HOME > Chowhound > France >
Nov 17, 2009 07:10 AM

L'Ami Jean alternative

Have upcoming reservation for party of 2 at L'Ami Jean but could only get 7 pm. Due to some other plans this is not a very convenient time for us to dine. Would you be able to suggest alternatives with similar menu and price; most importantly that might have an opening this week during the popular 8-8:30 pm time slot . Prefer 6th, 7th, 8th. Staying in the 8th. Will travel to eat for right place.

Thank you!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. La Régalade, of course!
    The reason why I always reply this to a question with the word "restaurant" in it is because, it's always good, often excellent, sometimes fantastic, and always fun. That is, if you like hearty food in a noisy and cramped setting.

    By the way, people sometimes complain about the service there, but I don't find it that bad at all. 6 dinners there, almost always on Friday nights, it was really speedy and not really caring only once.

    Only problems are, it's in the far 14th, which is not convenient for you, and it may well be already full for this week.

    1 Reply
    1. re: olivierb

      La Regalade was wonderful when I first had the pleasure of eating there last year. I do remember the trek to get there from the hotel, which is the same one I'm staying at this time. I'd like to stay a little closer to the central area due to the person who will be joining me. I will plan to return to La Regalade next time I am in Paris.

    2. La Régalade indeed is the logical alternative to CAJ, only less central. For more traditional high quality bistrots, also closer, your options include La Fontaine de Mars, Joséphine Chez Dumonet, Chez Denise, Le Quincy... Assuming you're not aiming for a saturday or a sunday.

      7 Replies
      1. re: souphie

        Hi Souphie, I have the same question as the OP (alternative to CAJ), but I am looking for a Saturday (next week, so I don't have very advanced notice) so it's a no go at Regalade, etc.. Any suggestions? Thanks!

        1. re: chickenluv

          Well then your choice is significantly more limited. I'm not aware of any place with food as good and prices as low open on sat. Christophe is almost as good as CAJ but doesn't have the same ambiance. John's propositions downthread are good.

          Cristal de sel is open on saturdays. I'd add it to the list.

          1. re: souphie

            Please elaborate on "doesn't have the same ambiance". I checked out the menu online and it looks great. Is it less/more noisy, less/more casual? Thank you!

            1. re: chickenluv

              L'Ami Jean is crowded and lively and somewhat claustrophobic and you usually end up talking with your neighbours. Same kind of thing at La Régalade. By contrast, the ambiance at Christophe is very quiet, yellow, tables are distant, in cold black marble. Yesterday night again on the Place de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève it was party all over and Christophe looked like they were mourning or something. But if you bring your good humor, the food is really excellent.

              See pics from Christophe at http://picasaweb.google.fr/ZeJulot/Ch...

            2. re: souphie

              Just for the record... and to add some updated reports...

              Went to Cristal de Sel (it was near Port de Versailles and our friends were coming from the Salon Nautique, so it as convenient). They loved it. I thought it was good all around. My SO and I had for apps: the quail with pleurottes and the Pastilla of Colvert. I must be honest and say the apps didn't blow me away. I loved the 'shrooms but the quail was a bit chewy for my taste (too cooked?) and tasted a little off (yup, too cooked). The Colvert was better, but also a bit overdone, just a bit closer to medium-well as opposed to rose. Our apps were very good. I did langoustines and my SO did the steak special (Simenthal, I believe it was denoted, which is a breed if I am not mistaken?). The steak was to die for delicious and the langoustines perfectly cooked and tasty. Desert was pot de creme au chocolat. The mistake was ordering one each because these were more like cauldrons de creme as opposed to pot. They were delicious, intense and happily delivered more chocolate than sugar. I only got through half, but it was oh-so-tasty. They arrived with delicious salty chocolate cookies and some (praline?) cream on the side.

              Last night we headed to Cristophe with the in-laws. in a word: wow.

              We came in at 7:30 an the place was empty. It was indeed a bit more somber, but we didn't mind the quiet (I like quiet in general). The locals all streamed in at 8:30/9:00 and filled up the place as we were heading into desert. The food was indeed wonderful. I wanted to order the entire menu. The langoustine starters were crispy and perfectly seasoned (encased in brick with a basil leaf). The pork starter is less clear in my memory, but equally delicious. The plats shone. The lamb my father-in-law had was epic (gigot), cooking: ideal, product: without reproach. The ris-de-veau I had were super brown and crispy outside (not breaded (never breaded!), just sauteed), and soft and pillow-y on the inside. The other two mains were a bone-picking tasty sole with risotto (so-so risotto, not surprised, we *are* in France) and a surprisingly perfect echine of pork (surprising because it was cooked medium) which even my mother-in-law, who never eats pork that is not well done, loved. We each had one of the 4 deserts and each was great- especially the ubiquitous molten chocolate gateau which cristophe managed to make his own. We will be back. Several times.

              1. re: chickenluv

                Christophe sounds amazing. Does anyone know if it will be open on January 1 - 3?

                1. re: kfoster21

                  Most probably, but it's usually closed on wednesdays and thursdays. Check their website at www.christopherestaurant.fr

        2. How about Le Troquet (21 rue Francois-Bonvin 15eme), it is approx a 10 minute cab ride from CAJ just over the border in the 15eme. It is more Basque than CAJ and a little less crowded, they do do two sittings a night, but you don't feel rushed. they do a range of good set menu's. Booking essential.

          16 Replies
          1. re: PhilD

            I think Le Troquet was never as good as CAJ and Régalade, and it's been going quietly downhill since Etchebest turned into a TV star. In general, I would say there are many bistronomiques in the 15th (such as L'Os à Moelle, Le Beurre Noisette, Le Cristal de Sel, Jadis), none of them quit as good as CAJ or Régalade. Actually, the other bistronomique in the same street as CAJ is not bad either -- L'affriolé.

            1. re: souphie

              Been to L'Os à Moëlle twice. You get one more course than with the comparable prix-fixe menu at CAJ or La Régalade, but that amounts to less food that is, overall, less good.
              I don't understand the love. And I'm probably not the only one: last time I went, every other restaurant in town was fully booked, and there were only 4 parties of people (including us) at l'Os à Moëlle...
              It's not bad, but there are so much better options in Paris.

              In the 6th, l'Epigramme is nice (at least was before the NYT article, but it seems to have kept up delivering good food, unlike some other restaurants).

              1. re: souphie

                Re: Le Troquet, I agree it wasn't as good as CAJ, but it was nice not to rushed.

                I am intrigued it is never mentioned on the board, it used to be "on the circuit", and Le Fooding still seems to rate it. Has anyone actually been recently?

                1. re: PhilD

                  I've worked rue Bonvin until last June. That's when I last went. It just wasn't worth it, and Etchebest had an attitude.

                  1. re: souphie

                    "Le Troquet, ........ Has anyone actually been recently?"

                    No, not in two years, but I love his #2, La Cantine du Troquet, where he's often found on weekends with family at the big table by the cuisine.

                    I should probably post this on another thread, but I'm a sole holdout who thinks Regalade under Bruno has not found its/his tiller.

                    As for "I am looking for a Saturday (next week, so I don't have very advanced notice) " I'd suggest:

                    Le Reminet
                    3, rue des Grands-Degres, 5th (Metro : St Michel, Maubert-Mutualite)
                    T :
                    Open 7/7
                    Lunch menu 13.50 €, dinner a la carte 40-60 €.

                    Le Gaigne
                    12, rue Pecquay, 4th (Metro: Rambuteau)
                    Closed Tuesday – thus open Saturday, Sunday on Mondays
                    Menus at 16 and 22 €

                    Le Repaire de Cartouche (despite all the neg stuff upriver)
                    8 blvd des Filles du Calvaire, 11th (Metro : Filles du Calvaire)
                    T :
                    Closed Sundays and Mondays
                    Lunch menus 13 & 24 €, a la carte 35-45 €.

