dinner at L'Ambroisie and Rostang
First I want to thank Souphie, who after reading my request suggested L'Ambroisie as the perfect match, and it was.
I also had to laugh, when we were immediately escorted to the third room, and asked if we were satisfied, as they could give us a table in the first room, if we preferred.
We told them that we were quite content where we were.
Soupie, perhaps you were unaware that the back room allows smoking?
We found everyone extremely friendly and accommodating.
It was a very relaxed meal, and not the least bit "stuffy", as I had imagined.
One of the amuse, a hot green salad soup served with a mustard dumpling was outstanding, and foreshadowed a great meal.
S started with seabream on a bed of chopped girolles, (spelling?) surrounded by almost transparent girolle wafers which covered the plate.
I had a puff pastry fantasy of seared but raw salmon, slivers of apricot,and pistacio.
Plate covered with thin fans of lime, and multi coloured tiny tomatoes, and other treats.
Everything burst with flavour, yet I could taste each individual element.
This dish was definitely a "WOW".
Mains S had the lamb.
Short chops, from the rack, and (unexpectedly from what I had read) a very large portion.
This was accompanied by a bowl of white beans in a mustard light mayo sauce.
To test my admiration for Le Bec's sweetbreads which were awesome, I decided to order the sweetbreads.
Once again, I was awed by the simplicity of the presentation, and the clarity of taste.
My tastebuds were singing.
The sweetbreads were infused with Lemongrass, and served with wild mushrooms, that melted in the mouth, and a miniature cabbage, which hid inside, another sweetbread sampling, but this time steamed. Again WOW
We opted to share the chocolate cake and ice cream.
They, of course sent two portions, but charged us for one.
They told us that they split it in half, but they did not, as I have seen pictures of this dessert, and we had two portions.
Another touch of class.
The pastries, which I don't usually touch, were so tempting that I had to have a lemon raspberry one, on a bed of merangue ,and taste the choux with pure, dense, whipping cream.
I regretted that unlike Le Bec, they didn't bring a box to the table for us to take the offering home.
I have heard that some people find Chef's offerings boring, as he is not innovative.
To me he is the ideal.
I still remember biting into a chocolate froth with button mushrooms inside, and almost gagging at the restaurant of the youngest two star chef in France.
If this is innovation, it is not for me.
This was a perfect meal..
To be fair we chose incorrectly.
S wanted the very long seafood tasting menu, and they would not prepare it for one, so I agreed to have it as well.
It was multi course,
The amuse was a rilette of sardines, and quite tasty.
Salmon spring rolls, artichoke soup and a tartar of beef.
Aside from the one course of sea spider crab served in the shell. all other courses consisted of lobster.
We both found the crab dish too heavy handed and rich.
The bottom layer was a cream as thick as cold butter, topped with the chopped crab, and covered with a thick gelee, hightly seasoned which totally masked the flavour of the crab.
The other dishes were good, consume of lobster, souffle of Lobster, grilled chunks of lobster on mushrooms,and the finale a whole lobster brought to the table, before being divided.
All dishes well executed, but not in the least bit exciting.
Nothing that we couldn't find in any good seafood restaurant.
Possibly because in Toronto we can have a 6 pound lobster cooked four ways to serve four people for under $100, and our lobster are very sweet.
Chef and Mrs. Rostang were gracious hosts, and spoke individually to each guesrt.
The meal did nothing for us, but I am sure, would we return, and order from the menu, the experience would been much different.
Well, that's l'Ambroisie I know.
For Rostang -- as I wrote, it is not a WOW place, also not a light one. You're exactly right to say that it did nothing for you - that is, nothing more than a good meal. This is also why I only go for the 79E lunch, except in truffle season, when their all truffle menu is really worth it and relatively good value. The place is about generosity, less pretentious than most competitors, and serving you excellent food -- at unreasonable prices. They do that, imo, better than any other. As I wrote too, they have a style that makes Bocuse looks like avant-garde in many ways. Of course they don't play in the same league as l'Ambroisie (few do). This is not impressing, sublime or incredibly erotic. But wasn't it good?
But you did taste the difference between toronto lobsters and Tostang's blue ones, right? If not, that means it was a night off for them, and you need to factor in bad luck when assessing your meal.
Never heard of that all-lobster tasting before.
It is difficult to articulate my feelings regarding this meal.
The price was, obscene.
More than L'Amboisie.
Most who come here consider a visit to a 3* an event.
Value for money, no.
The lobster was good, and simply presented.
I didn't find it tastier or sweeter than our Lobster, but that is not the problem.
No flair, no excitement, no surprises, no sides.
Nothing that I couldn't get at a fraction of the price.
I guess for the money, I want "bells and whistles".
The truffle menu sounds fantastic, but, of course not available until December (I did inquire).
