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Mar 21, 2007 07:16 AM

À L'ami Jean: Long report

Lunched last Saturday. Excellent. The room was full, but not too noisy. Aside from kilted Scottish rugby fans in for the match that evening against France, most of the room was French, but not necessarily Parisian. There was a party of Basquaises.

The number of amuses bouche was staggering. They were more like amuse double estomaches. Practically at the moment we sat down we were greeted with a huge big plate of charcuterie, Bayonne ham and various sausages, all well-sliced. Then we had an incredible dish of escargot in a creamy potato veloute. They were superb. Next arrived another plate of charcuterie, this time mini- jamon sandwiches for the three of us.

Wisely the three of us decided to take one complete menu - - which we split - - and just two mains. We started with aperitifs, fuzzy strawberry soda with alcohol, the one mistake. We ordered a very good cote de rhone, at less than 30 euros.

We agreed on a starter of smoked herring. We had one cabbage rolled ox tail with oysters and two orders of the roast pigeon with foie gras and vegetables.

The herring was the best I have ever had. It was wood smoked and served with carrots in oil. Like no other herring I have tasted, more like smoked salmon. The portion was huge, more than enough for the three, though apparently it was service for one. We devoured the entire serving.

My friend was more enthusiastic than I about her ox-tail. It was not as assertive a taste as I like, but it was tender. The oysters did nothing for the dish.

On the other hand the pigeon was superb. It was first roasted in its separate parts, breast, legs, and carcasse. Then the vegetables - - courgette, dried tomatoes, white and green asparagus, were gently cooked in the Creuset casserole. The roasted pigeone was added to the mix toward the end of the vegetable cooking process. They soaked up the pigeon roasting juices, but still retained their integrity. The foie gras gave up its soul for the good of the vegetables, adding to the flavor. I probably would have preferred the foie gras to retain more of its distinctive form and taste, but the surviving bits mingled with the veggies were pleasant.

Accompanying the mains were too much mouseline of potato. I would have preferred separate mashed and roasted. In any event the potatoes were simply too rich on top of everything else, cochonailles in particular.

Our table for three was right next to the loo, which gave us priority on access, certainly an advantage. It also gave us a chance to check the varied tartans parading through the resto that day.

As for desert, the rice pudding though on only one order arrived as service for three. I am not a rice pudding fan. While certainly edible I don't think I would go back for it. To give it credit, it was one of the best rice puddings I have tried, but it has not changed my general opinion.

I will be back in Paris in mid-July and am looking forward to a return engagement. Lunch seems the best way to go.

If we had not ordered the aperitif, at 9 euros a glass, the bill would have been about 40 euros a person, an incredible steal for this quality and quantity. Though I wonder if the amuses would have been as generous.

We staggered out into a pleasant March day, checked the prices at the excellent caviste across the street and still managed to buy some chocolate from Michel Chaudon. Stephane Jego and the staff were all in good spirits at the end of the lunch slot, waiting for a private party that was taking over the restaurant that evening.

Then we checked out that most excellent address, St. Dominique. I had thought of pushing deeper into the 7th for a visit to Marie Cantin, but even I have limits.

Edited to add one other note: At this and other meals I was struck by the absence of over-salting, a troubling tendency noted on previous trips. If anything things were undersalted, a distinct preference as far as I am concerned.

By the way the coordinates are: 27, r Malar, 75007 Paris, France - +33 1 47 05 86 89

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  1. Great to read he report - it is a fantastic place - wonderful value especially for the quality and innovation.

    One point - the rice pudding for desert is actually a shared dish. The idea is that it is left at the table for you to help yourself to a portion. The dish then goes to the next table who have ordered it, and so on until it is finished.

    I have also seen this approach at other restaurants. For example a whole terrine may be left for you to slice off a portion, or a large kitchen bowl of chocolate mouse, or a basket of charcuterie (Le Comptoir - Jego/Camdeborde share the same generous spirit) for you to slice and take a selection of meats.

    I was also at Chez L'AmiJean recently and a young american couple next to us ordered the rice pudding. He manfully helped her with the rice pudding using his own spoon to eat straight from the bowl. As it is a large bowl they failed to make much of an indentation and it and it went back into the kitchen - hopefully not to be sent out to another table...! It is great desert - "Gateau de riz a la Grand-Mere" but I passed on it that night.

    I really like the approach in the restaurants I have seen it it tends to signify a real generosity of spirit and focus on the customer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      We did not make much of a dent into the pudding. And we did not eat directly from the bowl.

    2. Thanks for the report. We ate at L'Ami Jean last week and enjoyed a wonderful meal. We were seated near the kitchen and enjoyed watching the work and the good spirit. Ate wonderful food-the ravioi and then a porc dish for two. The desserts were wonderful layered semifreddo concoctions layer over grapefruit. At the table next to ours a mother and her daughter had ordered the rice pudding-and didn't know the procedure either. Also ate at Le Comptoir-lunch, Vieul Ami, and Violon D' Ingres. All terrific. For double the price nothing in the states comes close .

      1 Reply
      1. re: sheila hill

        Sheila, I think we sat on the other side of you. We ordered the Ravioli on your advice. The other entree we ordered (not understanding what we were getting) was a cold poached fish in an aspic of the court bouillon with vegetables including some of those amazing sun dried tomatoes. It was a dish we wouldn't have ordered knowingly but we would have missed out if we hadn't. We had for plats the pigeon special and quail with foie gras. Both were wonderful dishes with great sauces. For dessert we ordered the lasagna of pineapple and kiwi with a passion fruit sauce and the mousseline of lemon. It was great fun to watch the kitchen work. For a small space and crew he puts out some amazing meals.