Sunday, April 30, 2006

L'ami Jean

I've been to a few clunkers lately (Wadja, Le Pré Verre), so I was both relieved and happy to have a flawless experience at L'ami Jean. L'ami Jean is a newbie; it appears in the 2006 Michelin guide as a "bib gourmand" restaurant, and the 06/07 Paris Routard guide also recognizes it as a welcome addition to the Paris restaurant scene. I had received some comments on it awhile back, so when I owed 2 friends dinner I decided to go for it and make reservations. Our reservations were at 8 on a Saturday night, which is a bit early for Paris, so I was surprised to see that the restaurant was already full when we arrived - a good sign indeed. Although the seating is a bit squooshed, the interior is warm and welcoming, and the walls are covered with prints and articles related to the Basque region (just like at Le Pamphlet). One friend started drooling when he looked up at the ceiling - in addition to the red peppers, there were the famous basque cured ham legs (jambon de bayonne) hanging from the beams. This definitely influenced his choice of entrée, as he ordered a platter of it to begin with.

The 30€ set menu: This menu offers so many choices - there is really something for everyone, especially considering the specials of the day which are not marked down. This addresses one of the shortcomings at some restaurants, where you only have a few choices for each course. Not so at L'ami Jean! Whether you're in the mood for fish, poultry, or steak, you'll find many tempting possibilities.

And if you feel like something even more special, they have even *more* options!This includes special "gastronomique" or "carte blanche" menus, and copious tapas platters. We were also puzzled by the 25€ menu "à l'extérieur" - was it really that much cheaper to eat on the terrace? - until we noticed a sign hanging inside advertising their picnic baskets. What a cute idea, especially considering their proximity to Invalides and the Champ de Mars. The wine list is very reasonable, as well, with bottles starting at 15€! We got a great bottle of Gaillac for 20€.

For my entrée I got the red peppers stuffed with a basil and cod mixture. The presentation was beautiful, as the two peppers were topped with razor-thin, crispy jambon de bayonne (how did they do that?) and some other crunchy bits (no clue what it was, but it was tasty). In addition to the platter of jambonne de bayonne, the other entrée was the pâté de campagne, which was huge! My friend had trouble finishing it all. This was served in a pot on a wooden cutting board, and came with a pot of cornichons - cocktail size pickles. The bread, a hearty whole grain, was excellent with both of these entrées.

For our main dishes, my friends decided to share the veal steak for 2, served with vegetables roasted with thyme. Oh my word. This was equally ginormous, something you could find in an American steakhouse! I really wanted to take a photo of it, but as the waitress started serving it immediately I didn't get the chance. Easily 700 g of thick, red, truly "saignant" meat, this was served on a bed of roasted new potatoes, snow peas, peas, and carrots. I didn't try the steak but the vegetables were perfect. I got the "pintade supreme" - I know now that it means guinea fowl; at the time my friends just said "like chicken, but better." It was truly supreme, topped this time with caramelized jambon de bayonne & sesame seeds, and served with a roasted endive topped with bacon, a pot of some of the best mashed potatoes I have ever had, and a smaller pot of a vegetable paste. I could only pick up on the eggplant, garlic, and olive oil, and I forgot to ask about it, but it was very good.

For dessert I got the vanilla cream with strawberries. This was basically strawberry shortcake minus the shortcake, served in a mug on top of which was placed a small bowl of strawberries marinated in campari. It was simple, but darn good, and would be the perfect dessert on a summer evening. One friend got the "Petite douceur", which was described not by the ingredients but by the effect it would have: "un moment de bonheur" (a moment of happiness). This was a layered mixture of vanille, chocolate, and coffee cream, and he was indeed happy while eating it :).

This place was great, from the entrées to the desserts. The service is just average (one waitress was really nice, another was really grumpy, and the waiter was just fine), and the seating is literally elbow-to-elbow, but I would go back without hesitation. Reservations are definitely necessary on the weekend, not sure about during the week.

L'ami Jean
27, rue Malar
75007 Paris
01 47 05 86 89



shrimp56 said...

I couldn't agree more with your assessment of L'ami Jean. The food was delicious and nicely presented. A reservation is a must, especially now that the word is out.

Jer said...

Thank you for this wonderful suggestion. Based on your recommendation had lunch there yesterday and we all thought this was one of the best meals we've ever had (based on quality of food and presentation relative to price). Packed with locals. It might be my new favorite restaurant. Thanks for the post as we never would have found it otherwise.