I agree that a 79E lunch would have been a much wiser choice.
Except the fact that I really disagree that blue lobster taste the same as Maine lobsters, I would agree with most of those comments, and yet, conclude that this place is one of my favourites.
Maybe, if I may, the mistake was not your choice in the menu but the proximity of those two meals. Actually, I think no restaurant would not have been disappointing after a good l'Ambroisie experience -- this is so magical and yet simple, Pacaud is so the best in what he does, that maybe going to another restaurant in the next few days is a mistake.
There are no surprise for sure, and there is nothing here dazzling. That's the first thing I wrote about Rostang: how it is not, not at all, mind boggling. Just really generous and celebratory. There's something absolutely casual, almost home-like about that food. But I disagree that you could have gotten the same at a fraction of the price. Prices are Rostang are painful as I already argued, but they are not unjustified: these are top ingredients, really well prepared, huge portions.
The real issue is what kind of experience you expect. And for excitement, surprise, flair, this is not the place. This is a really old-fashioned restaurant, one where you come to eat what you know (even if recipes vary, there always is that sense of familiarity), be treated. You don't expect brilliance of them -- actually, in their style, it would even be inappropriate, a way to interrupt your conversation.
I think it is another argument in favour of a style of reviewing that characterise rather than judge restaurant. To me, your double experience is typical of how expectations at different top restaurants must be different, and useless a mere ranking of restaurants is.
They have no lunch menu and no website or email. You should call them but I wouldn't be optimistic on your chances to get a table on such short notice, not to mention they might be on holidays. I would call them and explain that your lifetime objective is to eat at their place and that will only be in Paris then and whenever they can find a stuhl for you you're on.
Thank you so much for the advice, and your kind reply. I am calling L'Ambroisie tomorrow am (2:00 pm Paris time). I have also requested a reserve at Guy Savoy, and L"Astrance for lunch on this trip (4 days). I will also try to reserve Michel Rostang if needed to fill my dance card at lunch. I am trying to stretch my budget a little by hitting the 3 stars at Lunch. For dinner I am trying to reserve L'Ami Jean and L'Os a Moelle. If all this works out I may die of happiness in Paris. Last trip in Sept I dined at Atelier Joel Robuchon (loved it),,Jacques Cagna (so so), and Chez Clovis. Sort of learning how to get around Paris now. Thanks again...I love your thoughtful and informative postings on this board.
Be careful that more is not always better (should also apply to my writing...). Big meals are better enjoyed when reasonably hungry, a light salad the next meal or the meal before. When you do two three-stars a day, in my experience, the second one is always less good (except when the first one was bad, which can happen with Gagnaire).
That said, when focusing on the food quality and excitement, the best lunch deals are les Elysées and Les Ambassadeurs. Savoy and Rostang are both wonderfully pleasant places, and they are terribly expensive in the evening (hence the appeal of lunch menus). Both offer tons of food, especially Rostang.
Learning from Erly, I would advise not to have Rostang and l'Ambroisie just a few days away from one another (they are too contradictory to one another -- l'Ambroisie is a temple of cuisine while Rostang is a warm, luxurious, elaborated version of a family home. One has always too much to eat, the other always the right amount for an almost spiritual demonstrattion, etc.).
But your plan of having Astrance and Ambroisie is interesting because they are as different as they can be while sharing a philosophy of utmost respect for ingredients, seasonality, and simple preparations. They're probably the two harder to get tables in Paris. So if you can get a table anytime, take it (but I, personnally, would always favour l'Arpège over l'Astrance, even though it is twice as expensive).
L'Ami Jean et l'Os a Moelle, like la Regalade, are great places but they offer simplified gastronomic cooking with great ingredients. If you're already going to two or three top notch restaurants, they won't bring you something fundamentally different cooking wise. And they're not places when you just get one salad, there's just too many temptations there.
Finally, there is always room for improvisation (if you like it) and adapting to your appetite and desire of the moment. There are ten three-stars restaurants in Paris and twice as many two-stars, so there is almost always a table at the last minute somewhere (maybe not on fri and sat night, though), including in the hardest to get ones (I only ever went to l'Ambroisie on last minute calls -- success rate is close to 50% with that strategy). Just have your Michelin with you. Savoy for example will always find a 10pm spot for you.
And in any case, with that kind of hall of wonders program, you may want to include some very long walks or any kind of exercise -- not so much for your diet (it's only four days of your life), but for your best enjoyment. Just my two cents, obviously. Swimming pools in Paris are open every morning between 7 and 8 except mondays.
