Long time readers know L’Ami Louis is my favorite restaurant in the world, but I always feel I need to provide the caveat that this is a simple restaurant where the prices are off the chart, but the quality of the raw materials/products is unequaled in any other restaurant in which I’ve eaten. They pay the highest prices for the biggest, fattest Burgundy snails cooked live in the shells and the amazing quality of the garlic butter and parsley in itself always strikes me as quite dramatic. Their roasted chicken is as good (as well as expensive) as this dish can be, and it is done perfectly. Since L’Ami Louis first opened in 1924, it has been the master of roasting fowl, game birds and other meats and vegetables. In September, they usually have ceps, but those had not yet arrived at the time of my visit. For a starter, I adore their cold confit of duck, which was matched by their warm confit of duck. I consider the latter dish to be one of the two or three finest examples of this dish in all of Paris. As mentioned, their roast chicken is to die for as is their wonderful potato dish, the Pommes Bearnaisses, consisting of sliced potatoes sautéed in duck or goose fat thrown into their super-hot wood-burning oven and then doused liberally with gobs of chopped parsley and fresh garlic. For me, it is the finest potato dish in the world, although I wish I had the appetite I did twenty years ago and could still eat an entire potato cake with ease. As I have said many times, their snails are the finest I have ever had. They are giant Burgundian snails that are cooked to perfection and are so bubbling hot when they are served that you have to wait 5-10 minutes until they are cool enough to eat. Although it is not on the menu, you can order a wonderful mixed green salad, and even the quality of its lettuce is top-flight.
Having first eaten at L’Ami Louis in 1976, and having dined there between 3-6 times a year over the last three decades, I have never had dessert, which is understandable given the copiousness of the portions, intense flavors, and the nearly overload of garlic and butter one gets at L’Ami Louis. If you are looking for sophisticated, creative dishes, Michelin 3-star service, and modest prices, this is a place to avoid like the plague. It’s expensive, hot even in cooler months, crowded and noisy. But, it is also a spectacular, old style bistro that hasn’t changed in the 35 years I have been going there, and probably since it first opened in 1924.
As for the wines, a number of bottles of the Deutz 1999 Cuvée William Deutz Rosé Champagne were consumed as it is one of my favorite dry rosé Champagnes and they still have it in stock on L’Ami Louis’ incredible wine list. The best values are always the white wines from Loire Valley and Alsace as well as the red wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon and the Rhône Valley. Two of the greatest Châteauneuf du Papes that have ever been made include the Domaine du Pégaü 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Inspiration and the Clos St. Jean 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum (100% Grenache from 100+-year old vines). Both were sumptuous wines with the intense, full-bodied Pégaü more meaty, offering up notes of charcuterie and smoked game. The Sanctus Sanctorum is a model of symmetry, purity and gorgeous black raspberry and kirsch-like fruit. Needless to say, after enjoying wines and cuisine like this, you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...