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Chez L'Ami Jean

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My mum loves to remind me that I hated rice pudding as a child whenever I wax lyrical about the riz au lait at L’Ami Jean and I’m going to go out on a limb here right now and proclaim this to be the ‘best dessert of life’. I suspect the rice pudding she served me up consisted of a packet of SunRice Calrose cooked down with condensed milk. Stephane Jego’s version is bomba rice, whipped into a sensual frenzy with vanilla infused cream and served with an intense salted caramel and toasted fruits and nuts. It really is special.

Riz au lait was indeed again one of our highlights from a brilliant lunch at L’Ami Jean today. The staff were well and truly on song, with orders being barked between kitchen and floor staff and vice versa. Our service was warm, friendly and quite cheeky. After dining at a couple of establishments where only natural wines were offered on the wine list I was most relieved to see a 2007 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet ‘Clos de la Mouchère’ 1er Cru and ordered it abruptly, well before what would have been deemed a normally polite interlude before being seated and ordering wine. It was simply stunning, the essence of Puligny, with its notes of white flowers, white peach and mineral all playing beautifully on a spicy canvas. It had such great purity and poise with impeccable balance and matched the first couple of courses most amiably.

Vegetable soup is poured over a bowl that houses some crisp bacon croutons and chopped chives. The soup is ‘root vegetable central’ with enough cream to coat one’s gums in fatty flavour. There’s also a mild curry spice enhancing the flavours, what a lovely bowl of soup. Lobster with ginger beef and fresh carrots will be short listed for ‘best surf ‘n’ turf’ dish of 2012 and a dish of fresh morilles with a perfectly poached chicken and quail egg hid a little strip of foies gras. It had fabulous balance and that savoury character the Japanese use the word umami for.

My ‘surf and surf’ dish of 2012 came next with a gorgeously delicate langoustine, just warmed through, sat upon some beautifully cooked St Pierre (John Dory). The accompanying reduction was quite meaty with an Asian soy sauce like savoury trait.

For the meat course Heidi and Cousin Lucy split a wonderful pigeon that was cooked perfectly and had sublime silky breast meat. We had snuck in a bottle of 2011 Marcel Lapierre Morgon that was immediately fruity and generous, with an aroma of fresh raspberries, stalks and leaves. In the mouth it was lacy and matched up really well with the texture of the bird. My slow cooked goat was incredible and perfectly countered by the fruitiness of the young Beaujolais.

As well as the aforementioned rice pud there was an offering of banana cake with chocolate and banana cream and Patrick ate most of mine so I can’t really comment any further. The kids had already been well looked after with some superb mashed potato and ham.

I haven’t read many bad reviews on this joint and it continues to be a must visit place for us whenever we’re in Paris.

Cheers
Jeremy

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  1. That was the menu I had last time, plus an extra experimental dish that Jégo wanted us to try before trying on innocent diners. :-) Plus my birthday cupcake.
    Reliving all my pleasure as I read your report. Thank you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi

      Jeremy, you seem to be dining at some wonderful places with kids in tow. How old are they and have there been any issues bringing them along to what seem to be adult (and foodie) oriented places?

      Your review of the rice pudding at CLJ has given me deja vu and very bad PPD (Post Paris Depression). Only 22 days to go to relieve the PPD.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences.

      Jo

    2. I haven't written "bad" reviews, but I don't like the place and don't understand the all of the raves. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/830886, and I would avoid it unless one really desires the specific rustic cuisine that they serve.

      38 Replies
      1. re: OC Mutt

        Thanks for the dissenting view.

        chowhound dynamic:

        1. A couple frequent contributors really like a place and recommend it to every visitor.
        2. Visitors who really like it it report back with glowing, effusive reviews.
        3. Visitors who don't like it don't think it is worth the effort to rain on everyone's parade, so report back much less frequently or with much less emphasis.
        4. repeat.

        On my local board, places regularly get plugged that are no better than countless other places in town, imho.

        1. re: Dustin_E

          I liked Chez l'Ami Jean but felt that their price point was a bit high for what they offered.

