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May 22, 2008 11:24 AM

Is L'ami Louis worth it?

What's the verdict on Chez l'ami Louis? Is the roast chicken worth the trouble of begging for a reservation, trekking up to a questionable neighborhood and paying big Euros? Will be in Paris for 3 weeks with my 10 year-old (1st time in France for him) who is quite a gourmet for his age. We already have reservations at Le Pre Catalan and Le Jules Verne (we're going for the view). Of course, we plan to go to Christian Constant and Berthillon for ice cream. Any other suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Yes. Really good roast chicken is rare. I mean not easy to find. L'Ami Louis delivers. And the neighborhood is not questionable, if not inhabited by international law firms. That actualy is giving me ideas for my eight year old.

    16 Replies
    1. re: souphie

      Thanks Souphie. Coming from you, a vote of confidence goes far. I'm curious, since you have a young child too, where do you usually take him for good meals in Paris? I tend to avoid the "child-friendly" listings because those are for families whose children can't sit still and appreciate good food. Apart from Le Pre Catalan and le Jules Verne, I plan to go to Mon Vieil Ami (we're staying on Ile Saint Louis), Le Souffle, Aux Charpentiers (swimming pool, Gerard Mulot, Pierre Herme before or after) and La Ferme St. Hubert. We might go to Bofinger but it's not high on my list. Sorry, this has turned into a different subject: where to take gourmet children for a gastro-cultural experience.

      1. re: Aleta

        We had a fine meal at La Table Robuchon and there were 2 little girls ( maybe 5 and 8 yo) at the next table so very well mannered and treated so well by staff.. they were dressed elegantly as only children in Paris are dressed ... a lovely evening for that family... and I am sure a culinary delight for the little girls

        1. re: capeanne

          Good to know about La Table de J. Robuchon, thanks. I made an online request there last week but haven't heard back. I wish my son could be elegantly dressed too but I'm not THAT lucky! Perhaps some French couture will rub off on him.

        2. re: Aleta

          I find that for small kids, time is of the essence. Most places in Paris are child-friendly. I would not go to one that is not. But sitting for hours is tough for kids, often. Le Pré-Catelan or la Grande Cascade of course have the huge advantage that there are tons of room and kids can go play outside safely. When I take my kids fine dining, I take them separately and one-on-one preferrably, because then it is quality time and they really enjoy it. I find that they have taste very close to mine: hey like simple and delicious things. In general too I would favour places that are going out of their way so that you have fun, as opposed to the ones who consider that you are lucky eating with them.

          1. re: souphie

            I have heard how expensive L'Ami Louis is, but I am curious exactly how much it costs for a meal there. How much is the famous rotisserie chicken...the foie gras...dinner for two? I have searched online for a menu, and could not find one.

            1. re: fishskis

              It's not that bad. Count 150 for food for two. In this video, François Simon got two bottles on top of it:

              1. re: souphie

                Thanks for the video! Actually not as expensive as I imagined. I assumed it was more like 125-150 euro per person based upon stories I have heard.

                1. re: fishskis

                  I found an interesting article from Le Figaro, Oct. 2007 regarding roast chicken in Paris. It also counts L'Ami Louis as #1 but, for serious roast chicken lovers, it provides some other options worth considering.

                  1. re: Aleta

                    The first time I had Bresse chicken was at George Blanc; a true standard for all to be compared against. Actually, chicken at almost any place in France will be far superior to what we get in the US. Trader Joe's being a fine exception.

                    1. re: Oakglen

                      I might bite the bullet and visit L'Ami Louis (the price and their arrogance are the 2 things that have put me off for a while).

                      Am I right that the best dishes to order here are the foie gras, escargots and roast chicken?

                      Any particular dessert to order?

