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Questions about Chez L'Ami Jean

Hello. :)

From what I've been reading, it sounds like Chez L'Ami Jean might not be a bad choice for non-mean/poultry eaters like ourselves as they have a few seafood options but would we have to order à la carte or could we still go with fixed menu?

How is the service ?

And their wine list price- and quality-wise?

Or, would we be better off going to a seafood restaurant altogether such as Fables de la Fontaine? I'm also contemplating La Cagouille and L'Epi Dupin.

I'm also having a craving for sole meunière and risotto (strange, I know). Any place where I might be able to eat a good version of both?


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  1. L' ami Jean and Fables de la Fountaine are not in the same league. First of all you can not count on L' Ami Jean to have a fish or the fish you like on the menu that night. It is more expensive to order a la cate there. Their wine list is fine but not fabulous as is typical of a restaurant like this. Fables has a lovely wine list but not huge or in depth if that is what you are looking for. .

    8 Replies
    1. re: BarbaraM48

      Thank you Barbara. As much as I'd like to give CAJ a try, I think I'll pass since ordering à la carte might send our bill closer to 200 euros for two.

      Right now, I'm split between Fables and L'Ecailler du Bistrot. I can't decide if I want something with a twist or something traditional and straightforward.

      1. re: kikisakura

        I cannot speak to the seafood issue (the three of us stuffed ourselves on a veal chops and foie gras for two), but for the three of us, with two desserts, the bill was around 220 Euro (and that was more food that you can imagine). It was the second best meal I've ever had in my life.

      2. re: BarbaraM48

        Not certain what Barbara means by "not in the same league". IMO both are a similar calibre. OK Fables has a Michelin star but from memory they are at similar price points and the wine lists at both are good - CAJ is especially good on wines from the south west.

        The difference is Fables is a specialist fish restaurant serving great food with a modern twist. CAJ is more traditional with a lot more emphasis on meat. Fables has two sittings, with a bit more space and is slightly more relaxed whilst CAJ has 3+ sittings and is quite cramped. In both the ambiance suits the food.

        1. re: BarbaraM48

          I ate at L'Ami Jean recently and was quite disappointed. While the food was tasty, ordering a la carte gets expensive fast. Also, the service was pretty erratic. It was definately overhyped.

          The best seafood meal I had in Paris was at Brasserie Sufferen, not too far from L'Ami Jean. We had oysters and bulot, very fresh.

          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

            Sorry for your disappointment, l am usually very fussy and have been there at least 10 times, by myself, with one person ,and as many as 8. On every occasion, was treated wonderfully, food was very hot and always perfect and the place is one of my favorite places in Paris for a bistro meal along with Chez Denise. Never found it overpriced based on quality. Guess that is what makes it a ballgame or why there is vanilla and chocolate.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              Will only be in Paris for 1 night. How can I make reservations at CAJ from the States?

              1. re: ncara

                They have a website with an email address:


                but I don't think they take reservations online. Best bet is to call them:

                33 1-47-05-86-89

            2. re: Tom from Raleigh

              Thanks Tom, it's always interesting to hear a different opinion/experience. I can handle erratic service as long as it's not paired with outright rudeness or other types of serious attitude problems.

              L'Ami Jean certainly gets a lot of press/hype and often times, that translates to higher prices & poorer quality. So I feel a bit reluctant but I'm curious enough to give it one try and see what the fuss is all about for myself. :)

          2. Eat there often, both lunch, and dinner. If ordering a la carte, one tends to order less courses, e.g. the famous rice pudding for dessert can easily serve 4. Checks seem to generally come out to @ 60-70 Euro/PP with a bottle of their lovely Cahors per 2 persons.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              Thanks txgr99 & Delucacheesemonger ,

              I finally found a pic of their menu here:


              It seems like they have several seafood options for both courses. :) L'Ecailler du Bistrot still appeals to me and we'll definitely check in out but I'll also try to get a table for lunch at CAJ.

              (Don't kill me but) I have never really taken to French food most likely due to my dietary restrictions but I am going to give it another honest try instead of reverting back to mainly eating "ethnic" food while in Paris.

