Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > France >
Nov 19, 2010 04:57 AM

l'Ambroisie -- still mean?

Wondering what people think about l'Ambroisie these days? Do they still treat non-regulars meanly? We were thinking about going there for dinner in June, as opposed to L'Arpege where I assume the cost of dinner is roughly similar.

(We will instead go to L'Arpege at lunch, which we have liked in the past. Of course, l'Arpege offers a relatively affordable lunch menu unlike l'Ambroisie.)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've always been treated well at L'Ambroisie, even though I have no connections to any of their other regulars. That said, they did phone me to cancel my reservation the first time I had planned to visit, due to an unspecified "small problem" (I like to think I was preempted by Chirac, who was president at the time). Once I saw a young solo diner there, possibly Japanese, who didn't seem to understand French, English, or the menu--couldn't make up his mind what he wanted to order--and took photos of everything... despite this, the staff seemed very patient with him.

    I think the food at l'Ambroisie is heavenly and worth every penny--highly recommended!

    4 Replies
    1. re: fanoffrance

      Thank you for the vote of confidence! Am I correct in thinking that pricing at l'Ambroisie is about the same as for dinner at l'Arpege? It's going to be our honeymoon in fact: dinner at l'Ambroisie as the fancy dinner of our stint in Paris before heading down to the Pays Basque.

      1. re: johannabanana

        I don't know what L'Arpège costs (nor do I know when they'll be able to reopen after the fire). The bill at l'Ambroisie is usually around 350-400 euros per person for three courses including beverages.

        1. re: fanoffrance

          We have always been treated exceptionally well.
          We are not regulars (about once a year), and the staff have been attentive and very helpful.
          We don't drink Red Wine, as DH has a Tannen allergy, and they have gone out of their way to give us the a White Wine pairing.
          They are exceedingly patient, and on one occasion I watched them explaining the Menu to a very elderly (90's) American couple, who couldn't decide.
          They spent considerable time with them.
          As someone who is not a fan of L'Arpege, I think that the food is heavenly at L'Ambroisie.

      2. re: fanoffrance

        I agree.

        Does anyone remember the time not so long ago when it was practically impossible for a non-local to book a dinner table there?

      3. While I do think that l'Ambroisie is too often very disapointing for non-regulars, I also agree that they have, in general, the most heavenly food. I wouldn't say that they're mean, but they're not always wonderful. My experiences over the years have ranged from orgasmic to infuriating to plain boring. For less than the cost of wine there, you can have lunch at l'Arpège, which is as interesting as dinner there. So, why chose?

        15 Replies
        1. re: souphie

          Thanks all! I'm glad people are so positive. Typically we wouldn't be that worried about meanness, but you don't want your meal to be spoiled and restaurants like that can make you more sensitive.

          Souphie, we only considered l'Arpege for dinner (the one restaurant of that ilk we've been to in Paris, for lunch) because we wondered if, at dinnertime, l'Ambroisie might be considerably more expensive. As you seem to be saying, l'Arpege at lunch makes more sense whatever the case. And we'll go to another fancy, heavenly food establishment, most likely l'Ambroisie, for dinner.

          1. re: johannabanana

            I've never had dinner at l'Ambroisie, but I think their menu and prices are the same regardless of the time of day. Are you planning to do two big meals on the same day?

            1. re: fanoffrance

              No, and I meant "considerably more expensive" than l'Arpege in terms of dinner. We'll probably have lunch at l'Arpege, another day. Both l'Ambroisie and l'Arpege on the same day would be excessive!

              1. re: johannabanana

                Actually ended up eating at l'Ambroisie sooner than expected, on a January trip. Here's the report:

                We found ordering difficult because they had just reopened and several options were off the menu. And we weren't sure how well we got on with the maitre d', but greatly liked our waiter. When the bill came someone (perhaps Danielle Pacaud) had been extremely kind to us.

                There were no gougeres. The amuse bouche was a small cup of jerusalem artichoke puree, with moussey foie gras lining the bottom, and a scoop of cream -- excellent.

                To start, we then had the foie gras encased in truffle, with celeriac (which somehow brought out a compelling celeriac-quality to the foie gras itself), and an outstanding dish of raw scallops with watercress puree and black truffle emulsion. The entire dish was also covered in slices of truffle. The foie gras was very good but the choice had been pushed on us a little (we were intending to order sweetbreads) and didn't mesh with the other dishes we ordered. Certainly not a weak point but, by necessity, less inventive and a little excessive, suffering when eaten against the scallops and after the amuse bouche.