                      1. re: theskyflyer

                        This is starting a very old post, but WTH,l am going to L'Ami Louis tomorrow. Have been in the past and feel it is worth it. For entrees will get the escargots and scallops, and for plat split in choice order the baby lamb, the cotes du boeuf, or the chicken, one of those should suffice. A decent but not too expensive bottle with no dessert should bring tab to between 300-400€. The most essential order is the gateau of potatoes, pommes frites there are not too good, but this potato cake is indeed great. The foié is two large slabs that could feed 6 easily and to finish, any small party will fill themselves up at the beginning of the meal very rapidly. If you want foié get the whole roasted one at L'Ami Jean, wonderful. Dessert always seems to be berries and cream, does not interest me.

                        1. re: theskyflyer

                          I disagree with DCM (and with John, big time). I think despite its fame, the chicken is not the best thing they do. The cote de boeuf, or whatever lamb or mutton they have that day, is, imo, much more interesting.

                          While I agree that the galette de pommes de terres is very excellent, I think their very thin pommes frites are very interesting. By any mean, skip their gateau au chocolat.

                          And I also agree that desserts are fruits -- which you should get because they're excellent, just like every ingredient at l'Ami Louis.

                          People who think a roast chicken is a roast chicken should not even think about going to l'Ami Louis, that said.

                          1. re: souphie

                            What do you disagree with? The two times l had the pommes frites, they were very thin, greasy and STONE COLD

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              I think the pommes paille are a major feature/attraction/charm of Ami Louis, They do indeed become cold very quickly since they're so small and light and the air goes between them, but you can always order a new basket or five. I also think that their fruits rock. And that their beef is better than their chicken.

                              And I think the place is worth it for those for whom exceptional ingredients make a difference, and is not expensive considering what you eat (and in that I don't think it is with you that I disagree).

                            2. re: souphie

                              Souphie, not to stray this off topic, but where is Paris best roast chicken then? Le Figaro ranked L'Ami Louis as no. 1. We went to Atelier Maitre Albert (3rd ranking) and were not that impressed. We won't be able to make it to Chez Lulu, since they only offer their chicken for Sunday lunch...

            2. re: souphie

              Had a really wonderful roast chicken, I think probably the best I've had, at Petite Pontoise last year.

            3. No, not for forty years. In answer to "Is L'ami Louis worth it?"

              7 Replies
              1. re: John Talbott

                I had the most horrible experience there. I had reservations for a party of 4 and when we showed up, mysteriously, our reservation was no where to be found. Ok, yes that sometimes happens, is where I think France differs from the the US, there would have been an apology and an offer to perhaps seat you on another day (in most places). In this eatery, no apology, no offer to perhaps find us a table (when we were there there were only two tables occupied), or to suggest taking a reservation at that time for another day. For this reason, I don't care how good their chicken is, I won't be trying it.

                1. re: travelluver

                  Have heard that happen to some. It happens when a 'good and known' customer makes a last minute reservation. Yes, of course, it is rude and indefensible. And when it happens to me, l will no longer return either.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    It's ironic that this post should come up again, after more than one year, when I am just planning a return trip to Paris. We didn't make it to L'Ami Louis last trip and yes, I DO love roast chicken and consider it a real art form to prepare correctly (BTW, I read the long article about correct roast chicken preparation on Souphie's blog some time back). I may be denounced by Chowhounders for saying this (given today's global economic condition) but, I wouldn't mind paying 100 Euros for an excellently prepared roast chicken. What I worry about is grovelling to secure a reservation, paying 100 Euros, getting some bad attitude and then a poorly prepared meal. If someone could just guarantee me a perfect coucou de Rennes and delicious pommes paille, I would definitely buy them dinner!

                    1. re: Aleta

                      While l will post the full experience when fully recovered, l am just back from 2 hour lunch at L'Ami Louis followed by a 3 hour nap. Even after eating at 24 * s over the last few months, l saved this meal for a reason. Yes it was expensive, but it was one of the 2 or 3 best meals of my life. Simple perfect ingredients cooked only to show their goodness. The service was delightfully sassy but proper and fun. As you can tell, l loved it.. Plan to do again next year when return to Paris.