            2. I was in Paris over last weekend and had a superb sole meuniere at Le Dome, in Montparnasse. Pricey of course, but didn't seem much worse than the same dish other places (about 45 E as I recall). The service was very good, correct but warm. I also had the queues de langoustines as a first course (warm, served with a fennel salad and slightly pickled tasting zucchinis, very good). My companion had oysters, supremely briney, which turned out to be more to my taste than his.
              The night before I had sole at L'espadon bleu. Good, but not as good, and I didn't care much fort he place itself, rather cold and modern for my tastes.

              1. This board has elevated Chez L'Ami Jean to stratospheric "cult" status. It is just one among dozens of excellent bistros in Paris. I am not sure the extreme cramped quarter, high noise level and the turning of the tables really make up for the very good food.

                5 Replies
                1. re: PBSF

                  The question of whether the incomfort makes up for very good food is a very good one. I personally strongly doubt it.

                  But I disagree with your assessment nevertheless. The level of cooking and ingredients at l'Ami Jean sets is apart from most very good bistrots in Paris. In my book, only a handful of bistrots navigate in those stratospheric, as you say, cooking levels. The point is, many bistrots pretend to cook like starred restaurants, but only La Régalade, l'Ami Jean and Christophe actually do.

                  1. re: souphie

                    I agree. But you have to be prepared for the atmosphere, which is more like a gastropub--very informal, relaxed but with incredible food. Jego has fun cooking and his attitude is reflected in his staff. Personally, I love the atmosphere, but you have to get into it. The menu is a great bargain and last time I was there the chef threw in an extra course of superb sauteed scampi. I can still taste the rice pudding!

                    1. re: globalgourmet

                      For pure seafood enjoyment I love La Caguille on the Left Bank. Atmosphere can be a little bland, as it is a hangout for businessmen and politicos. Just go for the shellfish and starters, skip the main courses which can be boring. The oysters and mussels are as good as it gets.

                      They also have a incredible cognac collection.

                    2. re: souphie

                      What about Le Comptoir? Does it compare?

                      1. re: souphie

                        Souphie, I am interested in many of the commetns you make on Chow hound, so i wonder if i can trouble you to consider my restaurant choices. I am a very passionate foodie, but travelling with my 12 year old son. The trip is about him and a bonding experience, so i dont want to bore him with food (though if eh gets steak and chips and we can be out of a restaurant in 90 minuts max he will be happy. The places i am contemplating in paris are L'entrecote, Passage53, chez Francis, Wepler (before a show at the moulin Rouge) and Ami Louisthen in Avignon, Christiean Etienne and La Fourchette, then Oustau de Baumaniere (we have an open night at Les Baux...any suggestions, and finally the restaurant at Le Castellas in Provence. I would be thrilled to hear any alternatives you would suggest

                    3. Hi everyone,

                      We had our lunch at L'Ami Jean a few days ago and I don't think the restaurant was the right choice for us or at least for me. Unfortunately, the only seafood options they had were uncooked fish and eating raw fish makes me sick to the point that my stomach spasms. I had hard time swallowing the food let alone enjoy them. Of course, this has everything/ to do with my personal preferences and no fault of the restaurant. Service was good and the rice pudding was indeed delicious but I don't think I'd return just for the dessert.

                      We ate out at several other places including L'Ecailler du Bistrot (simple and tasty food; service was flawless) but nothing really stood out in anyway. We did return to all of our old favorites "ethnic" restaurants but for us, the best foodie experience was going to the market and preparing simple dinner at home.

                      The most disappointing part of the week though was not finding a good bakery and we tried really hard. We usually go to Kayser since it's around the corner from where we stay but he thinks they are not that much above average. So, we sked friends & family who live in Paris, we asked clerks at the cheese store where they shop for bread, we checked blogs, and we tried random spots but we never found anything we truly loved. :( Maybe we'll have better luck next time around.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: kikisakura

                        I'm surprised to read that some didn't have a great meal L'Ami Jean! Sure it's hectic in there however just walking into that place you know that's what to expect...our waiter was very helpful and gave us great service...maybe some took their pace as impatient? The owner was there and he spoke with us briefly while we sat at our table and he at the counter - couldn't have been nicer. The bone marrow was the best I have ever eaten! The wild boar was wonderful as well.. (I write this fully aware that not everyone eats these things)The only thing for me was that the rice pudding isn't as great as they say it is, I only ordered that instead of my usual chocolate dessert because our waiter insisted it was "the best i would ever eat"... well, it wasn't but who cares the meal was outstanding!