                We then had them divide the sea bass with artichoke and caviar for us and, after that, we shared the Bresse chicken (served with the best salsify we've had). So much has already been said online about both and both were fantastically good. We didn't quite believe the chicken would be so good. The quantities and quality of truffle and caviar were extraordinary.

                Ended with the chocolate tarte sablee. Very tasty cannelés but didn't try the other mignardises. Of course, the meal was sensationally expensive but, on the final reckoning, worth it. It was exquisite and a real event. We would certainly go back (once the bank account restabilises) maybe ordering more carefully and choosing a time when the full menu will be available. Every choice feels like a big commitment at l'Ambroisie in particular.

                As a final note, in comparison to a lunch at l'Arpege the next day, outstanding also, the experience was very different. While we would say that the pricing of the l'Arpege lunch menu is the most tremendous value, l'Ambroisie was more memorable and not bad value either, given the ingredients. We wouldn't make the typical joyful/mournful labelling of the one and the other for either the ambiance (Passard's vegetable decoupages vs the Aubusson tapestries) or the food. What we liked about both restaurants (and all manner of other ones) was a spirit of generosity.

                1. re: johannabanana

                  We have had great fun discussing the virtues of the various various Bresse chicken dishes at Georges Blanc vs the L'Ambroisie offering. In a sense, for those of us who travel a great distance to reach France, ordering a chicken dish may seem too downscale for some; I hope to continue this irrational activity for a long time to come.

                  1. re: Oakglen

                    No chicken will live up to the l'Ambroisie one, for us. It's another animal!

                    1. re: johannabanana

                      Am not sure I understand what a "three star" is coming to.
                      "We found ordering difficult because they had just reopened and several options were off the menu. " Then why would they have that menu? If a restaurant reopens, you have a menu or you don't.

                      "The foie gras was very good but the choice had been pushed on us a little (we were intending to order sweetbreads) and didn't mesh with the other dishes we ordered." If you're paying, why wouldn't you have the sweetbreads (insisted on it) if that is what you wanted?

                      Who are these restaurants being run for? The clientele or the restaurant owners?

                      When one goes to a "three star" restaurant, most everything should be as close to perfect as possible, should be for the benefit of the customer, and there should be no "off nights."

                      In the past, that is the way it always was. If people now go to these places where it's about the restaurateur, then it is truly a sad day. Then it becomes just checking off the number of "three stars" you've been to.

                      1. re: allende

                        I think you're over-reacting. Even 3 star restaurants are not run in a vacuum. We found ourselves limited in terms of choices because 2 things we would have ordered in particular - the langoustine and the pigeon - were unavailable. Even a 3-star cannot be expected to be "perfect". Perfection is in fact less important to me than energy, a sense of generosity and/or inspiration. It was the first day they reopened and we could understand that they might have had difficulty sourcing all of their uber-recherché ingredients. We felt the place had a lot of soul. The maitre d' was a bit too pushy, it's true - to a certain degree, though, he was probably trying to steer us toward what he felt were the best or perhaps the most complementary dishes. It's just that we disagreed when it came to the foie gras and would order differently next time.

                        That said... where should we go for our next fancy dinner in Paris when we return in July? We LOVE L'Apege and L'Ambroisie but are tempted to try a new place. We want to go somewhere that has as much of a 'sense of place' as these two spots. We have a mild aversion to any restaurant that's inside a hotel.

                        1. re: johannabanana

                          It is not perfection that is the problem when a restaurant doesn't have 2 things on the menu the day it reopens. It is laziness. If they can't source it, don't put in on the menu.

                          The "best" dishes are the ones you want, not what the maitre d' wants you to have. And all of the dishes at a 3 star should be "the best" whatever that means.

                          "Sense of place." Pardon my disagreement , but sense of place doesn't exist in a Parisian 3 star. Today, a 3 star could be anywhere. Sense of place in a French 3 star has, in the past, been reserved for the countryside; think Pic, Pere Bise, Chapel, and particularly Auberge de L'ill and Blanc, 25-30 years ago. Just my two cents.