This is only my experience based advice of course, I am not trying to take over your holiday ;-)
Here is an update on my Paris reservation experience:
I was able to book Luncheon reservations via email for Guy Savoy, Michel Rostang, and Les Elysees, all for the first week of January. They were all very prompt to respond, and very helpful, Rostang replied that they would be happy to offer a menu with Truffles per my request.
l'Os a Moelle is closed Jan 1-7. Booked a reservation via telephone at L'Ami Jean for Dinner, the woman I spoke with was very helpful and friendly. I will probably book another dinner at Le Souffle while I am in town. My plan is to go all out at lunch and then "'walk it off" and eat lighter in the evening per Souphie's advice. Although I will have a difficult time passing by Lauderee or Piere Hermes without indulging. I have worked in Hospitality Industry (Classically Trained Chef ) for 25 years, so Paris is truly a hall of wonders experience for me. Hope we have some good truffles available at this time!
Thank you for the very good advice !
You can trust Rostang and Savoy (and probably Briffard from Les Elysées, I never tried him on truffles) to get the best available truffles. But the seasons does not look good. Last monday, only 130kg were exchanged at the Lalbenque market (350 last year at the same third market of December)), and yet the prices were not particularly high (between 400 and 700€ for wholesale to professionals). So I would not expect wonders from truffles this year -- and in any case, I would trust those chefs to give me the best that is available.
And don't forget to try Renard's macarons!
Renard is now on the list....very nice article, can't wait to taste them!
I have also heard of a small Ice Cream Shop, possibly on the Ile St Louis, do you know this place? Is it worth a visit? Also I love foie gras, both hot and cold preparaions, and usually order it in the restaurants. Is there a shop or a restaurant that serves especially great foie, or a unique and noteworthy preparation? Or, perhaps a place that serves exceptional Bresse Chicken? With regard to any other "must-see's" in the hall of the wonders, please advise, I love all types of foods and this is truly a gastronomic vacation. I have always wanted to tour the Rungis Market but never seem to be in town on the days that the organized tours are offered (2nd friday of the month). Thank you for all of the wonderful suggestions.
foie gras is a game for most great chefs. Particularly noteworthy are Senderens and Briffard (les Elysées -- foie gras almost always in the 64E lunch menu). One of the best bresse chicken dishes in Paris is at le Bristol, the poularde au vin jaune. Also note, outside Paris, that the classic specialist of that ingredient is of course George Blanc in Vonnas and that the relais Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu has a very spectacular recipe of steamed poularde with truffle and foie gras, on order outside of the truffle season. They open the pot and the truffle smell is all around the room. Must sees are many and I am afraid that you will need to review the board for an extensive overview.
My address book would include Desnoyer for meat (www.regalez-vous.com), Cantin or Quatrehomme for cheese, BE for bread, Bellotta Bellota (guess what for), Thiébault on the market on avenue du president Wilson (wed, sat) and Jancar in the organic market (bd des Batignolles on sat, bd raspail on sun) for vegetables, Constant for pastry and chocolate...
Re Rungis, ask one of the restaurants where you go if they would not want to take you with them, this is better than a touristic visit. Of course you will have to leave at three in the morning -- but that's the real deal.
Re truffles, this really is a bad season (confirmed again this morning from Senderens himself) few, expensive, tasteless.
Famous ice cream from the Ile Saint Louis is Berthillon, vast choice of flavours, quite good. Better ice creams at Constant, imo.
If this trip is really about food then Arpège, Gagnaire, Ambroisie, Le Doyen, Senderens and Les Elysées are the best top restaurants, les Ambassadeurs and L'Astrance being also interesting. In bistrots, La Regalade, l'Ami Jean, Chez Michel and l'Os a Moelle are the top.
Michel Rostang is famous for preparing dishes using Bresse chicken and they were GOOD! However, I don't think seafood is his forte though?!. When I first ate there a few years back, I also followed up by having a dinner at Guy Savoy a few days later. At that time both were Michelin 2*. Whilst the Rostang meal was very good, however it was Guy Savoy who really 'wowed' me. Guess that explained why Guy Savoy is now a 3* whilst Rostang is still a 2*
re: Charles Yu
Actually, I'm the one who recommended to have lobster at Rostang, which is usually great, one of the best in town in my opinion. And I find that Rostang has a too traditional approach to fowl for me, in general overcooked.
And I totally understand why Savoy (http://www.julotlespinceaux.com/2007/...) can be a more exciting experience than Rostang (http://www.julotlespinceaux.com/2007/...) -- it is my recommendation for all first timer in fine dining. But I believe that the quality of execution is actually superior at Rostang's.
They're kind of the opposite. Savoy is vey show-business, with a food that is good but not nearly as good as l'Ambroisie's, in terms of ingredients and execution. But the incredible sense of party at Savoy, the humour of the staff, the tons of little extras handed to you, the charming wines, are also the opposite of the austerity of Pacaud.