                        1. re: kikisakura

                          Did you check my map of bakeries and not find what you were looking for? Damn!


                          1. re: kikisakura

                            CAn you tell us what your bill ended up being? I know you said the only fish they had was raw but did they have vegetarian options as well?

                            1. re: Ilovegoodfoodandwine

                              Sorry for the late reply.

                              Our bill was around 110 euros including a bottle of wine, I think.

                              I don't remember any vegetarian options offered that day and given that CAJ serves Basque cuisine, it really isn't a good fit for vegetarians, IMHO. They use meat bits even in their seafood dishes. It was easier to find something for me to eat at the Museum of Ham in Madrid, Spain. Kinda funny but true!

                              I was in Paris a week ago and I managed to find a very good Lebanese cafe right outside the Odeon metro station that serves many vegetarian dishes. We had some cheese puffs, a vegetarian platter, and two glasses of wine for 23 euros. The complimentary desserts that came with out bill was very tasty too. Of course, I forgot to write down the name but it's right outside the metro.

                              Souphie, thank you for the link. We will give places on your list including Des Gâteaux et du Pain a try when I return to Paris for a longer stay in April.

                              1. re: kikisakura

                                Is Chez L'ami Jean open for lunch?

                                1. re: sethd

                                  Yup, ate there with Souphie once and shared a cote du veau that was memorable. Have eaten lunch there 10 times or so and actually prefer it to dinner.

                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    Yes -- Cote de veau is extraordinary and lunch is more relaxed, less packed than dinner. Not to mention the excellent company.

                          2. I ate there for the first time last night (Mar 11) and was thoroughly disappointed. Had the menu -- the provençal entrée (a sort of ratatouille), the duck, and then the rice pudding. The entrée was nothing special and the duck, while a generous portion, seemed indifferently cooked and committed the ultimate sin of reminding you, with each bite, that you were eating a piece of dead, bloody meat. Couldn't finish it.

                            The rice pudding was OK. My wife had the ris de veau and said it was OK, but not worth going back for.

                            After all the hype about this restaurant, including the rave reviews on this board, it was a major disappointment. Maybe it was just a bad night. But maybe not.

                            27 Replies
                            1. re: rjkaneda

                              "Dead, bloody meat"? Interesting expression... I ate dinner there once, and my fish was a bit undercooked around the bones; it didn't bother me as much as the chaotic and crowded ambience, but did leave me wondering whether they really had time to cook things properly when serving so many customers.

                              1. re: fanoffrance

                                "Dead, bloody meat" -- not a very appetizing image, is it? Neither was the duck.

                                1. re: rjkaneda

                                  Had a raw duck through a press in Brussels at a Michelin *** and it was dreadful. If you do not like your poultry saignant, ask for it a point and it will come medium rare. CLAJ do cook their birds and especially the palombe and perdrix quite rare. The way the French like it. Sorry you did not, but l do love the place and eat there more than any other in Paris and have for the last two years. If you deem to return try their Fois gras for two or the afforementioned cotes de veau for two. l thought the rice pudding was just ok as well, but one is enough for four. Thus one orders a prix fixe and usually the rest of us order a la carte.

                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    Believe me, I asked for it a point. I'm hoping it was just an off-night. But it was off enough that I won't be eager to go back and give it a second chance.

                                    1. re: rjkaneda

                                      Huh, it's interesting to me that both of you thought that the rice pudding was only okay since we thought it was delicious. We didn't know that it was their signature dessert but he ordered it since his Norman grandmother used to make it for him all the time and since her passing, he hasn't had it very often.

                                      I was not a happy camper at that point since I couldn't eat anything except for the bread and I was thinking we needed to head to Marais for a falafel sandwich but the rice pudding saved the day. It almost redeemed the the entire meal for me and I don't even like rice puddings. He also thought it was almost as good as his grandmother's and was the only dish he enjoyed out of the entire meal (and he ate both his and my dishes for the first 2 courses).

                                      1. re: kikisakura

                                        l am just used to an American or English rice custard type not one with whipped cream folded in. It was not bad, just not what l like in a rice pudding. Like the fact that it is served each time with different accompaniments, sometimes dried fruits, sometimes little madelaines, sometimes a super chocolate caramel, and many others

                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                          Here in Norway the traditional rice pudding is similar to that served at CLAJ, but usually served with cherry or raspberry sauce.

