Should We Still Love Louis?

France

 

I succumbed to a little bout of Global Fever the past few weeks what with all the drama of the World Cup. And I’m not even a fan of soccer (bloody hell, that game can go a long time and have nothing happen) but I really enjoyed the back stories of all the teams, learning about the rivalries and watching the passionate fans. Oh-some of the players were cute?? I didn’t notice that.

Also, in global celebrations this week, Monday was Bastille Day. Vive la France! Scrolling through all the seductive images of Paris on Instagram, I was reminded of the last time I dined at “Chez L’Ami Louis” in the City of Light…and Food  (In the end, all roads lead to my belly :-) )

L'Ami Louis, Paris slimpaley

So let’s first address that elephant in the room (despite his perfect shade of gris francais )  L’Ami Louis has its fair share of detractors. For all its fame and reputation and, for the most part, great reviews on food and dining websites, Louis’ foes come with their knives sharpened. They are vehement. They remind me of me when someone mentions the book “The Bridges of Madison County”.  Just don’t go there.

 

Chez L'Ami Louis

Complaints include; Shabby decor-Check.  Always full of Americans-Check. Crazy expensive-Check. The food doesn’t justify the prices-No, can’t get totally on board with that. And lastly, that the waiters are a surly, grumpy lot-can’t agree with that either. They just look that way and relish playing to the reputation they’ve become infamous for. How unhappy could they be, when you see the same faces year after year? L’Ami Louis has less turnover than the cast of Britain’s “Coronation Street”

L'ami Louis, Paris  slimpaley.com

The restaurant, established in 1924, is small, narrow and noisy. The ambience is definitely ‘We are French, Aloo, we don’t need to try too hard”.  The walls are so thick with  layers of glossy ox blood coloured paint they’ve lost all edges. Salt & pepper shakers could use a wipe and dishes & cutlery have seen better days. Hemingway might very well have scratched your plate cutting his lamb. Salmon-hued cloths cover tightly packed tables, groaning under towers of perfectly crisped pommes frites.

But behold cette foie gras. Who cares about a slightly greasy salt shaker when the servings are this big?

and feast your eyes on these tender morsels fresh from the forest floor.

 

L'ami Louis 4 slimpaley.com

The dreamiest potato dish ever. Wish I had paced myself. (my mantra)

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.53.15 PM

A tiny glimpse of steak. I couldn’t in all good conscience show a close up. “Rare” means “gelatinous” at Louis’

.
poulet l'ami louis slim paley

The chicken, a dish they are famous for (along with their escargot and foie gras) still sports some bits we remove here in the U.S. Black bits and all, it’s delicious.

 

raspberries L'ami Louis slimpaley.com

The best raspberries I’ve ever had.

 

passion fruit L'ami Louis Paris slimpaley.com

and the fresh passion fruit was no slouch either.

So, yes, after you roll out of L’Ami Louis and back into the night with a certain Henry the 8th swagger in your step,  you might well be thinking both the restaurant and your wallet are a little worse for wear. But then again, can’t the same thing be said about so many other restaurant ‘institutions’ in cities like London, Venice, and NY? Absolutely. Are they still the best? Maybe not, but in my opinion, L’Ami Louis is still worth experiencing for the very reasons it manages to stick around decade after decade…after decade (and takes 2 weeks to get a reservation).  It’s good and it’s fun! Plus, once you’ve had your precious winter coat that took so much deliberation and two hand-wringing trips back to the shop, thrown into their coat pile like yesterday’s newspaper, you’ve officially received your “L’Ami Louis” badge of honour.

Slim Paley L'ami Louis Paris

 The “surly” crew at L’Ami

 

Note; As previously mentioned, you’re sure to find the restaurant packed with Brits and Americans so if you are vacationing in Paris, I suggest making a reservation, well ahead,  at the end of your stay, not the beginning. By then, the snippets of English being spoken (OK, full conversations-the tables are close)  will be more acceptable to you. Dare I suggest you might even be pining for it by then :-)

 

This time last year; Meanwhile Back in London

~

All photos Slim Paley except exterior shot of restaurant via Google.

 

 

 

 

40 Comments

  1. Thanks for but another place to put on my bucket list for my next visit to Paris! Love the pics and the story and then…you mentioned….The Bridges of Madison County….o my goodness…one of my top 5 movies of all times…I think I have seen it 6 times so far and must watch it every 2 years or so….that scene in the rain…o my word…
    So…back to Paris…I spent a summer there after high school as well as in Evian, France (yes, the water!) then I studied in Junior Yr in University at The Sorbonne , back in the day…then 15 yrs later, spent my honeymoon there…and am planning on a trip in the near future. So I love all tips on anything Paris!
    Love your newer blog site and always love your photos , as that’s what I do, too! xoxo
    gay woodward from The Hill Country of Texas
    BY the way; we go to Santa B and Montecito every year, usually in May, for our anniversary trip…and this last trip 2 months ago in May, I finally visited Rose Story Farm, because you reminded me that I needed to go there! Loved it…tho it was a 95 degree day that was out of the ordinary HOT at high noon!

