Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food Field Trip France: L'Ardoise

Tuesday night brought us back to our favorite bistro on our trip to Paris in 2003 - L'Ardoise ( Back then we chose this restaurant because it is delicious yet affordable. I had risotto for the first time here -- an incredible rich, creamy shrimp version which opened my eyes to the wonder of this dish and its many variations. So our expectations were high and after spending the morning traipsing around Versailles and early evening hiking up the Arc de Triomph we were both very hungry!

L'Ardoise is a tiny storefront bistro, with about 30 seats packed together in a sparsely decorated space. The prix fix menu is written in French on a large chalkboard which is presented at your table when the waitress determines it is your turn to order. Like most smaller restaurants in Paris there were two efficient and very busy servers handling the entire dining room, which was bursting at the seams with diners.

The amuse bouche was again a wild mushroom soup (popular choice this time of year) and we ordered a Burgundian red this time, but alas I don't have a photo and don't remember the name. It was great though -- lighter and less tannic than a Bordeaux which worked out well for the meal to come.

I started with the escargot served in individual pots and topped with crostinis. The snails were perfectly cooked, but the butter-based sauce had too much parsley and not enough garlic to stand up to the snails, so the earthy flavor overpowered the dish a bit. They were good, but not the traditional Burgundian dish.

B's appetizer was great, so I was glad we were sharing every course. He opted for the wild mushroom and lobster ravioli. The menu here was entirely in French and the Rick Steves' food translator did not help much. As an aside, can someone please write a guide that tells me more than what a baguette or a brasserie means? Anyway, back to the food; the sauce was creamy, the ravioli al dente, and the filling excellent. All the flavors and textures in this dish really came together and it was a great start to the meal.

For my main course, I ordered a special that was not listed on the chalkboard: langoustines (smaller than a lobster but bigger than a crayfish) cooked in parchment paper with butter, thyme, and parsley served over mashed potatoes and what I think was a celery root cake. B and I differ on our views of this dish. I thought it was fragmented with the thyme overpowering the langoustines and the celery root adding zero value in either flavor or texture. B thought it was perfect. I will say that the langoustines were cooked perfectly so that they were not chewy, but tender and quite good.

B ordered the lamb fillet served with potatoes au gratin. We both agreed that this dish was excellent. The lamb was as tender as filet mignon, juicy, and crusted with mint and parsley. The au gratin potatoes were full of flavor, with a cheese crust on top and tender potatoes underneath oozing with a combination of heavy cream and cheese.

For dessert I was thrilled that there was a seasonal option. As I have mentioned before I love figs and this tart was truly out of the park, and was accompanied by passion fruit sorbet. The million layer pastry crust was flaky and buttery and the figs were fresh, beautiful, and so tasty. I fell in love with this dessert. And while I lean toward chocolate in my desserts, this was my favorite dessert of the trip.


B actually went with the chocolate. I don't remember what this dish was called, but it was composed of a dark chocolate ganache wedge of goodness topped with the richest chocolate sauce, chocolate sorbet, and dark chocolate bark. This dessert was also incredible. The meal definitely ended on a high note and the hunger pains we had felt earlier in the evening had more than dissipated!

This meal came to 107 euros all inclusive. And I still highly recommend this restaurant -- the cooking attempts to merge the traditional and inventive, and the ingredients are extremely fresh.

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