.

                              As for other diners, the cafe itself is linear, and we were sitting near the door, not near many other diners. The celebs we saw were Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, who were vacationing, staying at the Ritz.
                              Seated at a table near us was a couple from Brooklyn, 30something, nice people. They had the foie gras appetizer and shared some with us, and it was very good, served with toast points.

                              We were not close enough to other diners to see who they were, but the cafe is always popular with Americans, and French people also. I recall reading that Jacques Chirac took the Clintons there, once.

                              My only point was that the night I went, for what I ordered, it was enormously expensive and slightly disappointing. I still wanted to see the place, but I would probably order different selections were I to return.

                              Bear in mind, the worst meal I've ever had in Paris was, by my standards, terrific.

                              Best wishes, enjoy!

                              1. re: Greg in Chicago

                                I've just been there this weekend - they take reservations 4 weeks in advance so we rang 4 weeks ago and got a table for 4 which we subsequently reduced to just the 2 of us (thank goodness). The wine book is fantastic but vastly overpriced as has been commented on by others. The food menu looks great but is massively disappointing. The only thing that was served to us that wasn't overcooked was the foie gras, which being duck rather than goose was priced alarmingly.
                                The veal chop (cote de veau) was simply a mass of fat and grizzle which at $100 was dreadful whilst I had the duck which was so badly cooked ( for another $100) that both dishes ended up back in the kitchen hardly touched.
                                They appear to have a nice trick with the wine in that they remove the label and present it to diners but we didn't get to experience that probably because we only purchased a $130 bottle.
                                All in all the worst $400 I've ever spent. I really wouldn't bother visiting this restaurant.

                                1. re: sixlincoln

                                  Was there in October 2008 and posted my review. Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the night, but l loved it. Sure it cost me close to $500 for me alone, but the escargot, the scallops, the cote du boeuf, the chicken, may in their category be the best l have ever had. The staff treated us like gold.

                                  1. re: sixlincoln

                                    My God - After reading all these reviews, despite the few good ones, I'm steering clear of the place.
                                    Sounds like the classic "limping along on it's old reputation" schtick to me.
                                    I'm lucky enough to eat (well) in Paris all the time.
                                    - $400-$500 a head for a hit/miss?
                                    You gotta' be kidding.

                                    1. re: davequ

                                      I wouldn't call L'Ami Louis "limping along on it's old reputaton". It is popular as ever with Parisens as well as visitors. Nothing has change in over 60 years: not the service, not the decor or ambience, huge plates of well cooked bistro food using the best ingredients and of course plenty of butter. Is it worth large check is the real debate.

                                      1. re: davequ

                                        If you read my report on it, was a table of five that had at least 7 expensive bottles. Food alone shared would have been 100-125 euros.

                                    2. re: Greg in Chicago

                                      Several years ago I read that Chirac had taken the Clintons to L'Ambroisie. Just rumors?

                                      1. re: fanoffrance

                                        Clintons and Chirac: Absolutely true. You'll even see a picture of it in the restaurant. They also went to l'Ambroisie another time. Chirac is a known food lover.

                                        L'Ami Louis is a place for connoisseurs. It's not hit or miss, it's constant hit if you value exceptional ingredients served in high quantity and cooked very aptly.It's constant miss if you think that chicken is chicken and should not cost more than 20e no matter the quality of quantity.

                                        It's not 500e a head unless you go wild on wine (and they sure offer attractive options in that regard). It's actually not expensive if you recognize the price of things.

                                        1. re: souphie

                                          Visited with an English chef friend last winter who has two Michelin stars with his London restaurant. He too had heard great things of L'Ami Louis. We both agreed it's the emperor's new clothes. The ingredients are good, not exceptional - and available to many establishments. When we were there it looked like a foreign underworld HQ. Service was dire. It felt old, tired and trading off a former glory. If you have that money to spend, there are myriad of great Parisian experiences to be had.

                                          1. re: trixie007

                                            Sad to say, some of us are still stuck in the '60's.
                                            Oh well.

                                            1. re: John Talbott

                                              hey man the '60s weren't all bad....we had a blast on the left coast !

                              2. A.A. Gill was clearly not impressed. Hilarious send-up in this month's Vanity Fair:
                                http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/fea...

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: whs

                                  Yeah, really makes me want to go back. The food is soooo good there.

                                  1. re: whs

                                    I guess until I go there myself, I can never understand the polarizing opinions on this restaurant.

                                    1. re: theskyflyer

                                      I agree, it is really weird. I checked the internet before going to that place and hoped the critics were exagerating. Unfortunately, I though the place was extremely bad and unbelievably overpriced. How anybody can like that place is a mystery. Maybe there are two restaurants with the same name. Or they have two menus, one really good one reasonably priced, and one that is just awful...

                                  2. WHS, although, I have been "snowbirding" in Paris for the past 5 years and my friends are Parisians, L'Amis Louis has never been on our list of "go to" restos. In fact, I had never even heard of it until a friend sent me the link to the recent Vanity Fair article that you refer to. Even if one might not agree (and maybe I wouldn't either), it is a hoot of a restaurant review and I highly recommend it, if only for the laugh.

                                    1. Chez l’ami Louis

                                      This place is clearly a tourist trap, designed for the American tourist. It is more what a Hollywood producer would create to imitate a 1940’s style French restaurant, a la Hemmingway. It is a complete rip-off! The fois gras was horrible, at 28 Euros a pop unbelievably overpriced. The jambon was tasteless. The chicken was greasy, the ‘French fries’ (no decent old style French restaurant would serve fries) were cold. Again, the cost of 120 euros for the main course is at least 10 times what it should be!
                                      No country style French restaurant charges this much. Real ‘country cooking’ style restaurant serve fresh food and are reasonably priced. The overpriced restaurants in Paris are very luxurious affairs, where you are treated like a star (at a price), NOT country style cuisine places.

                                      You can go to any corner bistro in Paris and get very nice French cuisine for a reasonable sum!! You do not need to go to a fake tourist trap where you are skinned alive, while served very mediocre food.

                                      Have a look at this food critique. It seems way over the top, but unfortunately I agree with every sentence:

                                      http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/fea...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: chris_H

                                        "the ‘French fries’ (no decent old style French restaurant would serve fries) were cold."

                                        Perplexed by this comment, I did a fast Google of Bistro Paul Bert, Josephine and Astier, just to try an cross section of classic French restaurants, and found frites a featured specialty at all three. No mention however of their being served cold...

                                        1. re: mangeur

                                          Indeed I wonder where the poster got that strange idea that "no decent old style French restaurant would serve fries". Les frites have been served in Paris restaurants and bistrots since the 19th Century and there's even a type of French fries that was invented in Paris (pommes Pont-Neuf).

                                          Besides, overrated or not, hyped or not, L'Ami Louis is not a "country-style restaurant", it is an old Paris bistrot that has been simmering in its own juices since I don't know when. So it's only normal that it serves frites.
                                          For country-style restaurants, see L'Ambassade d'Auvergne, La Galoche d'Aurillac, Le Quincy...