                                          1. re: fanoffrance

                                            They often serve it the Basque way, which is also with a not overly sweet cherry preserve

                              2. re: rjkaneda

                                If you're offended by the sight of "dead, bloody meat," maybe France isn't the right place? French meat tends to be underdone. Even "à point" isn't always going to be the satisfaction of someone who eats red meat well done.

                                1. re: tjr

                                  I think the "dead, bloody meat" is meant more to be an indication of the dish's lack of appeal, n'est-ce pas? I don't think the poster was implying he liked his red meat well done -- otherwise he would have ordered bien cuit.

                                  After reading the raves on this board I also ate at L'Ami Jean a few weeks ago -- I enjoyed my meal (soft egg, followed by lamb), but thought the first course was outstanding and the second course good, but not great. My husband disliked his meal altogether (escargots, pork). I think there's a lot of creativity and attention at L'Ami Jean -- but it depends on who's cooking your food. All places have off nights and off dishes. For me, consistency (or lack of) is definitely a factor at this place.

                                  We had the rice pudding as well and it was very good.

                                  1. re: Cookingthebooks

                                    Your interpretation by what I meant by "dead, bloody meat" is correct. I have lived in Paris during three different stretches (1987-89, 1997-01, 2004-present) and I am familiar with French cooking practices and the range of ways that meat can be cooked here. It can happen anywhere, but to me nothing is worse than a piece of meat that, when served, looks, tastes, smells, and feels like a piece of "dead, bloody meat." The whole purpose of cooking meat is to transform it from that into something appetizing. Unfortunately, Chez l'Ami Jean failed to do that, and I was very disappointed at its failure.

                                    1. re: rjkaneda

                                      we live quite close by and we ate there last night Mar 12. we have read on this and other boards how wonderful the place is but we have to agree with rkkaneda 100% that the meals we had were FAR from exceptional or even better than good. yes, the prices on the fixed menu are attractive and the presentations pretty (lots of green foam on one dish) but the food was not especially well seasoned or cooked and the chocolate dessert was not good at all. I had a bland squid dish, followed by a fiar mullet fish dish. my companion had a cod dish that was equally "ok". the rice pudding is very large and not bad at all. nothing except the choclate dessert was bad but nothing was worthy of the praise this place receives.

                                      1. re: mdplau

                                        With at least three people saying they were not happy, perhaps something has changed. Was there last in late fall. Souphie when you return to Paris please give it a shot and let me know your opinion, Thanks

                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                          This was my number one choice for my upcoming trip - now I'm rethinking - very sad if it has lost what it had...

                                          1. re: Savourer

                                            Believe me, I was very disappointed. We had been looking forward to trying the place for quite a while, but hadn't because it's located in a neighborhood rather inconvenient for us coming from work. But the other night worked out logistically. It was frankly not an enjoyable experience, and we honestly would have been better off with steak-frites from any generic corner cafe.

                                          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            You bet I will -- this week maybe. Anyone else is game?

                                            1. re: souphie

                                              Let me know your report please, did not know you were back in Paris already.

                                              1. re: souphie

                                                I'm game, for lunch maybe? annmmah@yahoo.com

                                                1. re: Cookingthebooks

                                                  We ADORED L'Ami Jean. My starter was described as scallops and herring with an egg. At least that is how my translation worked. What showed up on my plate was raw, sashimi grade scallops sliced paper thin, covered by a warm, eggy emulsion redolent of fish and topped with a green, basil-y foam. Kill me at the frst course. Husband had escargot grilled with sun dried tomatoes and teeny weeny potatoes in a mascarpone cream sauce. It was amazing.
                                                  Husband's main course was braised rabbit with red wine and Parma ham, which was fall-off-the-bone fabulous. The vegetables were served in glass jars; one filled with puree of potatoes, the other with pureed cauliflower and salsify. Stupid good. My main was grilled duck foie gras with grilled Granny Smith apples in a small pool of butter and balsamic vinegar. Yeah, baby.