    • Thank you Gay
      I’ve never seen the film “The Bridges of Madison County” as I was actually one of the few, obviously, who did not enjoy the book. I did hear it was one of those rare times when a film was better than the book though. I’m SO glad you visited Rose Story Farm! It is very unusual for it to be so hot here in May, but the roses must have been in fine fettle and loving it!

  2. It wouldn’t be Paris without a little attitude and hey how bad can they be? They posed for a photo! (I just have to say does your hair always look that good while traveling?!!) Wonderful description of Louis experience and great pics. It’s all about the food! I love the ‘Hemingway may have scratched your plate’. I so get what you are talking about and other great Paris spots are much the same! Thanks for sharing this iconic spot! xx

  3. Looks like a perfect combination of Diner and Fine dining, French style. I love it! Oh, yes I can picture Hemingway there right this minute. I love the new look here at Slim Paley :)

  4. I visited France twice and I did eat a lot of food! If I am not careful, all roads WILL lead to my stomach not matter where I am. I cannot let that happen because I get fat easily. I am glad to see that you have kept model thin after all of these years, I have never been that thin ever. What the heck is your secret? :/

  5. Hi Slim, loving your posts down here in South Australia !
    Two questions, do you have the address for this restaurant and also where can you suggest I go for a blow dry ( think you call it a blow out ?) whilst in Paris.
    Keep up the great work, Irene x

    • Sorry Irene, I don’t have a good blow out place to rec. in Paris. In fact this particular blow out was only good after the 2nd day-the first couple of days I had an extreme case of ‘Pageant Hair’. Chez L’Amis Louis is in the 3rd Arr. You should have a concierge book for you.

  6. Pretty sure this is the restaurant vigorously defended by Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner in a letter to Vanity Fair

    Have you seen the film , Yves Saint Laurent ? gorgeous Pairs, gorgeous clothes but left me curiously unmoved

    • No, although it isn’t getting great reviews-but I still want to see it. It ‘looks’ beautiful! Sometimes that can be enough, especially if you already know the story!

  7. That food, wow. All of the photographs, as a matter of fact, wonderful. Did I mention what a good hair day that was for you? Not sure I’ll make it to Paris, at this point in the game, but we do have a Club Paris in Anchorage.

  8. less rotation than the cast of Corrie!! Love that line!!

    but it is too easy to detract an institution. But they can handle the criticism bc they just chug along doing their “thang”. While the whole French attitude can be annoying at times it is their resilience that keeps these institutions alive at the same time.

  9. Hilarious. Kind of how Elaine’s would be remembered…you didn’t go for the food; you went to see NYC cops smoke & drink themselves to oblivion…all in the hope of seeing Elaine and or Woody at a shroudy back table. :-)

  10. Dear Schlim,
    I was dragged kicking and screaming to L’Ami Louis in the early 80s by a former boss. It was his favorite restaurant in Paris. I was ill from the enormous quantity of foie gras we ate. Hated the grumpy waiter. I went back about 1985, three years later, with some Americans (natch) who were in town. I lived in Paris at the time and didn’t know one single Parisian who had ever eaten there. The Americans – usually rich – had all the tables booked. Anyway I went back with two couples. We had the usual: foie gras, snails, frogs legs, etc. When it eventually came time for dessert the waiter started to take our orders. One of our party, the NY Times journalist John Duka, said he wanted another order of frogs legs for dessert. The waiter told him, “ce n’est pas possible.” Why not, John wanted to know, “the were the best thing I’ve ever eaten”. Because it was late and it wasn’t done. Then another in the party, the designer Alexander Julian, said he’d like to join John in frogs legs. “CE N’EST PAS POSSIBLE!” Now the waiter was raising his voice. John said, “I am with The New York Times and this is the best food I’ve ever eaten ask the chef to prepare another plate of frogs legs for me please.” The waiter was furious by now and stormed off the eight feet to the kitchen where Antoine Magnin, L’Ami Louis’ chef since it opened in 1924, was cooking at his wood burning stove. Of course he came running to the table, “bien sur” he’d make them another order of frogs legs (he was THRILLED someone liked them so much they would order them again for dessert) and he was impressed with John being with the Times. Monsieur Magnin clasped his hands together looked to the ceiling and cried, “MIMI SHERIDAN, MIMI SHERIDAN!” A bit of ancient history here, Mimi Sheraton was the food critic at The New York Times for over seven years, leaving that post in 1983. I am sure she raved about L’Ami Louis like a rabid dog and that is what produced the euphoria we were now witnessing from Monsieur Magnin. I don’t think I ever returned to that restaurant, perhaps once in the 90s, but by the end of that decade I was always next door at Anahi. As rich as I found the food at L’Ami Louis I grew to appreciate that Chef Magnin was the last of his kind and that I would never be lucky enough again to see food prepared in that manner. And, I haven’t been. Magnin died in 1987, but anyone lucky enough to have eaten his food will never forget it.

