Not that I was looking, but I may have found a restaurant that’s even quieter than Chanterelle, a place in New York that was so hushed when I dined there a few years ago that you could probably have heard a toothpick drop.
We’re not quiet folk, my sister and I. So we knew we were in for it when we stepped into L’Ambroisie in Quimper, France, and the place was so silent that you could almost hear the soft shufflings of proprietor Armelle Guyon as she glided from table to table taking orders.
There’s been quite a bit written recently about how noisy U.S. restaurants have gotten — like crowded train stations filled with shouts and clangs, really. However, when it comes to dinner, my quibble tends to be with places that are on the other end of the sound spectrum.
After all, who wants to feel like they’re eating in a stalled elevator sans muzak?
At the church-like L’Ambroisie, we knew we were being watched. Heard, rather.
The sister, Mike and I, we attempted to speak in murmurs but still, we felt like foghorns in the Louvre. When we wondered why it was that we were the only ones who could be heard, we realized that almost everyone else wasn’t talking.
Talk about eating being a religious experience.
Fortunately, L’Ambroisie’s impeccably put together dishes made up for the silence. We especially took to the “cappuccino” of sauteed lotte fish in a foamy pea soup.
The dish, a specialty of the place, is usually done with langoustines — we were disappointed to find that they were doing it with lotte
instead the day we were there but it was a well-executed combination, no less. The fish was fresh and perfectly seared, a good clean foil for the creamy pea soup.
And the sable dessert topped with macerated strawberries and a layer of pistachio-mascarpone mousse, with a side of deliciously tart and sweet strawberry ice-cream, was a last course to remember.
When mouths were wiped, money had been paid and our spoons had been put down with one last unseemly clank, we burst out of the restaurant into the mid-evening sun, alight with fierce chatter.
All the pent-up prattle about the day’s events, friends we had seen and were about to see, it all came spewing forth.
That’s the thing about the quiet. It’s good for some things. Reading. Sleeping. Writing. Thinking.
But eating? Give me a train station over a church any day.