                                                  Rice pudding. But not just any rice pudding - rice pudding you would be proud to drown in. Heady with vanilla, custardy beyond measure - and served with a glass of slightly burnt caramel meringue to slip across the top of the bowl. I would have done serious damage to anyone who tried to take this away from me. They gave us a box of homemade marshmallows to take away, but neither of us had the energy to try them till the next day.
                                                  Loved it, loved it, loved it.

                                                  1. re: radiogrl1

                                                    Did the rabbit come with a cooked to eat with a spoon leg quarter and the loin was virtually raw and like butter? One time they saw me lusting over someone's scallops and gave me an order on the house.

                                                    1. re: radiogrl1

                                                      radiogrl1: When did you eat there?

                                                      1. re: rjkaneda

                                                        rjkaneda: I ate there on February 26th of this year.

                                                        1. re: radiogrl1

                                                          OK, merci. Glad your experience was better than mine.

                                                          I'm beginning to think I was there on an exceptionally bad day. But if that's the case, there seem to be a number of "bad days" recently, judging by some of the other posts..

                                                2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  I ate there twice in January and the chef was in top form and the dishes astounding. Frankly I wish people would say the place is no longer on the A list so they would stay away and I can get a reservation easier next time around ;-).

                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                    I was thrilled with my meal in mid-February. I had the sardine appetizer - a boned and filleted sardine, layered with crisp pastry leaves, crisped prosciutto, and sauteed mushrooms, topped with dehydrated chioggia beets and resting on more sauteed mushroom and a bit of black truffle. It was fantastic. My second course was perfectly cooked cod, topped with an excellent raw oyster and a bit of herring roe, bathed in a brown butter foam and finished with a brown butter sauce. It was also outstanding.

                                                    My dessert was just ok, but I purposely chose the lightest sounding one, because I'd eaten so much that day - I had the pineapple and olive oil "gazpacho" with vanilla ice cream - it wasn't brilliant, but it was a satisfying conclusion to the meal.

                                                    Anyway, I thought the meal was a phenomenal value, and I definitely want to go back.

                                                3. re: rjkaneda

                                                  Geez, why didn't you just send the dish back to be cooked more if you hated it that much? Surely that would have been easier than choking down a raw corpse.

                                                  1. re: Bill Strzempek

                                                    Maybe I should have. I'm generally not one to send dishes back. It's perhaps a practice I should more readily adopt.

                                                    Of course dishes shouldn't come out that way in the first place at an A list establishment.

                                                    I'm very glad others enjoyed their experiences there. But it seems as if several of us didn't.

                                          3. Spent 2 months reading these reviews and after a lot of work decided to book at L'ami Jean. Was really looking forward to it and booked in March for a May 16th dinner. Was asked to confirm when we arrived in Paris. Had our concierge call - NO RESERVATION - they were very rude and said that we made it up. Very disappointed after alllthe great reviews from Chowhounders - what kind of a restaurant does that? A bad one! Chez Denise on the other hand was fantastic! Great fun and great food!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Savourer

                                              Could your concierge have mixed it up with "Chez Jean", another restaurant in the 9th?

                                              1. re: Theobroma

                                                Sadly no - I gave him the phone number - he said that Chez l'Ami Jean has done the same thing with a number of his guests.

                                            2. Souphie, I am interested in many of the commetns you make on Chow hound, so i wonder if i can trouble you to consider my restaurant choices. I am a very passionate foodie, but travelling with my 12 year old son. The trip is about him and a bonding experience, so i dont want to bore him with food (though if eh gets steak and chips and we can be out of a restaurant in 90 minuts max he will be happy. The places i am contemplating in paris are L'entrecote, Passage53, chez Francis, Wepler (before a show at the moulin Rouge) and Ami Louisthen in Avignon, Christiean Etienne and La Fourchette, then Oustau de Baumaniere (we have an open night at Les Baux...any suggestions, and finally the restaurant at Le Castellas in Provence. I would be thrilled to hear any alternatives you would suggest

                                              1. . . . and a few more questions from another Hound interested in CAJ:

                                                1. How far in advance must one reserve for dinner?

                                                2. Are dinner reservations accepted for any reasonable hour (by Parisian standards)? Or are there specific seatings?

                                                3. Once seated, is the table ours for the night? Or will the staff hurry us in order to turn the table?

                                                Many thanks!

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: bill1jan

                                                  Bill - Last fall I tried to reserve one week in advance, for a weeknight. I was offered a table at 5:30, and told that we would need to be out by 7:00. Needless to say, we ate elsewhere. Perhaps if I had called a month in advance ...

