Les Ambassadeurs (Paris) – Master Cook on a Leash?
I went into Les Ambassadeurs expecting great ingredients prepared in a more classical fashion. The chef used to cook at Alain Ducasse and this restaurant has received accolades from the best Paris critics. After the disappointment of Ducasse, i had hoped Les Ambassadeurs could at least show me what made Ducasse so famous.
1. Beet Juice
Slightly carbonated, very intense beet flavor w/ the right amount of acidity (remember, i am no fan of beets.) Excellent.
2. Foie Cromquette
A foie explosion in your mouth but a tad too much breading. The Manresa version is better. Good.
3. Bresse Chicken, Terrine, & Foam
Chicken resting in its own terrine topped w/ its own foam – so this is the promise of bresse chicken that Ducasse could not fulfill. As expected, intense chicken flavors that are unlike any US chicken. Excellent.
4. Pork Creme w/ Savory Shell
Light & creamy w/ an essence of pork. Why bother w/ the shell though? Very good.
5. Langostine Sashimi w/ its own Nage
Raw langostine, slightly cooked w/ its nage essence, naturally sweet. Excellent.
6. Langostine in Wonton-like wrapper w/ Iranian Caviar creme
The langostine was cooked to perfection and it tasted great. The wonton wrapped was too greasy and, while serving no purpose, it detracted from the dish. Good to very good.
7. Asparagus w/ shell topped w/ crawfish
The asparagus was very good (niche1 proclaimed it excellent – a first) but, again, the shell detracted from the dish. Very good.
8. Sea Bass w/ Morel & Sticky Rice
The sea bass was cooked well, and while i defended it at dinner, it was lackluster in retrospect. Too watery and flavorless. The rice was ok – it had a slight risotto type quality to it but, like the other dishes, it really added nothing substanital to the dish. Ok.
9. Bresse Chicken wrapped Foie w/ Chicken/Foie nage
This bresse chicken was far better than Ducasse. The skin was crispy, flavorful, and the chicken was very tasty. The foie was unnecessary and added too much richness at this stage of the dinner, despite its light/airy texture. The nage contained chicken bits w/ foie – the nage was very good, the chicken bits good, but the foie was overcooked (frmo sittnig in the nage) and unncessary. Good to Very Good.
10. Coconut Ice Cream covered w/ Chocolate & Rice Krispies
A better hagen-das version of their famous bar.
11. Over 36 petit fours (?!?!?)
Can we say excess?
12. A box of 36 chocolates (?!?!?)
Can we say irrational excess?
13. Strawberry Dessert
Very vibrant wild strawberries covered in a very sweet strawberry sauce. Loose the sweet sauce. very good.
Overall, this was the meal I expected at Ducasse. It wasn’t quite the meal I expected here – i’d read he was an ingredient master, and with that, i’d expect a bit more restraint. Many of the dishes contained unncessary elements that added neither texture, taste, nor any sort of discernable artistry (though this could be a matter of taste.)
The disparity between the amuses and regular courses was also interesting – big wow amuses full of creativity give way to “basic” food. It’s almost like 2 different chefs were planning and cooking. Are the amuses the cuisine he’d really like to partake in if it weren’t for the constraints of the hotel and its (presumably) pedestrian crowd?
A good meal that slightly disappointed, if only b/c of the promise of individual ingredients. I probably would not repeat at this price point though. (Again, these meals are not cheap – I would only recommend Les Ambassaduers to very rich friends and/or people absolutely crazy about food.)