If Hiramatsu was our expense account dinner, Ambassade d'Auvergne was our comfort food meal. Of all the meals we ate in Paris, this might have been my favorite, as much for the manner in which we found it (wandering, hungry and tired, with nary a reservation and thunderstorms breaking over our heads) as for the food.
Ambassade d'Auvergne is unassuming from the exterior and cozy and quaint inside. Exposed brick, heavy beams, rustic country décor and a small mirrored bar in the back of the main dining room were all welcome sights as we were seated by the warm and gracious maitre d'.
As became our habit on this vacation, Kevin and I had aperitifs – he had a glass of scotch and I had a glass of champagne while we looked over the menu. The menu is unfussy, featuring dishes from the Auvergne region (which, in all honesty, I don't know much about).
We ordered a bottle of Bordeaux (St. Emilion or Pomerol, I can't remember) and started light: I had a chilled asparagus soup and Kevin had a DELICIOUS cabbage salad with stuffed duck neck. The savoy cabbage was dressed in a tangy, citrus-vinegar-herb-y dressing and was served out of a larger bowl, which the server then left at the table for both of us (mainly me) to continue eating.
Our entrees were strictly bloody; I had roast lamb with root vegetables, and Kevin had pan-seared beef served with a giant marrow bone (which I dipped into, briefly, spreading the goo on some bread). Nothing about the entrees were unusual or noteworthy, except that everything tasted so very, very good.
While we lingered over wine, we noticed a table near us being served what looked like grits, almost, straight out of a hammered copper saucepan. The host noticed us watching and sent the server to our table as well, scooping out huge globs of what turned out to be aligot – basically cheese, garlic and mashed potatoes. Aligot is good. It is scary good. It is also stretchy with cheese, which might be why it is so very, very good.
Still, we decided to order dessert, summoning the appetite from deep inside! I had a gorgeous strawberry "gazpacho" with basil sorbet, and Kevin had the chocolate mousse, which turned out to mean, Two Huge Dollops, plus the bowl, left on the table yet again, for me to share. Now, I'm not one to gravitate towards the chocolate option on a dessert menu, and chocolate mousse in particular is not something I ever order (I've had so much good homemade stuff that restaurant versions never seem bittersweet enough and are too sugary and fluffy, and yes I realize that mousse should be fluffy, but I like mine rich and creamy), but this stuff was seriously GOOD. Rich, bittersweet, chocolate-y, creamy and GOOD. So good I could only have a few bites, but probably the best chocolate mousse I've had outside of my parent's kitchen.
When our bill came, it was accompanied by a cluster of truffles -- chocolate filled with - I think - a lemon almond candy center. I asked the maitre d' if their pastry chef made them, and he asked me if I liked them. I nodded vigorously, and he disappeared, returning a few minutes later with a bag full of them for me.
Our final bill was somewhere around 200 Euro, I think - the wine alone was about 60 Euro, and we had three courses plus the aperitif, so it's certainly possible to eat for less at Ambassade d'Auvergne, but I have to say that I don't regret a cent of it, nor do I regret a calorie. And there were many.