I agree too. 'Showmanship' is a good word to describe Guy Savoy's offering. L'Ambroisie is a bit more 'down to earth'.but Picaud's cuisine is more flavourful. One thing I did noticed though, somehow, the majority of Parisian's 3* are still too 'nouvelle' oriented Eg., Pierre Gagnaire, L'Arpege and even the 'new' Taillevant. On the other hand, those surrounding Lyon or around Strasbourg tend to be more 'traditional' and less adventurous. But the food I think, taste better?!!!
re: Charles Yu
I don't believe that thereis a better one between "nouvelle" and more traditional. Sure the Parisian restaurants you mention are more into innnovation than Bocuse or la Pyramide or Georges Blanc or La mere Brazier and the Lyon region is more conservative in general. fashion matters more in Paris.
But Paris is not really at the tip of culinary innovation (Bras in Laguiole, the spanish restaurants, some in the Benelux and UK as well...) except for Gagnaire and Passard (l'Arpege), the latest having a minimalistic, naturalistic style that makes it less spectacular.
And there are exceptions: Rostang's style if from before Bocuse and Le Bec (in Lyon) is more innovative.
As far as the taste goes, the tendance of the last thirty years is to go towards purer, more intense tastes, and lighter preparations. But that does not necessarily means better or bad, that's just a general tendancy. There's also a tendency to go towards more surprise, yet. Along this timeline, you would have sth like, from oldest to newest, Rostang-Bocuse-Pacaud-Passard-Gagnaire. If you ask me, it is hard to imagine anything tasting better than Pacaud or Passard when they're on.
< La mere Brazier> have you had a good meal there lately? The one time I went there the food was absolutely leaden. Jacotte was a gracious hostess, but that meal stood out as the lone disappointment of a three-week trip! I have never returned. There are too many great places to dine in Lyon!
I always make a habit that whenever I visit Paris, in addition to 3-star restaurants, I will visit one 2-star place. In the winter of last year, we visited Michel Rostang – a restaurant which is full of tradition and history. It’s hardly on my radar except some people said I should give it a chance during the black truffle season
Food (and wine) - 90/100
The truffle menu was indeed quite extensive – there are almost as many dishes as the regular ones. I opened my meal by sharing the restaurant’s famous toasted sandwich with truffle and butter. What we had thought to be the highlight, it’s rather short of our expectation. While the bread is crusty, we thought the buttery flavor was weak. Even worse, the black truffle only filled in 50% of the bread surface area – no wonder it didn’t give much impact (I saw in other’s blog that the truffle was almost covered the whole sandwich)
My next dish turned out to be better: tasty purple artichoke soup with some truffles and foie gras. The flavor also came from the duck liver that went along with the rich and smooth soup – almost comparable to Savoy’s famous artichoke soup. My main dish did not disappoint, but nothing memorable. I consumed rather-crispy sweet bread with mushroom and spinach; the taste was quite heavy – a typical of classic French dish. The desserts were quite interesting; we shared a delicate “cigar” filled with cream-contained alcohol and marsala ice cream. The other dessert was a bitter chocolate tart (the portion was quite big) with some coffee sauce and chocolate ice cream – rather intense, probably great for chocolate lover.
Once Michel Rostang shared that he came from a few generations of chefs and thus he never thought of becoming anybody else but a chef also. His father, Jo Rostang held Michelin’s top accolade – Michel himself was possibly expected to achieve that as well. Within a few years of opening his own resto in Paris, Michel managed to earn the 2nd star. After tasting what he offered in this occasion, we kinda understood why the third star never came. It was not that delicious and the execution was good, but not like the other place that came into near perfection. My parents shared the lobster salad for appetizers; they said the blue lobster rather lacked in sweetness, the texture and the sauce were decent but they expected more delicious stuffs. The roasted sea bass looked better on the plate than on the palate. It’s rather bland and boring, fell short of the fish they ate at L’Arpege/Le Bristol.
I suppose if you come here expecting to eat some traditional and familiar classical French cuisine (rich sauce with some slow cooking), you will be happy. Even in the truffle season, I don’t find the dishes to be that great – I’m not sure if I will be bothered to dine here during the non-truffle season. We agreed that Rostang’s food was worth 90/100 (2* - Michelin got it right with virtually no chance to get the 3rd one in the future).
Service (and ambiance) - 92/100
The service was led by two very senior managers with the help of madame Rostang and her daughter. It’s professional without being obtrusive; also frank and tried their best to accommodate diners’ needs. The restaurant was quite full as it was the eve of Valentine’s day. The dining room has 2 part: the smaller one gives you access to the kitchen while the bigger one is more comfortable and decorated with several contemporary art items (paintings and statues). Rostang is a nice place to see a piece of Paris or even the French classic fine dining place. Unfortunately, they have to compete with Passard, Gagnaire, Alleno etc. Had they been located in NY or other part of US, this place might have gotten its 3rd star. Overall experience, I gave 91 pts (two-star standard)
For the dishes’ pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@...