Dinner - L'Ami Louis

My favorite bistro, and probably my favorite restaurant for serious eating, is L'Ami Louis, the frightfully expensive restaurant that has been open since 1924. I've been eating here since 1975, and nothing has changed except for the death of Chef Antoine Magnon. They have old wood burning ovens and an extraordinary ability to roast foods consistently better than any place I have ever eaten. The Spanish ham appetizer was good, but their speciality, which is unsurpassed anywhere else in the world, is the extraordinary giant Burgundy snails, in the shell, served in marvelous garlic butter and parsley. That was followed by what I consider to be the greatest scallops I have ever had. Shucked and pulled from their shells several hours before being served, with the roe on the side (very toxic if not super fresh), these delicious large scallops are sautéed in copious quantities of butter, parsley, and garlic. Unbelievable! I never get enough of them. An argument can be made that there is no greater roast chicken than L'Ami Louis's. Although the chicken, from Bresse, is not nearly as fat and plump as American chicken, it is intensely flavorful. Their 6-8 week old leg of lamb is another tour de force.

The wines included two brilliant Champagnes from the great 1996 vintage, the Cuvée William Deutz and the Louis Roederer Cristal. The Deutz is more evolved than the backward Cristal, but both are great Champagnes possessing both vibrant acidity and intense flavors. Geantet-Pansiot's 1999 Charmes-Chambertin was initially light and almost innocuous, but it blossomed beautifully after an hour of air time. A sexy Burgundy, it lacks depth, but its outstanding aromatics are classic Pinot Noir. That was followed by some Châteauneuf du Papes of which the 2000 Janasse Chaupin was corked (the third corked bottle of 2000 Janasse I have had), but that was easily forgotten by the grand cru Burgundian-styled 2000 Clos des Papes. A beautiful wine filled with sweet cherry, flower, kirsch, and licorice characteristics, it was amazing to taste it next to a grand cru red Burgundy as it was more similar than dissimilar. The same could not be said for the 2000 Beaucastel, a broad, dense purple-colored offering revealing notes of licorice, tree bark, blackberries, cassis, pepper, and spicy. Beefy and rich yet surprisingly approachable, it was singing marvelously from magnum. We finished with the blockbuster 1999 Delas Hermitage Les Bessards, an inky/purple-colored effort with enormous concentration, depth, and power. It will not hit its prime for another 8-10 years, and should last for three decades. Even if we were committing infanticide, it was fun to drink.

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