Peu importe si la mort de Coluche était ou pas un assassinat déguisé : de toute évidence, pour beaucoup, il ne suffit pas qu'il soit mort, il faudrait encore qu'il n'ait jamais existé. C'est ce à quoi s'emploie, volontairement ou non, Antoine de Caune dans son dernier film. Ce qu'il nous montre en effet, c'est une espèce de Bigard ancien, un bobo perdu dans son fric et sa libido, ayant fait fortune par accident, et se piquant, à l'occasion, en fin de banquet, de solidarité et de conscience sociale, mais pas trop. Petit Sarkozy des années Giscard, le Coluche de ce film est avant tout occupé de ses partouzes, de sa coke, de sa tune et de ses potes. De la liberté, de l'insolence, de la pertinence de la critique par Coluche, il ne reste rien. Rien. Juste la vulgarité, vaguement choquante, profondément vaine.
vendredi 31 octobre 2008
mercredi 8 octobre 2008
L'Ambroisie on a late September Thursday night -- party of four. My overwhelming impression was that of an extremly civilised place, and even, quite frankly, of a place reserved to the happy few. Clearly, the restaurant is not even interested in making you the meal of your life. Not even a very special party. They're focused on an aristocratic model of almost daily "you can't afford it if you have to ask about the price" food model. The setting (which is starting to get old) reinforces an impression of old French nobility, pretending to be holders of century old secrets when, in fact, the secrets are those of Claude Peyrot from the 1980s. The spirit is pre-revolutionary, ancien régime -- you're in or you're out.
I arrived early and asked le Moullac what was off the menu that day - nothing, everything is in there, he said. But then the next table had lobster ravioli and wild duck pie, both off menus. It's funny, not ha-ha funny, that a scarred abandoned child has constructed something so clearly based on the historical heritage idea, a place that is in every regard mimicking some imaginary lordship and "medieval" tradition. It's also striking how the place that, ten years ago, was still a violent, schocking place (by the power of food) that produced life-changing taste experiences has turned into something so fundamentally smooth, refined, polished and self-assured. And while we're in the funny department, it is also the evolution that the Relais Bernard Loiseau followed. But Bernard Pacaud did not die. Or did he?
Maybe you'd like more detail about the actual food? It started with the usual gougères, temperature was nice, texture mastered, taste absent. Then, following the almost scene I made about our neighbors having lobster raviolis (or maybe just pretending to respond to my remarks when actually going as planned?), we succeeded in having some as amuses. The lobster cream was deliciously delicious, while the lobster itself was overcooked. All night, one of the co-diners, who liked it a lot, referred to it as "the mousse".
I got the chaud froid d'oeufs mollets, crème de céleri, caviar, one of the highlights though not the "wow" I expected. Two oeufs mollets, cold, are lying on a nice veal gelée (carefully reduced, no gelatine in there) that also embeds the Iranian caviar (probably not enough for both eggs). They pour a truly incredible celeriac cream on top of the dish, and, as you "go in", the yolk becomes a liant for the whole dish, particularly magical when you reach the caviar.
Another member of my party had some rougets with cèpes and a sauce of which she asked more -- but I did not taste it. I did taste the foie gras which was good not great and, most schockingly, wrapped in an old, stingy pepper -- more itchy than hot. No big deal, but it gave the feeling of eating food from a common charcuterie de village.
The four of us then had the famous seabass with caviar sauce and sliced artichoke. The caviar sauce, hardly sophisicated, is indeed perfect and intense. The seabass was as fresh as they say, but it was a tad overcooked to my taste, showing some of that paper feeling in the mouth. I told them and they told me they would know for next time that I like my fish at the lowest possible degree of cooking, just more evidence that l'Ambroisie is conceived for regulars.
The sweetbread "à la grenobloise" was better looking than it tasted. It was braisé, with the characteristic associated texture, and some fancy rings of melba toasts hanging on rosemary pikes, which were planted in the sweetbread. The charlotte de macaronis on the side actually steals the show. There's no question to me that the night before's sweetbread at Tante Louise, for one third of the price, was much better. And the Tante Louise sweetbread came with small girolles that were also better than the girolles served on the side of the pigeon at l'Ambroisie. That night, the l'Ambroisie girolles looked good too, like the sweetbread, but they were tasteless and not firm. Those girolles were the major letdown of the night. The pigeon was actually an excuse for garlic -- why not, but again, nothing to write home about.
Once again I had the best choice, which was lamb, extremly tender, and luckily so since it was basically rare. It came with some "nougatine" of garlic and almonds, unpractical to eat and not particularly useful for the dish. The only real wow of the night was the carrots on top of the artichoke on the side. There were three small slices, but they were moving and magical, slighly acidic, greatly flavourful, very crunchy and yet cooked (my guess is: cooked in white wine). And they came with plenty of absolutely excellent lamb juice to add on my plate. I mentioned recently, about Briffard, that only a handful of chefs do juices as well he does. Pacaud is one of them.
Cheeses were very good, though none was extraordinary. The famous chocolate tarts and vanilla ice cream did not disappoint for dessert, while the cheesecake was, I hate to say it, ordinary, and the peaches in the peach soup were not ripe enough. Le Moullac offered a Vouvray moelleux for apéritif that was thoroughly delicious. The "Winston Churchill" champagne was appropriate in these times of crisis, and a Puligny-Montrachet was chosen by Le Moullac to end the meal and it was everything you'd expect of such a wine.
After the meal I thought that I should reincorporate Ledoyen in my first tier restaurant list. Not because it suddently grew better, but because I can't argue anymore that l'Ambroisie is a better restaurant. And Ledoyen, expensive as it is, is less expensive than l'Ambroisie and offers the tasting menu with wine pairing at 284€. Not to mention that the menu with wine pairing at le Cinq is 210€, and I just find it better than both.
Now, don't get me wrong: this was an excellent night in an incredibly special setting, with service that grew even more friendly and adapting to our tastes as the night went on. The bill was still ca 1700€ for four, and at that price, as I said, they don't even try to make it the meal of your life and it is by any standard far from perfect, even though it is no doubt unique. But when money is no object, I understand why you would want to make this place your home. And I'm sure they'll do much better now that they know me better. If I give them a chance.
Thanks to our generous hosts.