                      1. re: Aleta

                        I'm sorry if this is off-topic, but Aleta or Souphie, could you send me a link to the entry of your blog discussing the best way to roast a chicken? I tried to find it and could not. Thank you!

                        1. re: eviemichael

                          That's because it's in French. I'll make an English version for you before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, here's the French version:

                          DCM, I can't wait to hear more about your meal -- starting with the menu, and I hope someone with you took pictures.

                          1. re: souphie

                            thank you so much! I appreciate that.

                2. I think it must be twenty years since we went to L'ami Louis. I loved it, my wife hated it. But since I still remember and talk about the meal, service and "decor" it must have been speicial. Thre are only a handful of Paris restaurants that stand out so vividly after so long. Try it and with luck you will be talking about it twenty years from now.

                  1. I almost went yesterday night. I say "almost" because our reservation for seven had "somehow" turned into one for five -- but I'm sure it had nothing to do with the table of fourteen that arrived in a train of Bentleys.

                    The place has a NYT fabricated reputation of being a wonderful Parisian bistrot. But actually, it's much closer to a New Jersey mob joint -- those five guys with their white jacket really would rob you, kick you while you're down, and leave you for dead, whistling happily on the 100€ they stole.

                    That said, I still think they have some of the best food in town, better than most three stars.

                    My first impulse was to burn the place down. But I'm a reasonable guy, so instead I'll just make a new fake reservation for eight every saturday night in the next few months and not show up. Cause, you know, I'm a reasonable guy.

                    36 Replies
                    1. re: souphie

                      Thank God you are not annoyed. When you make the fake reservations, do not mention my name, but then, you are the one who makes my reservations, yikes!

                      1. re: souphie

               visit I suggest that you leave the Peugeot at home, and drive the Bentley

                        1. re: souphie

                          Excuse me, Soup, I was the one who recommended Louis to the Bentley boys.
                          Just kidding.
                          Really, white jacket?
                          I agree I don't get what's so franchouillard about Louis.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Yes, waiters wear white jackets, ill fitting as well, but clean with the shoetop black aprons

                            1. re: Parigi

                              I don't blame the Bentley boys, mind you. Just the white jacketed mobsters.

                              As planned, I made a reservation for six, at eight, under DCM's name and did not show up. "Monsieur Louis" called me at 9.30pm, reasonably obnoxious on my voice mail: "now we kindly gave you a table now, if you're not coming, that's fine, but warn us". He called again at 11pm: "well, thank you for screwing us". That's when I knew they have much less humor when you screw the reservation than when they do. They still have a little bit of it though, as Monsieur Louis called me back at 2am "Monsieur Monger, we're waiting for you, the door is open".

                              1. re: souphie

                                Why, monsieur L is a downright gentleman for not calling you at 3am and 3:30am and 4am and 4:30am and 5am. Of course continuing after that would have been rude.
                                Seriously I would always call to cancel, and the restaurants always sound very grateful that I do.

                                1. re: souphie

                                  So you really did it! You're a real hero to me!

                                  1. re: olivierb

                                    Perfect, screwed at my favorite restaurant, l feel like Rodney Dangerfield, at least when he was alive. Olivier do remember, `revenge is a dish best tasted when cold`.

                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                      Or is it "best served cold"...

                                      Once again you have provided me with my smile of the day Souphie. Your vengeful act sounds like something I'd do when really pissed off. Love it.

                                      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                        Seen it both ways, would rather taste than serve

                                  2. re: souphie

                                    Souphie, I tip my hat to you. That little smart-aleck deserves a knuckle sandwich, someone should put a knot behind his ear that glows in the dark. He surely phoned at 2 am hoping to wake you up.

                                    Let me ask you something, if I may. During my one experience at L'Ami Louis, I asked that guy to help us select a wine. He said no, sneered, and walked away. That's why I'll never return, although photos of the sea scallops Provencal look delicious, I wish I'd ordered that instead of chicken.
                                    Here's my question. After dinner, I asked for a glass of Calvados. They told me they didn't have any. I can't imagine any cafe in France not having Calvados on hand. What was that about, any idea? That's like an Italian trattoria running out of pasta, or McDonald's running out of hamburger. I was suitably dressed, polite to everyone, arrived on time, and paid their insane prices, am I missing something here?

