James's Blog


I ate at L’Ambroisie last night and I wouldn’t recommend it.

L’Ambroisie is a fine dining restaurant located on the Place des Vosges in Paris. It won its third Michelin star in 1988 and has maintained its three stars ever since. The French prime minister Francis Hollande chose L’Ambroisie to entertain President Obama on his visit in 2015. I was excited to try excellent, classic French food at L’Ambroisie and made a reservation far in advance of my visit to Paris.

L’Ambroisie offers an a la carte menu in French only. I don’t speak French very well and the waiter offered to explain the menu to us in English. He explained “Composé d’agneau de Lozère, salmigondis de légumes racines” as “the lamb” and gave similarly curt descriptions for the other menu items. If he’d cared about us understanding the menu, he would have actually described the dishes to us or even just plugged the menu into Google translate instead of leaving us to figure things out with our phones. We also weren’t the only guests uncomfortable in French. I didn’t hear a single native French speaker among the other guests. L’Ambroisie is a tourist-unfriendly restaurant for tourists.

Later in the evening, a waiter came by to present a basket of white truffles from Alba. This ceremonial truffle viewing felt silly, though the truffles were indeed very big and handsome. When the waiter presented the truffles to an older American woman at the table next to us, she reached to grab one. The waiter snatched back the basket and had a big laugh along with the other two waiters in the room. Apparently this woman had never participated in a ceremonial truffle viewing and when presented with truffles in a basket very similar to the bread basket used to serve her bread earlier in the evening, she figured she was supposed to take one. The waiter said no no these are white truffles from Alba that cost 60 euro per gram ha ha and they were only for viewing not for taking ha ha ha. If the waiter had cared about this woman, he could have explained what the truffles were and why they’re prized and maybe even shaved off a slice for her to try. Instead, he shamed her in front of her family.

I wonder what the point of a restaurant like L’Ambroisie is. Food is meant to be eaten by someone. The best dining experiences are an expression of love and care for the diner. L’Ambroisie feels dedicated to something else.