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Feb 17, 2011 10:49 PM

Chez l'ami Jean: Feb 2011

We have a reservation here tonight.

I was perusing the reviews on this board this morning, some good, some very poor, all of them from mid-2010.

How is CAJ these days? Must we order the prix fixe (which seems to get the poor reviews) or can we order the tasting or a la carte? We are tourists (with just a smattering of French), not regulars, and there is no way around that, but I would rather try somewhere else if we are going to have the poor experience others have commented on.


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  1. Order the big pieces of meat or fish à la carte. Preferrably the ones on the chalkboard. Forget prixfixe and forget tasting. You'll have a great time.

    1 Reply
    1. Please report back! I'd love to hear a new review as well, as I've made a reservation here for March!

      1. Please do share how your meal was! My husband and I have a reservation for next Friday night and are in similar shoes as you.

        I hope it was great!

        21 Replies
        1. re: JacquieLH

          I am going to do a longer post once we are back to Toronto with more of our Paris dining experiences, but here goes for Chez L'ami Jean, in response to the above requests.

          On the advice of Souphie, we decided to forgo the prix fixe and ordered from the “chalk board” (a clip board of specials presented alongside the regular menus). The price was twice as much as the prix fixe but, for us, well worth it. (We saw the prix fixes beside us, to the left and right, and they looked just fine but not inspired like the meals we had from the chalkboard).

          This is a bustling, fun, packed restaurant. We were seated one seat over from the kitchen so were able to see chef expedite all evening long. The service was efficient and very good.

          On the table, shortly after we sat down, bread with artichoke spread. Very tasty.

          The two of us shared a starter of Wagyu beef, served rare. The meat appeared to be a skirt cut. The beef was incredibly flavourful. It was served with coquille St. Jacques & battered and deep fried (perfectly cooked) langoustines.

          An extra from the chef while we waited for our mains: beef gelee with foie, and bone marrow on top, served with delicious buttery toasts. Outstanding.

          For the main course, I had the roasted pigeon, served medium. It arrived in a large crock, and was served table side. The crock stayed on the table on a wooden board. The crock held a large pigeon -- roasted and chopped into pieces with carrots, turnips and some marrow – in its cooking juices. The pot contained the carcass of the pigeon (after it had been carved), and the pigeon’s head, split open for easy access to the brains. Beautiful presentation. Delicious, delicious, delicious.

          My partner had roasted duck breast. It was an enormous piece of meat, served medium rare. The duck was extremely flavourful although slightly tough. It was served with large wedges of turnip.

          And a pot of buttery mashed potatoes for the table.

          For dessert we enjoyed the famous and enormous rice pudding – very creamy and rich, with a bit of honey on top, and served with sides of salted caramel sauce and crumbly granola-type topping. Alongside came a pretty box of six flavoured meringues, for good measure.

          We each had an espresso (served with a small dish of chocolate-covered and cocoa-dusted walnuts.

          With our meal we had a bottle of Cotes de Rhone recommended by the waiter. After dinner, two glasses of sweet wine (pronounced by chef to be better than a sauterne).

          We thoroughly enjoyed the food, the service, the atmosphere. Highly recommended.

          162 euros.

          1. re: EarlyDrive

            I have been L'ami Jean 3 times. First 2 times were during last summer and the experience was fantastic because the food was incredible. We had the cote de beouf, lobster, rice pudding, and sausage sampler starter during those 2 visits.

            Last night we went back again and our eyes nearly fell out of their sockets. One of our favorite things at l'ami jean was the cote de beouf. The last 2 times that we went, it was 65 euros for 2 people. Last night the price shot up to 90 euros for 2 people sharing. True the beef was good but not 45 euros per person good. The sausage starter and rice pudding was still the same price and were still fabulous. But the lowest priced main course we could find was 38 euros a plate. Funny thing is, my husband and our friend ordered a veal stew to share and our friend found a pretty big piece of plastic in his stew. We alerted the waitress and she said she was sorry and didn't know how it got there. At the end she didn't charge us for our friend's veal stew and rice pudding.

            But unfortunately, we will never go back to l'ami jean again. We can not believe the place changed so much in a year. The waiters were much more toned down and the noise level definitley went down. But we also noticed that there were quite some empty tables for the second seating. The value and quality are no longer tied together.

            We are now starting to find another favorite place for cote de beouf.

            1. re: Suzen

              Paradoxically, one now has to beware of the Desnoyer mentions, the butcher who provides CAJ with the cote de boeuf since last summer. I agree that, now that it is Desnoyer, the cote de boeuf is not as good as it used to be, and it is indeed 50% more expensive. When they have the Wagyu one for 10 more euro, it's totally worth it. But this cote is not.

              1. re: Suzen

                I think we all need to be prepared for sticker shock in the dining room. With horrendous weather worldwide (which we may find is climatic), grain stocks are sky-rocketing and will affect all matter of farm produce in the long run. Even at home, I (quasi-) joke with my husband that we can no longer afford vegetables, while free-range chicken took a 50cent/lb hike in one week.

                1. re: mangeur

                  With the new butcher/price of the cote de boeuf, can anyone make a comparison as to the cote de boeuf at L'ami Jean versus at L'ami Louis, especially now that the prices are more in line with one another?

                  Also, is it a correct assumption that the Wagyu is for 100 euros for 2 people?

                  I was very much looking forward to enjoying the cote de boeuf at CAJ on my trip at the end of this month and am now rethinking!

                  1. re: bethandben

                    At the Omnivores orgy, I tasted a Wagyu that had marinated in a whiskey-soaked wrap for 50 days, with the wrap changed every 10 days. Tasted both the sautéed and the tartare versions. If chez L'Ami Jean's Wagyu is anything like that, it is totally worth it.