                                                  1. re: masha

                                                    When l eat a meal there, l make my next reservation at the restaurant at that time, never had a problem, whether a few days or a week or two in advance. Guess they get a lot of no shows, thus they get burnt as well.

                                                  2. re: bill1jan

                                                    1. One month (but you often can have a table on much shorter notice)
                                                    2. Yes
                                                    3. No (unless you come late, say after 10)

                                                    1. re: bill1jan

                                                      I was there a couple days ago and they said 10 days advance was their average booking. They had seatings from 7 to 11:30pm (this was a Friday). I was there around 6:30ish trying to scoop a table and the staff was having dinner and finishing their setup for the evening.

                                                    2. L'Epi Dupin is terrific--very crowded, but terrific!

                                                      1. I had lunch at l'ami Jean today and just want to mention:
                                                        -food was very good (incl. the humongous riz au lait)
                                                        -entrée+plat+desert was EUR35
                                                        -my french is still basic so I asked for some translation help (only the daily specials and the a la carte were mentioned and I was on my own to locate the EUR35 menu which thought was a bit petty)

                                                        28 Replies
                                                        1. re: _KRS_

                                                          Don't worry: I'm French and don't understand L'Ami Jean's menus either!

                                                          1. re: _KRS_

                                                            It is interesting they put the one prix fixe they offer on the last page of the menu just before the wine and put very little labeling on the page., if you did not know you would not know.

                                                              1. re: dietndesire

                                                                me too! ill be there on 10/27, very excited!

                                                                1. re: imn204

                                                                  Sorry to miss you, be there on the 24th and 31st

                                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                    dcm- i will be there with my mother on the 31. We have a late reservation as we will be coming from the opera. Will we see you??

                                                                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                        Dinner on 10/30. Hoping the pumpkin soup I had last year will be on the menu again.

                                                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                      I'll be thre on 24th too, 9pm. Nearly forgot !

                                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                                        As will l, male with round black glasses, with another male.

                                                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                          Female, Asian, with 7 other happy diners whooping it up.

                                                                      2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                        That's a lot of y'all who would be dining at CAJ pretty soon. If you don't mind, please report back especially if you are having the 35 euro menu. :)

                                                                        I haven't ruled out this restaurant completely for myself and I'd be in and out of Paris for the rest of the month and probably November as well so I am thinking of going back for lunch.

                                                                        1. re: kikisakura

                                                                          One of us had 35€ menu tonight, and l the other, said no longer will l do a la carte as prix fixe was better in all ways. Meal was lovely, Stephane even comped us a course. Riz au lait was better than ever and cochon au lait was wonderful. As an aside he has wagyu 'ham' that was very interesting and very good cornichon.

                                                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                            I had just about an identical experience tonight. Since there were 8 of us, the chef suggested we have the 35 euro dégustation menu which he does for groups of 6 or more.
                                                                            The bar de ligne was perfection of tenderness, yet with crispy skin. Does the chef do the Chinese trick of pouring hot oil on the fish in the end?
                                                                            The riz au lait ! I was getting ready to take off all my clothes to roll on top of it when a gentleman with round glasses at the next table waved at me. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's a hound !

                                                                            1. re: Parigi

                                                                              Sorry l waved, would have loved the nude riz au lait rolling around.

                                                                                1. re: souphie

                                                                                  So- I suppose I should go eat there then, when I come to Paris in December.
                                                                                  I can't wait!

                                                                                  1. re: Sophia Liberty

                                                                                    Am I the only person who's had uneven experiences here and found the cheek-to-jowl seating oppressive? If so, I'll go quietly off stage.

                                                                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                      Not at all - "uneven" is an apt descriptor here. I don't mind the seating (adds to the fun, actually), but had a not-so-good meal here recently. Enjoyed the riz au lait and pommes purée, but my entrée and plat - both specials - were each memorably not good. The service was terrific, however, and I would consider returning to try dishes on the regular menu (but given the list of recommended spots I've yet to try, am in no rush.)

                                                                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                        Don't go off stage and don't be quiet! But I think you're the only one who went several times and don't think it's an exceptional place. As for the cheek-to-jowl seating, I do find it oppressive after a while and if my neighbours are not nice, which is why I only ever go for late lunches, when the room clears up after 2.