                          1. re: johannabanana

                            I have to agree with Allende, a 3 star should be a 3 star from the moment it opens to the moment it closes.

                            If they cannot have ingredients that their menu have, then either it should not be on the menu, or they should not be a 3 star.

                          2. re: allende

                            Bravo, Allende! Who ARE these restaurants being run for? During a recent trip to Paris, we often had the impression that restaurant owners thought they were doing us a favor to allow us to grace their dining rooms. And insofar as the L;Ambroisie vs. Arpege argument goes, my vote is for neither. They're so many other less expensive and more interesting restaurants in Paris these days, that you really don't need to spend 400 Euros for a memorable feed. Plus I find the service pompous at both of these places.

                      2. re: johannabanana

                        Arpege , tremendous value??? It's one of the most expensive in Paris!

                2. re: souphie

                  "For less than the cost of wine there, you can have lunch at l'Arpège, which is as interesting as dinner there. So, why chose?"

                  Imma gonna do just that....

                  1. re: Busk

                    Not strictly correct. Bottles at l'Ambroisie seem to start around 90 euros, set lunch at l'Arpege is 130 euros. Clearly, lunch still costs considerably less at l'Arpege than dinner at l'Ambroisie although dinner probably costs about the same at both.

                3. Hi all, I'm new here
                  Just would like to share my experience at l'Ambroisie during dinner in Feb '10

                  My wish to eat at Ambroise during the black truffle season finally became reality in early 2010.

                  Food (and wine) - 98/100

                  Unlike my previous visits, I know exactly what I want to eat this time so I didn’t really bother to consult with the maitre d’.
                  - I chose sweet and barely heated scallop with truffle on top; the tender scallop is bathed in thick watercress (& truffle) veloute. A great appetizer to begin my meal
                  - Lobster is a dish that I always had every time I eat here – this time is no exception. My 2nd dish was firm and meaty lobster prepared with rich peas puree and intense red wine reduction, another tasty dish yet my favorite lobster here is the one prepared with star anise sauce, usually served in autumn
                  - Then come, possibly the most discussed dish in any Ambroise’s forum – feuillete truffle bel humeur: foie gras is sandwiched by thick and smoky black truffle wrapped in fragrant and airy pastry. As if the truffle was not sufficient, there was truffle puree below the delicious pastry and on the salad. The truffle was of good quality; it was a very filling and rich dish. It’s just that when I cut it into two, the smell did not really truffle to the surrounding, only wrapped within my table – the ‘a-ha’ moment was not as bizarre as I thought. Overall, it’s excellent
                  - After many strong-flavored dishes, there was no better dessert than a kind that mixed sour, freshness and (a little) sweet. A warm melting biscuit with mandarin sorbet was a brilliant answer for this

                  All of these were accompanied by a half-bottle of Mersault ’05 and Badoit sparkling water. I was told that monsieur Lemoullac, its respected sommelier and manager, retired at the end of ’09. Christophe was the replacement – he’s rather lacked in charisma and communication skill of his predecessor. Though I didn’t talk too often to Mr. Lemoullac, but I felt that something was missing at L’Ambroise without his presence. This is indeed my best meal at L’Ambroisie – only a few other places such as Arpege, Veyrat Annecy ever received such high score in my note – no doubt 3-star or even should be in the group of “4-star”

                  Service (and ambiance) - 93/100

                  There have been mixed reviews about the hospitality at Ambroisie – some people, often newcomers, said that they’re mean while the regulars usually received wonderful service. I visit this place about once every 1.5 years, so perhaps I fell in between category (more towards new comer). Generally, they will treat with you as a gentleman (and ladies); they will greet you with smiles and serve you the basic and necessary things for the standard of 2-3 star restaurants. But if you expect to be treated like a ‘king’, the expectation was too high. You will not get Alain Ducasse or Guy Savoy kind of service where the staffs would go the extra miles and do whatever they could to make you happy. The food is king here. The décor is more like luxury Parisian house in the past – full of classic chandeliers and paintings. They’re exactly the same as my earlier visits; this place indeed never changes – the people, the décor and the dishes (seasonal). As I consider overall experience when visiting Michelin-starred restaurants or other fine dining places, I would give this place 2 ¾* for the general score of 96.5

                  More detailed reviews - http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...
                  Pictures -

                  1. The original comment has been removed