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Dec 23, 2011 07:29 AM

Chez L'ami Jean (revisited)

Chez l'ami Jean

It has been some time since I ate at this old favorite so I approached this meal with some apprehension especially since it seems to be the darling of the board. This was also our first lunch so also interesting to see how different it is from the evening.

First, I much prefer lunch, it was full, but not turning tables like they do in the evening. The atmosphere is more relaxed, and dare I say more French. The first change we notice i in the menu, with a new presentation and style, an ALC, and three menus: a set menu for the day, a tasting menu and the ultimate chefs menu that feeds you until you are full. After severe calorific overload from meals in previous days we go ALC.

Some Pate to start which was OK, but probably the least good of the trip with Au Passage and Frenchie's wine bar being stand-outs. The Parmesan soup though is still outstanding a real classic that is rarely mentioned, its a hearty portion and very moreish. I have a scallop dish from the specials section; here sautéed scallops sit on some raw scallops which in turn sit on a pork confit. A very interesting and well done dish. For mains, I choose the braised hare parmentier, both the meat and potato are gorgeous, although I suspect the potato is mainly butter. Our other main is a mackerel with crispy pancetta, again very fine.

Of course we finish with the rice pudding. It is still very good, but maybe not as good as in my memory. I also think they have downsized the bowl. It's still big but nothing like the mixing bowl of the past. I also note they now have wooden serving spoons - no doubt to discourage double dipping.

With two glasses of champagne (€24) and a bottle of Gigondas (€35) the bill for two comes to €195 and to be honest this is fairly expensive for what it is. OK, it is really good food and I left very full and happy but this is serious money and apart from the cooking, the service and overall ambience really doesn't justify this price point. Remember we didn't try the famed Cote du Bouef or Foie Gras - these are €80 or 90 each! So it is possible to even push this price if you try hard.

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  1. A corollary of your good report, Phil, is that each of us who dines out in Paris with any frequency has a favorite restaurant or two that owns our heart. We love the ambiance, the style of food, the sourcing and cooking, we have favorites on the memorized menu and we have an on-going relationship with the house. While we nod approval to others' favorites, we don't necessarily "get" them to the extent that their staunchest supporters do.

    L'Ami Jean is one of those favorites. I guess that if you went with a table of friends of the house, you would enjoy the meal more than if you or I dined as a twosome. And foie gras and the Cote du Bouef or the chef's menu are probably the way to go for the best experience.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mangeur

      Mangeur - i understand exactly what you mean. And i can see that meal at a large table with a few regulars would be fantastic. And in a way my post is intended to present the alternative view. Most visitors will be couples, most won't be known, and so it is good for them to understand that their meal may be a different experience than the oft repeated ones on the board. Would I go back - yes I would but that maybe because of my warpred value for food!

    2. Some of the food from our visit...

      1. And push it we did. I went twice during the summer, once with a regular at lunch and once as a no name duo for dinner. The latter is the meal I will speak about, mostly. Cote de bouef for 2(last one available I was told), homard bleu(special) and some side mushrooms.2 bottles, about 65 for both and rice pudding.Were offered a post dinner cordial by Stephane and we obliged by accepting two glasses of armagnac.I think the riz au lait was not on the bill, either. 212EU was the total and we ate like kings in terms of quality and quantity.Aurelie was quite impressed by our appetites(and I think Jego was as well).Unfortunately, she was only by a couple of times and that male waiter that I dislike was the main server. It is so ironic to me that he seems about as close to the stereotyped 'snotty' French waiter as I have come across and it is a restaurant that did very well by me twice. I rarely encounter these types.Even with my 6 words of French, I do well with service in restaurants and shops in France. In fact, for the most part, I love it. I know what it is that I like and why I think I am treated well but I will not start a flame war right now.
        L'Ami Jean lives up to the hype which is extremely difficult when I am grading. The precision in the cooking was just so spot on. Mostly simple preparations but it makes you realize just how sloppy so much other cooking can be. This is something that will always impress me. Also, the portions for mains are extremely generous and the quality has been superb. I know that it will be near impossible to keep that up. At some point, I am bound to get the less than stellar cote that someone had for lunch the next day after hearing my glowing review of dinner. But he is a local and known. I told him the piece I had was the last one so who knows what the issue was. I have sampled beef, lobster(it was whole if curious), veal chop(probably the best dish I have had there), turbot(the only main that was not cooked to that exact perfection,definitely on too long) and one other entree. For the size of the portions, quality and cooking, the prices are reasonable. The ambiance and service are not worth much, I agree with PhilD there.This does not mean I am not happy there or that I need more space or that service is not efficient(staff is good and even my surly waiter did the job alright) but this is not Le Cinq. But it is not a cheap meal. To be honest, the size of these hunks of meat and fish amaze me given the portions at so many other hot spots. They are large even for my grown man self and I can eat(though not like I used to). I think people of more typical(especially French)appetites could split one main without issue. OK, 40EU for a veal chop is not nothing but again, 20pp is really a good deal. At least for the specimen I had. And I did have the whole thing save for 2 or 3 bites I had to share. Check the price of a veal chop in London or NYC, no bargain, not nearly as large(this was a true double), very rarely in the same league of quality and the fact that you are in the VII in Paris and even my value extracting self will not complain about the cost. I would say about the same for the cote(huge for 2, forget the steak for 2 size that are Peter Luger style or even other cotes in US/UK)though it was just great not superb like the veal.It also came with about 2kg(not exaggerating much) of turnips and carrots(I might still be orange and I don't eat carrots)and the whipped potatoes(those are great).The mushrooms were good only.Went well with the lobster and beef though if I knew about the beef veggies I might have passed just so we were not taking up half the space on the other tables. They were all impressed with our ordering and eating as well.Lobster was also cooked just right. Riz au lait, I don't think is worthy of infinite praise but it is good. And that bowl is not that big. 2 grown men will handle it with ease if they are not stuffed from the 5kg of food they just put down beforehand. I do like the pudding toppings though. Oh, and just to be honest about what a bunch of &$*#( we were, I think we were there for 3.5 hours though our next door tables were interested enough in us.

