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Mar 9, 2011 07:12 AM

L'Ami Louis eviscerated by A. A. Gill in Vanity Fair

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  1. First thing I noticed in the headnote: "Given its colonic décor...." I do believe Gill means "colonial." Surely this isn't referring to decor in the manner of intestines or enemas......?

    Never having been, I can't talk about the food. I can, however, as a former editor talk about the writing, which seems mean-spirited from the get-go. It's an article more about Gill's prejudices than abou the restaurant.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmckee

      < "Given its colonic décor...." I do believe Gill means "colonial." >

      If you read the whole article thoroughly, you will realize he does indeed meen "colonic." Doesn't sound very appetizing, does it?

    2. I don't think that A.A. Gill makes mistakes in vocabulary....if he said "colonic", he meant "colonic". He's often a hilarious (and brilliant) reviewer, and he does have a way with words.

      1 Reply
      1. re: SherBel

        He definitely meant colonic. He described the walls as "dung brown" and said he felt like a suppository.

      2. Glad he hated it, less trouble to get my reservation. Granted their foie gras is not as good as Chez Josephine Dumonet, but twice the size and certainly not bad. The escargot, on the other hand, are the best l have ever eaten and do look forward to eating them again at L'Ami Louis. Again, l do love bomb reviews of my favorite restaurants. Skip the chicken, kidneys, and veal chop. The must plat is the cotes du boeuf for two, 130 euros and as good as it gets. Just for price comparison here, l had the cotes du boeuf at Balthazar about two weeks ago and it was wonderful, not close to L'Ami Louis but for American beef it was also as good as it gets. It was also about half the size of the Paris version. It cost $ 90 for two, thus with tax and tip $125, against $182 for the French which serves 4 easily.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          I'm glad I'm not the only one proclaiming the emperor has no clothes.

          I did get some amusement from the service of the surly waiters, I'm sure they weren't trying to be rude but that's the way they have been for years. I went in with that expectation and took it as part of the whole experience of an old school restaurant. Sort of like the abuse you would get at the legendary Tai Ping Goon in Hong Kong.

          Now for the "colonic" part, I also felt the same way about the decor, the food and the prices. Reamed for 25 euros for a small glass of red wine (I had 2 glasses without knowing the price, should have ordered a demi-bouteille). Roast chicken was ok, not good and certainly not great. That's no fault of the restaurant, I think it was cooked just right with crispy skin and proper seasoning. The chicken itself was probably the culprit, it just wasn't very tasty. It doesn't have the "chicken flavor" like a poulet Bresse does. I've had much better tasting poulet roti elsewhere e.g. Bouchon, Zuni Cafe.

          I also ordered the potato galette, which turns out to be another reaming of 25 euros extra. I told them I didn't want the fries but they gave us both anyways. It was saturated with butter, nice and crispy, topped with raw chopped garlic and parsley. Not the worse thing one could eat but potatoes and a stick of butter for 25 euros????? By the way they made wonderful leftovers for next day's dinner in our apartment-hotel. The fries were exactly as A.A. Gill described, somewhat flabby and tasted of old oil.

          We were highly disappointed but chalked it up to a experience, at least we can say we've been to an old bistro in Paris. I'm still wondering if the off-menu prices are set arbitarily, did anyone else share this rip-off experience?

          Our next meal at Chez Josephine was a completely different experience, good bistro food for a reasonable price still exists in Paris!!

          To summarize, if you feel like being reamed while eating mediocre food in a dated (albeit somewhat kitschy) setting, go to L'Ami Louis. Otherwise look elsewhere on this board for better bistro recs in Paris.

          1. re: doctorandchef

            I think that the question is not the merits, or lack there of, of a meal at L'Ami Louis but the cheap rhetoric Gill employs to construct a salable article. I thrive on comparative reviews and constructive criticism but learn little from this kind of lavender potty-talk. While I doubt that L'AL will lose as much as a single serious diner, it bugs me for someone to make money writing such spurious claptrap. IMHO...

            1. re: mangeur

              I totally agree with you and with Ptipois in the thread on the France board that is now locked but not merged with this thread.
              More than the fact that the author wrote such a cheap shot, it disappoints me that Vanity Fair editors would publish it.

              1. re: Parigi

                And to close the loop (at least for me), as I wrote on the France thread just before it was "locked" (that sounds ominous):

                "On the other hand, mangeur's comment that this is "quintessential Gill," and the general mean-spiritedness of the piece (even though clever) did bother me. And now that I've looked more into Gill (and read the Wikipedia profile on him), I'm thinking that this really is a "hatchet job" as Parigi says, and I'm a bit chagrined about further publicizing it. And so like ChefJune, I'll see for myself."

                1. re: Jake Dear

                  y'know, Jake, if Stefan says the Cote de Boeuf is divine, I believe him...

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Well ChefJune, based on our experience -- so do we. Maybe if we gently encourage him, we can convince him to join all of us there -- in Sept? (And now that we are actually talking about L'Ami Louis again, I hope not to trigger an embarrassing re-locking.)

                    1. re: Jake Dear

                      Quite a few friends here say that after reading the piece, they actually WANT to try l'Ami Louis.

                      1. re: Jake Dear

                        I won't be à Paris until late October. :(

          2. Jmckee writes about A. A. Gill's review, "It's an article more about Gill's prejudices than about the restaurant." Well, of course it is. That's the point. But those aren't prejudices, they're points-of-view. That's why he's the writer, the critic, and a very good one at that. He brings a world of experience and information to his subject. Why would anyone want a wishy-washy critic? His alleged "prejudices" are simply opinions. He went to the restaurant, ate there, and reported on what he saw and ate. I'd take his word for it, if I were you. Why? Because I've eaten there and the place is a tourist trap. A joke. A rip-off. There is better, and similar, food in hundreds of bistros and brassieres around Paris.

            I am an American of French descent, born in the good old U.S.A. of second generation American parents. I speak French. I ate at L'Ami Louis with two American friends and three Parisian friends. Our ages were 28 through 56. We were all treated the same: with indifference. The food was dull. The portions of anything other than the whole roast chicken were small. The fabled chickeln was good, nothing more, but my grandparents and my parents make a whole roast chicken that is better.

            As for the ridiculous notion that the French, especially at L'Ami Louis, loathe Americans, that's absurd. As I wrote elsewhere, let's get something straight. The French do not hate Americans. They hate the British. When they hear the English language, they think of Britain.

            Tell any Parisian, or any French person outside of Paris, for that matter, that you are an American and you will be treated with kindness.

            Simply say Bonjour. Je suis un Américain. Pouvez-vous m'aider? You are saying: Hello. I am an American. Can you help me? If you want to say "would you help me," just say: Bonjour. Je suis un Américain. Souhaitez-vous m'aider? If you want to say "could you help me," say: Bonjour. Je suis un Américain. Pourriez-vous m'aider?

            I have been in Paris more than a dozen times, and I have never been treated with anything other than friendliness.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Jude Pantin

              I've never eaten there--and have not been in France in many years--but it strikes me as a comfortable place where people are at ease. Looks like the food there is just what the regular patrons want...I tend to enjoy places like that.

              I agree on civility in France...I never had trouble, at least back when my French was more passable than it is now. Even if I was having trouble I believe that the people genuinely appreciated the fact that someone was making the effort rather than say "Hey Mac! Speak English!"

              1. re: Jude Pantin

                Jude, your comment rings true, other than "The French do not hate Americans" part... I am Australian and I speak French. I went to Paris once a year, every year for about 12 years and I never had poor service in Paris apart from when I was with an American.

                Gill's review is witty and hilarious and not much of an exaggeration, by the sound of it.

                I emphatically agree with you -- I don't know why anyone would pay through the nose for this clearly overrated, sub-standard restaurant experience when there are so many wonderful places to dine in Paris.