          1. re: Dustin_E

            I hear what you are saying Dustin and agree with the premise but can’t agree with relation to L'Ami Jean. I just think it is a very good restaurant that consistently delivers for service, food and atmosphere. It is expensive.

            Whilst I rarely see too many negative reviews on L'Ami Jean one restaurant that does seem to polarise people is Ma Cuisine in Beaune. I love the place, it is perhaps a bit dear for what it is but I often read various disappointing reviews. I think what may happen here is the expectation is too high, as I'm sure it could be for L'Ami Jean because it is so often praised here.

            A question I’d like to pose to ‘chowhounders’ is…Is there a restaurant out there that is universally loved? My vote goes to Troisgros, expectations are high from diners and they are usually met or exceeded.

            Best Regards
            Jeremy

            1. re: jeremyholmes

              I also found Ma Cuisine consistently good. Wasn't even aware of any bad reviews. :-)

              I do advise friends who are going to Chez L'Ami Jean for the 1st time not to go for dinner, and especially not Friday night. Too hectic.
              Another time I explained here that for dinner perhaps one should go only with good enough friends who don't mind practially sitting on each other's lap.
              And I warn everybody about Jégo's yelling.
              I never minded these things but understand they could seriously disturb some diners.
              Food-wise, I find it consistently excellent and inventive.

              1. re: Parigi

                thanks -- i've never been, but was just wondering about this place for an upcoming paris visit. a few other questions:

                1) is it possible to order (and enjoy) a light meal here?
                2) is this the same l'amis jean: http://www.amijean.eu/en/index.htm
                3) to make reservations, i guess you need to call? they didn't return my email address.

                thanks very much.

                1. re: Dustin_E

                  Yes that's the same but they have a newer website http://lamijean.fr/1.aspx

                  You don't go there for a light meal :)

                  1. re: PattyC

                    Patty's right.
                    Well theoretically you order as much or as little as you want. You can just have a piece of wagyu.
                    I have never been able to eat light there. Something happens when I get there. I forget all about eating light. :-)
                    It is best to call instead of emailing.

                2. re: Parigi

                  The service was very good, and I could tell that the execution of the dishes was excellent (everything served piping hot with interesting presentation) but I just didn't care for the food. Neither did my dining companion. I'm sure that they do what they do very well, but I guess I personally just do not care for what they do. The commentary on the physical experience of eating in that space is an addendum to that discussion and it is noteworthy in that some will be uncomfortable with it.

                  1. re: OC Mutt

                    OC - I think it is fair to say that Jego mostly gets the food right but he isn't perfect. There are dishes on the menu that are fantastic but I have had my share of misses. We once took two visitors and all disliked out dishes. Bad choices or poorly conceived dishes: who knows.

                    That said, my last meal at Christmas was very good but as Jeremy says it can be expensive and I see this as part of the expectation problem as it is no longer cheap and casual and the bill can mount up. So newbies go, it is cramped, loud and at time frantic. To me that is fun, but to others they expect more refinement at this price point.

                3. re: jeremyholmes

                  <one restaurant that does seem to polarise people is Ma Cuisine in Beaune. >

                  It does? I haven't seen negative reviews of Ma Cuisine, and surely wouldn't be offering one! Fabienne's cooking is on a par with the best home cooking of Burgundy (or my house - lol). and the welcome is always warm. ;)

                  1. re: jeremyholmes

                    >> Is there a restaurant out there that is universally loved?

                    pierre herme? does that count as a restaurant?

                    i'd have thought l'amis jean would be as close as i would find for paris.

                    1. re: Dustin_E

                      Herme has many detractors especially those who think his popularity has affected his quality.

                      I suspect Troisgros is universally loved because of the very small sample size with so few having eaten there. CLJ is probably visited by everyone on the board thus so many opinions.

                    2. re: jeremyholmes

                      "A question I’d like to pose to ‘chowhounders’ is…Is there a restaurant out there that is universally loved? My vote goes to Troisgros, expectations are high from diners and they are usually met or exceeded. "

                      Have to agree even though there are several I like better I have never heard anyone trash the place and everyone including me raves about it.

                      1. re: jeremyholmes

                        <A question I’d like to pose to ‘chowhounders’ is…Is there a restaurant out there that is universally loved? My vote goes to Troisgros, expectations are high from diners and they are usually met or exceeded.>

                        I'm going to say no, there isn't one that is universally loved. Taste is SO subjective, that you will always find someone who doesn't care for what seemingly "everyone" loves.

                        Troisgros probably comes as close as one gets, but in the realm of the 3-stars, on any given day they can be the best, or not... depending upon expectations and "stuff."

                    3. re: OC Mutt

                      Interesting. I had the exact opposite reaction and wouldn't hesitate to go back twice on the same trip the next time I'm in Paris. The only letdown was that they ran out of the above mentioned squab by the time I got there. Service was efficient and the waiter even paused to say, "everything is good here, except the service!"

                      Yes, it was crowded but that riz au lait is what dreams are made of.

                      My experience from exactly a year ago:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/784425

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I agree.
                        I understand many friends are bothered by the lack of space chez l'Ami Jean, but "rustic cuisine"? Wagyu, tepid oyster on foie gras, urchin egg on calamar carpaccio on slo-cooked lamb, rustic? Then Manhattan must be in the Gobi. :-)

                        1. re: Parigi

                          But to be fair it does depend what you order. Go safe and you can be very comfortably rustic. Let Jego choose and he can be avant-garde. If you stay with the mainstream menu it is quite traditional with big hearty portions.....which to be honest can be considered rustic. Well executed, a couple of twists, but it ain't Saturne, Passage 53 or Guy Savoy....!

                          1. re: PhilD

                            So, I will be going to chez l'Ami Jean for the first time in a couple of weeks. Since it appears that as a group, you should either all order off the menu or let Jego create, If you choose to order off the menu whether that is rustic or whatever is not my concern, but is it still worth going? Is it still the highly sought cuisine or restaurant that is talked about. Just wondering, because that would obviously make a huge difference in peoples opinions, etc

                            1. re: mick

                              "If you choose to order off the menu whether that is rustic or whatever is not my concern, but is it still worth going? "

                              I can't predict your experience. This is my experience:
                              1. I have tried the most basic 30-something prix-fix menu, the 42 euro dégustation menu, the 55 euro dégustation menu, the 75 euro blowout. Enjoyed them all. The most enjoyable: the 42, closely followed by the 75, by a hair. The most consistently enjoyable: 55. Therefore it seems that high price does not mean greater - or the only - enjoyment. Higher price has mainly meant more stuff.
                              2. I go only at lunch, when diners and staff alike have a less hectic time. All my lunches are better than my dinners.
                              3. I have had inventive dishes, I have had traditional dishes. The cuisine is always creative. It is not rustic.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                Parigi

                                Thanks, I hear so much about the 75 euro experience, good to hear that the lower priced options are perhaps just as good and creative. So, I can still look forward to going, as I suspect I will be with some people who will not want to go full out.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  The person who described Chez L'Ami Jean's food as "rustic" certainly never had any rustic food in France. Can't blame them, there isn't much left of it.

                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                    Of course this ferme-auberge fan agrees with you. If the cuisine there is rustic, kiss my ring, I'm the pope.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      to the 2 P's of Paris....off subject of clj

                                      What bistros/restaurants would still be good examples of "rustic" cuisine in Paris today? and I'm ok with a female pope.

                                      1. re: mick

                                        This Papal Bulllllll says Le Quincy but specifies the prices are not rustic.
                                        The best for rustic is to go rustic: get out of Paris.
                                        This is a good ferme-auberge quite close to Paris:
                                        http://www.fermedelarecette.com/
                                        And the Vatican approves this message.

                                        1. re: Parigi

                                          Parigi
                                          This ferme auberge looks great. Do you know how far off the A4 it is. Will be driving from outside Epernay to Saumur in the Loire Valley and going thru either Tours or LeMans, looking for a place to lunch during the week. Along that route, know of any other ferme auberge or good places to eat that are "rustic"

                                          1. re: mick

                                            It would be a detour.
                                            It is too complicated for me to explain. The best is for you to look up the distances and routes on Google Map.
                                            Any way, the Ferme-Auberge is very near Fontainebleau.
                                            Ceci dit, the whole area is a very nice detour: Courances garden, Moret sur Loing, Milly La Forêt and the market under La Halle and the chapel painted by Jean Cocteau.
                                            During the week? You saw the restaurant part of the farm is open to public only on weekends, right? That is the rule for most of these ferme-auberges. Don't forget their main biz is the farm, not the restaurant.

                                            Sorriest I don't know many ferme-auberges near Paris. Most of the ones I know are in the south (Dordogne, Burgundy, Provence). I love them.

                                            1. re: Parigi

                                              thanks, actually drivifng thru on a Saturday, my mistake. A detour is ok, will check out google map

                                              1. re: mick

                                                Excuse me, I'm a reservation-nag. Don't forget to reserve.

                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                  To nag is prohibited on CH, thanks for the reminder!

                                      2. re: Parigi

                                        I didn't make the original "rustic" comment but I see the point. Rustic is a relative term, certainly there are more rustic places: albeit as Ptipois says few and far between. But it is reasonable to look at the CLJ menu and recognise some dishes are more rustic and some more modern.

                                        Now to be more controversial. IMO Jego is best at the less creative dishes, the more "rustic" ones. I have generally had very good, enjoyable meals at CLJ so I am one of the fans, but the least successful dishes have always been the least traditional. And to be even more controversial that means CLJ is getting expensive for what it is.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          "it is reasonable to look at the CLJ menu and recognise some dishes are more rustic and some more modern."

                                          It is just as reasonable to look at the CLJ menu and recognise some dishes are more Ethiopian or more Bauhaus or more tiki-taka, if it is that important for you to use the word rustic in a sentence. It is of course very relative.

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            i try to be respectful of all religions but i dunno what would you call an offering of sliced sauccison served on a wooden palate? Rustic is the word I use often to describle CLJ. Granted I probably haven't had great examplles of truly rustic french cuisine. But i haven't come up with a better description. Although i usually throw in "crazy basque combinations" and "you've got to order the riz au lait with sauce caramel beurre sale". I love the place and its crowded, llively ambience at night. But my husband hates it for the same reasons. As he puts it "when you get bumped into 6 times by the same two waiters and neither apologizes--i've had enough".. You can see who is the more easygoing of this pair..... CLG is more tame at lunch.

                                            1. re: parispicnics

                                              Next time if you are at the table right by Jego, make sure you sit on banquette side, l am sure your husband will. That seat gets banged so often l l get sloshed with my own wine.

                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                We always sit there. In my experience, at lunch one does not get jostled much, if at all.
                                                Did you get jostled last time we lunched there together, and you suffered in silence?

                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                  i only lunched there once and i did not get jostled. i prefer the evening ambience....

                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                    Not the 6-8 top on right if facing from door, the 2-4 top on left along side wall. Believe me l do not suffer in silence.

                                        2. re: Parigi

                                          HI Parigi,
                                          I just looked at CLJ's website - I see menus at 42 euro, 55 euro, and 80 euro. Do they still offer a 30 euro menu as well?
                                          Just curious, I'd like to know what to expect when we visit in October.

                                          1. re: yyc_mom

                                            "Do they still offer a 30 euro menu as well?"
                                            I don't know.
                                            I vaguely remember Jégo saying he was doing it for a month (or two) to celebrate the anniversary of the resto.
                                            Besides, every time I go, when Mario asks me if I wanted the chef to take care of me, I get weak at the knees, answering n'importe quoi, all in the affirmative.

                              2. "Calrose cooked down with condensed milk"

                                I dunno. I may have to try your mum's purported procedure, at least as a point of departure. ;)

                                1. I make my rice pudding with Calrose. That particular rice is very good for rice puddings.

                                  The last batch of rice pudding I made involved coconut milk, whole milk, vanilla beans, a small amount of sugar and calrose rice. Then a cup of cream was whipped and folded into the pudding.

                                  Not quite like CLJ's rice pudding. Cleaner tasting and nowhere nearly as sweet, but I could have folded in a batch of creme anglaise and gotten a fairly close approximation.

                                  Just don't be hating the Calrose is all I'm saying...