                    I had had Kobe beef in my childhood in HK and relatively recently in California. The Kobe that I tasted as a chld was like biting into heaven, but I admit I could be transcendentally subjective. The Kobe that I tasted in SF east bay was not at all memorable. What's that about?

                    1. re: Parigi

                      The "Kobe" you tasted in San Francisco is NOT Japanese beef, it is American wagyu raised Kobe style.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        We're going to Rome this season.

                    2. re: bethandben

                      The prices are not in line with each other. L'Ami Louis's serving for two is gigantic, at least 50% larger than Chez L'Ami Jean. The price for the cotes in October when last l went was 130 euros for two at Lois, thus much higher. They both use Desnoyers as their butcher.

                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                        Just curious, after doing so much reseach for places to go for the honeymoon, this place seems like it get so many questionable or negative reviews and is not priced competativley, service can be poor - what is the draw here?

                        It seems there are so many other choices in the price range...what do they do that makes them a destination choice to risk the possible bad experience

                        I never really considered it because fo the mixed reviews, but i was just curious as this restaurant seems to be one of the most polarizing

                        1. re: Dapuma

                          As l have said before, l have never been treated less than superbly at L'Ami Louis. They do not recommend wine, that is also your job. Have had the same waiter every time for years. It is my one must go to in Paris. One time l will not be important enough to hold my res, they will toss me. l can live with that.

                          1. re: Dapuma

                            Couple years ago, CLJ was the hottest restaurant in Paris on this board. Some threads have as many as 75 posts. At that times, it seems like just about everyone waived about it. I have not been there in a couple of years. I really like the food then but the cramped quarter and general hyper energy of the place was always a big compromise. Others love the energy and the coziness. Then, they had an excellent 3 course menu for around 32E that was a bargain (though no cote de boeuf or foie gras) with wonderful choices and very good ingredients. From what I have read recently, the prix fixe is not worth ordering and the prices on the a la carte have gone up quite a bit. Maybe the high expectation is difficult to live up to. Most restaurants go through ups and downs; hot restaurants comes and goes. Right now, the hot places are Spring and Frenchie. Like you say, there are so many excellent moderately priced places to eat in Paris, why jump through hoops just to snag a 10pm reservation.

                            1. re: Dapuma

                              "this place seems like it get so many questionable or negative reviews and is not priced competativley, service can be poor - what is the draw here?"

                              I have not had mixed or negative experience there. All my dining experience there has been not just good but memorably excellent.
                              It is one of very few restaurants where the food, the service and the atmosphere enhance the dinner experience to the point that unfunny dining companions seem great fun. (And if you are with fun friends already, you want the table to turn into a magic carpet keeping everyone forever.)
                              Am looking forward to my next time.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                l think he was referring to L'Ami Louis at that point. Bethandben brought that into the thread.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  Thank you for pointing that out. Another confusion between Chez L'Ami Jean and Chez L'Ami Louis. I apologize for not reading more carefully.

                                  1. re: PBSF

                                    Oops, my description was on the other ami - Jean. Haha, DCM could tell by my description that there was confusion.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      My fault for bringing up L'Ami Louis!

                                      1. re: bethandben

                                        Maybe L'Ami Jean is having some growing pains. I noticed that they have L'Ami Jean printed on their plates now. And certainly, they want to expand on their notoriety (good or bad).

                                        I think everyone wants to have the food, ambience, and service to be in line with the price they are paying. As the old saying goes," you always get what you paid for", which is the minimum of what we can all ask for. But with the increase in prices and decrease in service, you get the feeling that you are getting a little bit less than what you paid for.

                                        There are certainly much better places to eat in Paris. But I sure will miss that riz au lait. Too bad the salted caramel comes in whipped foam instead of caramel syrup like before. It was much nicer to drizzle the caramel syrup rather than trying to spread the foam over the riz au lait.

                                        1. re: Suzen

                                          You can add me to the list of Ami Jean fanatics.

                                          To be honest, I'm quite a latecomer as I've only been there once while I lived in Paris. Not that it had been a bad meal, but it was just that La Régalade was more convenient for us. After the original Régalade started sliding in terms of food quality (a bit) and service (a lot) before the opening of the 2nd restaurant, I stopped going.

                                          Now, I've been at L'Ami Jean 3 more times in a half year, and have been positively amazed each and everytime. Food is excellent, and even if the best dishes are to be found on the chalkboard (which is now a sheet of paper...), some items in the set menu are quite good too. Portions are always generous, too.

                                          I must admit I've only been there for dinner once. Service was professional and effective, but not particularly warm or anything. Now, I only go for late lunch, so that I know they won't turn the table once more after us, and I found the front of house to be particularly fun relaxed and still professionnal. Last time I went, we stayed from 1PM to almost 4PM and even though I was worried we were probably testing their patience, we never felt like they wanted us out.

                                          So, from my limited experience at the place, I'd say: go late so that you can linger after your meal, and order conservatively (ie. not the "creative" dishes), preferrably from the chalkboard.
                                          The only two things I like a bit less there are the desserts (excepted the riz au lait and some brioche thingy we had last time) and, indeed, the fact that prices have gone up up up... That said, I've never felt cheated price/quality/quantity-wise.

                                      2. re: Parigi

                                        sorry i was referring to chez L'Ami Jean and i was referencing these two among a few other threads



                                        1. re: Dapuma

                                          I respect John Hound and his opinions without agreeing every time...
                                          Since we are not the congress of a fascist country always voting the same way, of course we will have different opinions. :-)
                                          Personally am sticking to this: