Les Ambassadeurs (Paris) – The Best Truffles for Last
One month and eight reviews later, I’ve saved the best for last. This is the final adventure of the eight day truffle trip.
The truffle trip was in danger of becoming a misnomer. Truffles popped up in a few dishes over the past few weeks’ reviews, but their impact or form was not up to our expectations. We came to gorge on truffles – we wanted decadent vulgar displays of gastronomic wealth. We got mostly after-thoughts with but a few truffle-focused dishes.
Les Ambassadeurs was a last-minute tack-on after we learned L’Ambroisie and Le Meurice (hey, I wouldn’t mind meeting Mandy Moore) were closed during our ill-timed visit. The last Les Ambassadeurs meal certainly had potential given the ingredient quality and our 3rd member was very intrigued by the endless parade of desserts. The dining room is not especially conducive to eating but we figured we’d give it a shot (in hopes of finding top-notch truffles.)
It is my least favorite dining room in the world. Granted, my worldly travels have been limited but I can’t imagine a more uncomfortable room. Marble floors, marble walls, silver, and gold – perhaps I was not fit to be aristocracy?
We took the menus, immediately identified the truffle dishes, devised a truffle tasting menu of our own, and we were off.
A collection of amuses that ranged from pretty good to ok. The amuses from our last meal were some of the highlights but these did nothing to prepare us for the eventual glee that would come. In fact, many of the amuses were exactly the same – a touch odd.
a – Carbonated Beet/Lemon juice – a touch too acidic but refreshing nonetheless. Reading over my notes from the last meal, it appears the acidity was dialed down a touch last time.
b – Chicken Liver Mousse (right) w/ Crayfish Bisque (left) – a light mousse, intensely flavorful, paired with a very salty bisque – the foam (foie gras) tied it all together and tempered both extreme tastes.
c – Croquette – Ok but nothing compared to a Manresa croquette – the same complaint as last time – too much breading.
Last May, Les Ambassadeurs’ butter was nowhere near the quality of L’Arpege’s butter but they are now carrying the same butter – Jean-Yves Bordier. Once you’ve had this butter, it’s impossible not to identify the producer. This is the stuff butter dreams are made of. L’Arpege’s version is slightly better, possibly because they allow it to warm more before serving. Excellent.
3. Herves et Salades D’Hiver/Truffle Noire Surprise
A salad, dressed in truffle vinaigrette, wrapped completely in truffles. After the truffle teases of L’Arpege and L’Aubergade, we finally chanced upon the truffle quality we expected from more restaurants. Despite the truffle’s intense poignancy, the acidity from the vinaigrette balanced the dish beautifully. Louisa, who oversaw the development of truffle & caviar dishes during her time with Les Ambassadeurs, likens the dish to a “house of cards” – much skill certainly went into composing the dish as you can see how the truffles are folded around the salad in the 2nd picture. A top 10, if not 5, dish. Sublime.
4. Iranian Caviar, Nage Corsee, Langostine
We liked this dish last time so we re-ordered it, ignoring a truffle omelette option. A trio of langostine preparations that, while good, didn’t quite live up to the memory. The langostine sashimi and mousse dishes both played with the sweet and salty theme – the naturally sweet langostine in its own salty broth or matched with the Iranian caviar. These were the better of the three although the langostine was not 100%. The fried langostine was tasty but suffered from nearly unacceptable levels of grease – something they haven’t corrected since the last meal. Very Good.
5. Noix de Saint Jacques à cru/chips/baguette truffée
We thought the truffle salad may have been the highlight of the meal but this dish was right up there. Again, the haute surf’n'turf – the sweet scallops were perfectly cooked with the fragrant and powerful truffles perfectly complementing them. Take the scallop, grab a truffle, and then soak it up in the black truffle sauce. It was sweet and earthy with an excellent truffle showing. Excellent.
6. Turbot de Bretagne/meunière de truffe noire/endive/jambon
The turbot was not cooked on the bone – it was slightly dry and lacked the gelatinous bits. The finely chopped truffle ends atop it were nothing compared to the earlier dishes – they lacked the intensity of flavor. The turbot / butter side-dish (sorry, that’s all I remember) was truly the star – any dryness was definitely remedied by the decadent foamy butter sauce. Good to Very Good.
7. The Endless Dessert Parade
There is no shortage of desserts at Les Ambassadeurs. If you were to preside as a judge over a dessert competition between Pierre Gagnaire and Les Ambassadeurs; you would become diabetic, watch your teeth would fall out, and die.
Thank goodness for serendipity – easily the best meal of our trip. Some people question the consistency and creativity at Les Ambassadeurs (why didn’t they garner their third Michelin star this year?), but when the truffles are this good, they mask any deficiencies the chef might have. Looking back at last year’s meal too, Les Ambassadeurs has shown they procure best-of-breed ingredients across the board. When you factor in the cost, nothing compared to L’Arpege or Pierre Gagnaire truffle tasting menus, it’s a no-brainer for next year – just order all of the truffle dishes (I believe there were 5.)
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