  11. The cuisine certainly looks delish and you seem to have won over the staff regardless of their surly demeanor Slim!
    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

  12. Dear Slim,
    You are my first! I mean my first and only blog that I have ever followed. I am hooked. Your sense of humor got me and has not diminished. I wish we lived closer so we could be friends. You are my kind of people. Keep doing what you do so well….it brings sunshine into a lot of lives. Smiles, Ruth Roberts Wasser. Los Angeles

  13. Oh, Slim….I am one of the detractors. I just don’t get L’ami Louis. I think Louis and a bunch of American “amis” and he has a lock on that USA visitors, but I wonder if French people ever dine there. I was recently in Paris and recommend Septime, Le Comptoir, and Apicius for absolutely outstanding, inventive, delicious cuisine.

  14. PS Re: Bridges of Madison County. I liked the book, hated the movie and LOVED the recent, and sadly closed now, Broadway show. That show was more than the movie and book combined, a lesson in love, sacrifice, passion, desire, and loss. I was crying quietly when I looked around and saw grown men weeping all around me. I had no expectations of what the show would be and was blown away by the score and the performances by Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale.

    • Yes, I heard the play was so good! That’s quite amazing to me :-)
      Thank you for the Paris restaurant rec. Lady Eve!

  15. Your blog is THE best. When I see it in my e-mail list I make myself do some horrible and dreaded project before I give myself permission to read it. It’s my best dessert. I don’t even mind the random and sporadic menu you use to plan when you’ll crack open another fold in your brain. Each is better than the last.
    AHHHH, Bridges……. Back in the 90’s when it all exploded I almost had a fisticuff with some fancy girls in a manicure shop. Me against the Romantics!!! After railing about the whole thing I promised them if I ever had children I’d be sure to leave a trunkful of pitiful excuses about WHY I’d been such a crank while they were growing up. Probably a good thing I didn’t eventually have children. I’m not sayin that in 42 years of marriage there haven’t been moments when I would have loved to chase Clint down main street trying to throw myself into the bed of that pickup truck. …….. my luck my big girl panties would have split on the first jump. That might have broken the spell for old Clint. ThankS God I missed those bullets and always realized within days ( or sometimes months ) how lucky I was.
    Well Slim, Keep em coming…….they make my day.

    • lol Cynthia!
      ‘When I see it in my e-mail list I make myself do some horrible and dreaded project before I give myself permission to read it’
      Thank you for the laugh. Anytime I can be of service!!

  16. Have dined there a number of times. L’Ami Louis will always be a favorite. Fun reading your post and relishing my return there this coming winter!!!

  17. Ha…so they do smile (maybe being around a pretty lady softens them)! You have my mouth watering….this reminds me a little of Elaines in NY and the legacy (good and bad) that lives on. A lot of hype that people loved to embellish. Paris is like a giant onion with endless layers to discover, that is what I love about it, no matter how many times you go, there is always something new and wonderful to discover! Hope you are enjoying your summer!!

  18. Agree with you about “Bridges of M…”. Read it a long time ago but it seemed very Mills and Boon to me.
    Have never tried Louis because I’ve heard such mixed reviews. Also I’m not a big fan of a huge plateful of foie gras. I prefer it in smaller quantities with something that cuts the fat and richness. Have recently come back from a holiday of three weeks in Paris and longer in Provence. Our food highlights this time in Paris were: Le Grand Vefour, Le Grand Colbert, La Cigale Recamier, Ralphs. All very good in their own way. Service was excellent: no problem with waiters with attitude. From Provence and points South the highlights were L’Oustau de Baumaniere near Les Baux, La Chevre d’Or at Eze, La Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence, La Chassagnette near Arles and the waterside restaurant at l’Hotel Belles Rives, Juan les Pins. Both L’Oustau and Le Grand Vefour served sublime foie gras but smaller quantities and in interesting ways. Highly recommended, all of the above. And all so beautiful too.
    In most good French restaurant kitchens the staff work incredibly hard to keep up high standards, whether they have Michelin stars or not. They have their meal prep and cooking times carefully worked out and by the time dessert comes around the main chefs who prepare the entrees and main courses have just about finished up and the dessert chef(s) takes over. It was clearly intended as a compliment to the chef to ask for a repeat of one of the earlier courses at dessert time, but in practice very unwise and quite inappropriate. It’s probably only because he played up the fact so hard that he was from the NY Times and because there was an old school chef that they agreed. But I wouldn’t blame them if they’d refused such a request. No wonder some restaurant staff have a lot of attitude if they have to deal with customers like that. I doubt any French customer would dream of making such a request.

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