        Overall, I agree with PhilD that it is not cheap on an absolute scale but I cannot fault it too much for price. And I am not one who goes to restaurants for 'good times' and all that(well, food good times, sure). It is rare that my happiness differs much from the food quality.I do not eat out so often and when I do and it is of my own choosing, it is for the food. Not for some 'feeling' or because I got smashed and had a blast. I do not like places where I have had fun but I know just suck. I can have a time of it it horrid spots but I would never give them undeserved kudos or recommend them. And I feel I can separate the quality of the company and enjoyment from the quality of the food and restaurant when necessary. Had one of those in Paris, recently. Why that restaurant? I don't know, I would not have chosen it and was surprised after I ate there that it was the choice. However, my, heretofore unknown, dinner mates were great and we had a grand ole time.
        But I ain't going back there.I am not nostalgic.
        OK, finally posted about L'Ami Jean. I have stayed away from posting but this is something of a relief. Sorry for the blather. Be happy that I have not posted about my shop knowledge(no offense to the locals but I really sifted the crap out of the data and was around long enough to do it), that would go on for about 20 pages. Good eatings to all and to those vegetarians who feel that Paris does not 'cater' to them,two points. First off, there is more than enough quality vegetable eating and secondly, I do not go to vegan shops and demand steaks and chops. Such the entitled American attitude(and if not American, well, another country on the slippery slope)that everyone should have their every whim catered to. I cannot stand that. Homogenization of everything and leads to a lowering(or rather collapsing) of standards. I hope that Paris does not succumb for a long, long time or at least only just a touch. But I do worry.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dietndesire

          "I do not go to vegan shops and demand steaks and chops."


          1. re: dietndesire

            Great post, thanks. I love your your use of the term "slippery slope".

          2. A question to CHers on the flaming foie gras at Chez L'Ami Jean: does anyone know what liquor is used? That dish was so amazing. As for the original post, I am surprised that someone would not find that dish huge, along with all the other dishes! We ended up sharing with the table next to us!

            7 Replies
            1. re: kat888

              Last time I ended up quietly asking Mario to pack my mostly untouched foie gras in a (French gf's term) "baggie dog", which he happily complied.

              1. re: Parigi

                CLJ - would it be fun also for a solo lunch ? Or the small tight place may result in weird seating, possible reservation issue, menu items ordering that only >1 tables get etc. ? (And surely most of this questions should be asked also while reserving..) I don't care sharing tables, but somehow the place sounds like a lot of fun for groups but a possible "inconvenient" situation for solo diner and maybe the restaurant itself. In relation to this - have read a couple of lunch reviews about Josephine CD and while food sounds appealing, the "solo" expirience even with a reservation, seems inconvenient.

                1. re: oferl

                  Lunch is less crowded.
                  You won't share a table.
                  The restaurant does serve a couple of dishes to be shared by two. But the rest of the menu is not chopped liver either.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    LOL. Though if it were 'chopped liver' it would be really good chopped liver.

                  2. re: oferl

                    I've gone twice as a single. The tables are very close, but this leads to a some wonderful chance encounters! I met two really nice people (both were initially alone but found they were both from the same city in Canada and then shared a table next to mine). I asked about one of their dishes and we ended up the afternoon as friends :)

                    1. re: estnet

                      Thanks all for the info, very glad to hear that :-) As i progress with finializing my list, this place seems something that i shouldn't miss, "at least" to try and have my own expirience and impression.

                      1. re: oferl

                        In fact no restaurant in France, however crowded, would put anyone at YOUR table.
                        There are communal tables - usually long tables seating at least 8 - that you share with others, - as in the fun and delicious Dans Les Landes, - but the extra long table not YOUR table purr say.