                                    1. re: Greg in Chicago

                                      Actually last year was talking to them and for whatever eason carry older years of armagnac,not calvados. They dropped a magnum of 1964 on our table and charged us afterwards for what we drank . True they will not help with wine selection, require the patron to know what they want.

                                        1. re: souphie

                                          I'm probably committing blasphemy here, but L'ami Louis is extremely overpriced for standard French food (ie chicken and potatoes, foie gras, pigeon, etc), not to mention the drama getting a reservation and some of the most rude waiters in Paris.

                                          When I was there the place was filled with large tables of American banker types talking LOUDLY and obviously ordering everything on an expense account. My friend and I lucked out and just walked in without a reservation. However, if I had waited months for a table, I'd have been really let down by the whole experience, which cost 345 euros for two appetizers, two mains and a very moderately priced bottle of wine.

                                          Why on earth people keep saying this would be the last restaurant they'd eat at, I have no idea. Glad I ate there so I could write this informed comment.

                                          PS The appetizer portion of foie gras is massive - think Texan portions. I love foie gras but this was ridiculous. Saw other tables order the snails, and thought I should have ordered that more reasonably portioned dish.

                                          1. re: edgenyc

                                            It's not blasphemy. Just ignorance of the price and quality of things. Mobsters they are, but overpriced they are not.

                                            1. re: souphie

                                              It's not a matter of ignorance.

                                              Dining is a subjective experience and there's no guarantees for spending more money.

                                              While food may be slightly overpriced at L'ami Louis, it's the whole package you're paying for. What's the point of a long wine list if the staff won't do their jobs and help patrons match the wine to the food. Also the portions are too large even for hungry Americans! The staff should have done a better job advising what to order.

                                              At one time L'ami Louis may have been a good restaurant, but too many compliments have destroyed the soul of the place. It's as if to the waitstaff that it's all one big joke to be played on the customers.

                                              As someone who uses this message board to pre-pick restaurants before a holiday here's a warning to anyone who is considering eating at L'ami Louis -- If you have limited funds, don't put all of your eggs into this one basket. Rather try the many many other great restaurants that are recommended in the travel guides like Lonely Planet or go to a Michelin Star restaurant that has a set standard of service.

                                              1. re: edgenyc

                                                I agree with your last paragraph. I also agree with your point that dining is a subjective experience. Which is why I don't agree with the rest of your post. You expect that their job is to help you select wines, but they think that's not their job. What is important is to know what you pay for at l'Ami Louis. And the response is: the best ingredients in huge quantities cooked to perfection. If either of these elements does not do a difference for you, or if you expect something different from dining, you sure shouldn't go. But qualifying l'Ami Louis as overpriced is ignorance.

                                                1. re: souphie

                                                  Surely, though, a restaurant of this calibre, and which pays such attention to the quality of its ingredients, should be both willing and able to give advice on which wines would go best with those ingredients ...

                                                  1. re: Theresa

                                                    What we expect from an American restaurant may not be the same as what we get in a restaurant elsewhere. Personally, if I were the sommelier there, I would help patrons with their wine selections if they asked. But many French restaurants are almost as well known for their quirks as for their food.

                                                    imho it would be a shame to miss a place like this because of something so silly.

                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      If a sommerlier does not advise, what else does he do? Only he can spell the wine names and write down wine orders?
                                                      And whether I dine at a starred place or a boui-boui, I expect good friendly service. A few places in Paris (and elsewhere in the world) do have this kind of quirky service almost as if it were part of the restaurant stage performance; always embarrasses me.

                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                        Um... I think it's the French restaurants that set the standard for service that the Americans attempt to emulate.

                                                        Yes, every restaurant has quirks, but rudeness is unacceptable and poor service are unacceptable no matter how wonderful the quality of ingredients or how large the bill. Ignorance is actually believing a chicken dish has to cost 80 euros in Paris otherwise it's of lesser quality.

                                                        To those who are willing to fanatically and unreasonably defend L'am Louis, I'm reminded of the line the Unbearable Lightness of Being, "how can you eat food and listen to sh*t." :)

                                                        1. re: edgenyc

                                                          I'm pretty sure that l'Ami Louis doesn't have a sommelier. I've never seen one in all my years of going there.

                                                          1. re: edgenyc

                                                            "Ignorance is actually believing a chicken dish has to cost 80 euros in Paris otherwise it's of lesser quality."

                                                            A few years ago when I lived in Paris we used to buy chickens to cook at home. Go to a good supplier and you will be amazed at both the range and prices that are charged. Our regular raw chicken would cost €10 (IIRC) but if we wanted to head upmarket and buy (for example) a Bresse chicken it would be between €30 to 40, Coucou de Rennes (if you can find them) would be more. The gross profit most restaurants work on is 70%, if they are selling it at €78 then the ingredients should be approx €24, allowing for trade prices rather than retail plus the other ingredients (butter etc.) it seems the price is in-line with the raw material costs if, as L'ami Louis is doing, they are serving dishes based on top ingredients.

                                                            In other countries beef is a raw material that has a broad range of types and qualities with some at astronomic prices, and chicken, in comparison, is a simple cheap meat with few suppliers selling birds with good provenance. Think how much some restaurants charge for top steak like Kobe. Because we know how much it retails for raw we are OK with the price (may not pay it but understand it). If you are knowledgeable about how the type of chicken (breed, producer etc) affects the price in France then €80 for a top quality whole chicken in a restaurant makes sense. You can get cheaper but the quality will not be as good, if it was the restaurant would go bust.

                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                              As is often the case, I agree with Phil (and soup) here about the cost of raw materials and the Kobe beef comparison works well.

                                                              So, the chicken isn't overpriced. But does that cancel out their attitude problem?

                                                              1. re: kikisakura

                                                                "their attitude problem?"
                                                                Soup, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my recollection that while I've heard this attitude/issue referred to as a "problem," over many years, from many visitors, it seems rather a trademark, sort of like the wisecracking certain New York waiters, esp in deli's, affect.
                                                                I myself have never experienced rudeness at l'Ami Louis and while I've certainly seen much rush-rush, hurry-hurry ("bistro bistro" or "быстро быстро" means just that after all) in say brasseries, that's their trademark.

                                                                1. re: John Talbott

                                                                  Wisecracking wait staff I can take but disappearing reservations is another matter. For all they know, any of those "lost" reservations could have been for a special birthday or anniversary celebration especially given their price point but they don't seem to care. I think that is a problem at least for me.

                                                                  1. re: kikisakura

                                                                    I am quite happy to defend restaurant prices. I will happily defend the quirks of restaurant service that makes France France, and I could probably argue that you shouldn't expect wine advice in all restaurants.

                                                                    But I can't accept restaurants that don't honour reservations. I am happy to leave my credit card details when I book, and I am accept that if I don't turn up then I should pay something. In the same way a restaurant that fails to honour their side of the "contract" should face consequences, especially if it is so common it has become part of Paris dining folklore. As Kiki says many reservations are for special reasons and "losing reservations" that is despicable and unforgivable.

                                                                    Some restaurant behaviour is quirky and we put up with it because it is a fairly inconsequential (and fun) game. But this strikes me as nasty, and I for one, won't eat there on principle.

                                                                  2. re: John Talbott

                                                                    There's definitely a way that some French restaurants are proud of that kind of attitude. Actually, I think that, while there might be less rudeness, there's the same spirit at l'Ambroisie than there is at l'Ami Louis -- there are also disappearing reservations, and there is also a lovely way to treat regulars (like family or long lost friends) and a way to look down on some clients, randomly.

                                                            2. re: ChefJune

                                                              Chef June - I'm not American and have never been to an American restaurant - I expect to be able to get advice on wines in good British, French, Italian and other European restaurants.

                                                    2. re: edgenyc

                                                      "L'ami Louis is extremely overpriced for standard French food"

                                                      Hear hear.

                                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                                        Apparently, really good roast chicken and fois gras are tough to come by in Paris. And I hear decent bottles of wine to go with them are also scarce...

                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                          How much do you pay for a Coucou de Rennes from your beloved Daniel Rose? Or rather, for a quarter of one? 29€, if I'm not mistaken. And l'Ami Louis is overpriced at 78€ for the whole bird (and a bigger and better one at that)? You guys need to do the maths. How much do you pay for the whole raw bird where you can get it, i.e. at Desnoyer? That's easily 50€. So even admitting the doubtful claim of some here that they do a better roast chicken at home, they actually do not it for less than l'Ami Louis.

                                                          As for "standard" French food, it is true if you think that a Coucou de Rennes is not better than your local label rouge supermarket chicken. And what I say about the chicken is true about the beef, the mutton, the scallops, the fries (I actually like them better than the chicken there). Ingredients at l'Ami Louis beat all three star restaurants in town.

                                                          Factory in the quantity and quality, l'Ami Louis is actually pretty decent value. God knows there are reasons to hate those guys, but overpriced they are not.

                                                          1. re: souphie

                                                            Well, I'm not really going to prove it to you, am I...

                                                            I was commenting more on the diminishing returns of places like this (and the top butchers in Paris as well).

                                                            1. re: Busk

                                                              You'd be welcome. We could even make it a face-off -- I think pretty fondly of my own roast chicken too...

                                                              I understand the point about diminishing returns -- but it's a very subjective thing. Is a Coucou de Rennes or a Gaulaoise Blanche really three times as good as your local pattes jaunes? It's anyone's decision. Nevertheless, it is very objectively a better chicken and a better taste.

                                                              I would actually argue in the other direction. I think the returns are increasing as you go high end, because, for twice the price of an average bistrot, you can have an exceptional experience.

                                                              1. re: Busk

                                                                Not going to prove it to me either. As l have said many times on this board, went first time with great trepidation as was prepared to be screwed somehow and overcharged to boot. Was surprised at how superb the food was and how encyclopedic the wine list was. Yes it was expensive, this year l had scallops, escargot, cotes du boeuf for two and two perfect bottle of wine, net was @ 420 euros. Paid a lot more at *** stars but did not feel overpriced. The boeuf is different than a place like Robert and Louise or even Chez Denise ,another great favorite of mine. Both the meat, the escargot, and the scallops might very well be the defining preperation of all of them. Simple but kickass ingredients just make it better. As my esteemed fellow poster Souphie has shown even the residents can be diddled with and it is unforgivable, but still he and l will go back and say thank you for a wonderful meal. In fact, last three years, it was the best meal of my three month stay, each time. And l am not on an expense account or a trust fund guy.

                                                  2. re: souphie

                                                    Lucky for yous dat Louie meant his door and not yours...

                                              2. For those of us who might want to go (I haven't been for years but am thinking of going in March) and have lots of flexibility as to what day and what meal, is there a best time to go to L'Ami Louis? Sunday lunch or dinner? Weekdays? I'd appreciate the thoughts of the experienced ones (Souphie, DCM, et. al.).

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: parislovernyc

                                                  There's no better time that I know of, but it's closed mon and tue. And dinners last longer. It's one of very few very good restaurants open on sundays, so that's when it's most packed.

                                                  1. re: souphie

                                                    Thanks Souphie for your quick reply. Much appreciated.

                                                  2. re: parislovernyc

                                                    As my fellow poster says, it does not really matter, prices same regardless of when. The family aspect of Sunday lunch is lovely, well dressed little kids perfectly behaved, sort of a distant past dream world. That is a tougher ticket to get though, but my choice, other probably other than a weekend night should be easier as well.