Wednesday, March 28, 2007


A week back, we went with friends to L'Ambassade d'Auvergne, one of the winners of Michelin's Bib Gourmand for 2007. Bib Gourmands are awarded to restaurants which serve quality cuisine at a maximum price of 35 euros, not including drinks.

I was excited to try it due to one particular side dish, the Aligot, which is a mashed potato, garlic and cheese concoction which seemed destined to please my greedy palate.

We went with the same friends with whom we had a very quick dinner at Chez Omar and all of us approached this outing with mild apprehension. We needn't have worried. This was about the furthest away from that experience, in fact, it was a parody of opposites.

We were greeted by an impressively mustachioed Maitre D' who took our coats before pointing us to the upstairs salon, where we were seated in a very large comfortable room, given menus for aperitifs, wine and food and left to decide what to order. The waitress patiently helped us decipher the different aperitifs before leaving to fill our order, returning with a plate of gourgeres to whet the appetite.

The light, cheesy gourgeres (cheese profiteroles) were so good and I was so hungry that I was well pleased when I saw that there were at least two per person, very generous in view that we were also served a small crock of terrine, and some lovely chewy bread with which to start the meal.
I went with the set menu, with a choice of lentil salad or boudin noire with apples, to be followed by either the magret de canard with the famed Aligot or pork with braised cabbage, to be followed by our choice of dessert, for a reasonable 28 euros.

One of our friends as well as myself went with the lentils, which arrived in a large earthenware pot, of which three heaping tablespoons were shared onto our plate. I couldn't finish my entree, much to the dismay of our charming waiter, who threatened no dessert if I didn't at least try, exhorting the others at the table to help finish our huge bowl of tangy, warm lentil salad with chewy, flavorful lardons. The four of us tried but in the interest of saving our stomachs for our mains, we ended up having to disappoint the waiter.

After a short break, the waiter came over once again to demonstrate the Aligot, stirring it forcefully on the burner then bringing over the copper pot to 'pull' the Aligot, showing the melted cheese and potato mixture, imparting a lovely warm fragrance. We were all dying to try it at this point.

Our magret de canard were plated and served and we all dug in. The warm Aligot was lovely, much chewier than I expected but with a nice, smooth texture. When it got a bit cold, it was not as nice, much chewier, a bit more like cooling fondue but not gummy in any way. A tough feat, I should think. Unfortunately my magret de carnard was a little too tough with the tendons and I was not able to finish the rich duck and the filling Aligot.

The waiter tsked again at my not empty plate but made "une exception" when taking my dessert. Either believing that perhaps we hadn't had *quite* enough food or that the few minutes before our dessert was served we were feeling peckish, the waiter also brought over a few slices of their house cake (I apologize for not remembering what it was called), which tasted, to me, much like the Italian Panettone without the fruit and raisins.

We were feeling very stuffed indeed when our desserts arrived. I had ordered a banana compote with bitter chocolate sorbet. I enjoyed the sorbet but found the 'naner compote a bit strange, with odd crusty, sweet bits and soft bitter bits.

However, these were just minor as I could not possibly finish the dessert, much to the chagrin of our waiter.

Total time in the restaurant? A whooping 4 and a half hours. And at no time during our visit did we feel rushed or unwelcome. We were well taken care of by the friendly yet professional staff, were very well fed throughout the meal and what with the Aligot demonstration, the conversation and the good food, it was a most enjoyable evening and one that I would be eager to repeat.

L'Ambassade d'Auvergne
22 rue du Grenier St-Lazare, 3rd
Tel: 01 42 72 31 22
Metro: Rambuteau

1 comment:

Lightman said...

If you like Auvergne products, you will be happy to learn that we've opened the first e-commerce website dedicated to Auvergne :
We have a blog and we sell products like some of those you tasted...
For the moment, the website is only in french, but we plan to translate it in english as soon as we have the time to :-)