                                                                                        1. re: souphie

                                                                                          It's funny/strange Soup, just last September I concluded about CAJ:
                                                                                          "Should you go? I think this is an ideal place to send 1st time visitors; good chow, authentic surroundings and nice staff." But before that I had two off meals. So why haven't I been back? ?Because of an anti-George Leigh Mallory attitude - Because there's so much else there? I dunno.

                                                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                            This is one of those threads that get so long that I don't know where to attach my reply.
                                                                                            I don't find the crowded "oppressive", possibly because I was born in a mega Asian city where lack of space is a given. I do notice that if i go with good friends, I don't even notice the lack of space, because it's ok for us to be touching each other. If I go with friends whom I don't know well, yes I feel uncomfortable for my friends. Uncomfortable, not oppressive.
                                                                                            And very luckily I never had an off night there. In fact I consider it one of the most reliable good eateries from which I can walk home. -- O yes walking home is an important extension of pleasure after a good meal.

                                                                                        2. re: John Talbott

                                                                                          Hi John, I second you on the cheek-to-jowl oppression and I will raise you a very-rushed-service. I never found the 35 euro menu. Still, I would go back, because the food was so good, but my very French SO (who adores rice pudding BTW) is more hesitant. He liked the rice pudding (how could you not love that creaminess) but he found it lacking in rice-y-ness. Recently enjoyed a rice pudding made with Valencian Bomba rice (usually used in paella and illegally delicious) in Napa that was TDF, very creamy with a bit of internal rice crunch.

                                                                                          1. re: chickenluv

                                                                                            Thanks to you all for the enjoyable and educational posts! You've made it so easy for me to choose, I feel like I'm cheating. You've saved me hours of nail-biting research... now I just have to call in hopes of securing a reservation for Christmas Eve dinner at Chez L'Ami Jean. (I realize some could have read this thread and come away with the opposite response, but your descriptions of the food have won me over.) If I find out that they are not open on the 24th, I'll be back to scour the boards for a good alternative. Thanks, all!

                                                                                            1. re: emileat

                                                                                              You'll be back to scour the boards for a good alternative, and it will be very difficult. Just finding something good and affordable and open that day will be very difficuly. Why don't you come home instead?

                                                                                              1. re: souphie

                                                                                                You know, having examined this long thread on several occasions I really had to have doubts as to whether our recent chowhound expedition to Chez L'Ami Jean would end in some sort of disappointment. Instead as hoped and suspected we had a terrific and memorable meal. The 35 E menu is a great Paris bargain given the quality of the food (I had in addition to the prix fixe, an amazing plate of chorrizo to start, then a very good shaved tongue and scallop entree--but it was the rabbit main course that was truly outstanding, and the cult status of the riz au lait is fully deserved). Excellent Basque bottle of red for 30 E. Isn't it the level of the food that is central to the chowhound ethic, far more important than whether the tables are a bit close together? But for the record I, for one, really liked the atmosphere.

                                                                                                1. re: mdavidf

                                                                                                  Ditto. My main course consisted of several styles of pork, all bursting with flavor. The tenderloin even had a hint of chorizo. I don't know how the chef managed that but it was certainly magical. My starter was less exciting, as I opted for seasonal veggies (should have gone with the tongue, like my dining companion above). I guess one should never opt for healthy in a Basque resto! Anyway, once I got through the snooze fest of veggies I discovered an amazing brown sauce underneath. It was killer. I was about to spend the next 10 minutes soaking my bread in it when the server came and took my plate away. This was my problem throughout the meal: feeling rushed. I could see the server peaking at me, checking to see if I'd finished or not. She even attempted to remove our platter of chorizo before we'd polished it off. With a 10 pm seating, and no-one waiting for our table, I didn't understand what the rush was. This was my only complaint, and once dessert arrived all negativity was forgotten. The legendary riz au lait will certainly burn in my memory for quite a while. It came with the most amazing salted caramel sauce. How can you not love that? It is with both shame and pride that I say that mdavidf and I finished the bowl of riz au lait (for 2, mind you) to the very last morsel. Needless to say I skipped both breakfast and lunch the next day. I will definitely go back, but maybe this time I'll try a late lunch, as others have suggested.