                    15, rue Desnouettes, 15th, (Metro: Convention)
                    Closed Sunday and Monday lunch
                    Lunch menu 22-26, a la carte 35-45 €

                    John Talbott

                    1. re: souphie

                      "Etchebest had an attitude."
                      Soup: We have to talk sometime about this. I liked him so much at Casimir and when he went east something happened. Very strange.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Etchebest was at Casimir? Didn't know that.

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          Sorry (or happy) to revive an old thread, but the meal I had last night at La Cantine du Troquet was one of the best I had in Paris this year. By far.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            Pti, do you mind sharing what your ordered? And so enjoyed? Including your usually quite clever wine choice?


                            1. re: Ptipois

                              And to say that after the meal recently at Jean is very impressive.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                Yes, but the food is prepared in a very different style. The two places cannot be compared. Etchebest's food is very Basque, and lighter than CAJ's.

                                Everything looked yummy and I nearly ordered the beautiful white plump leeks (dotted with diced fresh tomato and olive vinaigrette) but since eggs mayonnaise were on the slate I fell for them.

                                Appetizers were spectacular. I had the œufs mayo, halved eggs on a bed of seasoned shredded carrots, a dish of very assertive mayonnaise on the side. Very good. Ben's order made me very jealous: it was a brilliant dish. Fricassée d'escargots: snails, diced chorizo, red bell pepper, tomato, piment d'Espelette, capers, chopped olives. Really I describe it as 2-star food.
                                Then Ben had roasted Landes chicken which was absolutely perfect, only he was sorry he hadn't specified a leg (the chicken is roasted whole and carved before serving) but that's a thing to remember for next time. Perfect quality chicken, beautifully roasted, wonderful thick jus, crispy skin, and so much cheaper than L'Ami Louis (and kinder service too, and no risk of having A.A. Gill sitting anywhere near you).
                                I had barbue à la plancha which was probably the most perfect piece of fish I've had in a restaurant since my last lunch at Le Divellec: tender and flaky, not overdone, crispy caramelized skin. Served with a basquaise of tomatoes and peppers which was so good that we asked for a refill.
                                Ben's chocolate tart was light and delicate, not cloying or dense as they usually are, and served with a few thin slices of fresh pineapple. My fromage blanc with black cherry jam was just that, but I did not feel like having a substantial dessert.
                                Ben did not have wine but I had a glass of white Bandol which truly delivered.
                                32 euros per person.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  I should add this, in case you don't know:

                                  You do not book at La Cantine du Troquet. You show up early (7:30 should do it), wait to be seated, and drink a glass of wine waiting for diners to leave their table. First arrived, first served. You do not read a menu but stand up to read the big chalkboard and order from that. Basically it's you sit down, you eat, you leave. The food is well worth it.

                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                    Thanks, I've added it to my list. Do you mean there's no chance of a late dinner there (say, 10 p.m.)?

                                  2. re: Ptipois

                                    I am glad it is good - I always enjoyed his (Etchebest) and was disappointed that others, in response to my suggestion up-thread, had said he had gone down hill. Are his two restaurant very different?

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      @PhilD: I have never been to the other restaurant but what I got on my plates at La Cantine really bore the mark of a real cook and chef.

                                      @fanoffrance: I would take a chance. Some people finish eating toward that time. Take it easy, have a glass and wait for a table to clear. It is open until 10:45 and nonstop noon to 11 Saturday and Sunday.

                        2. re: souphie

                          When did Etchebest take the helm? Was he always the chef here? I remember several sweet and very inexpensive evenings here some years ago, late '90s I believe. For what they were, dishes were rather good although one could tell by the ingredients that recipes were chosen to keep the tab down. The last time we went there was in 2001 and the place had been spiffed up, the staff smartened, prices raised although there was still no use of expensive ingredients. But the ambiance of the place had changed to one of "you are so lucky to be dining here...and can you eat a little faster, please". We never returned.

                      2. Skip L'Ami Jean if your are looking for good beef burgandy. Mine was fatty. Try Chez George near Place Victories on Rue de Mail or Bonfinger near the Bastille