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Questions on eating at Chez L'Ami Jean

Hi, all,

I am so excited to be going back to CAJ soon! Thanks again to the CH community for that recommendation.

I had a few questions about eating there:

(1) Every time we've been there, we've gotten the whole lobe of foie gras, though it's been prepared different ways each time. And then the cote du beouf, and then the rice pudding. For those of you who are regulars there, what are your favorite dishes? I feel like I should branch out!

(2) Is it possible to bring a bottle of wine? I'm not sure I want to (I think their list was good), but we'll be traveling through Burgundy and Champagne, and if we see something that is just too hard to find back home, it would be fun to buy it and drink it while in France. Would be happy to pay corkage, but not sure if that is even a typical concept in Paris.

(3) And what about taking away leftovers? I know it's not typical. But the servings at CAJ are big. Plus we are flying out the next day, and I usually like to bring my own food onto airplanes. Face it, leftovers would be a million times better than anything on an airplane! My sister-in-law is in the habit of bringing her own containers to restaurants when there's a chance there will be leftovers to be more 'green,' and I've started traveling with some. So I could bring containers. My husband used to work in a restaurant, and he hates asking for anything that would flag us as that difficult table, but I wasn't sure if this really is such a big deal.

Thanks for any advice you have to offer,

-k

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  1. Do NOT ask for take-away, or bring your own containers. I wouldn't do this at any restaurant in Europe.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      Nowadays, there are some very casual places (usually little "ethnic" holes-in-the-wall) where they will even suggest takeaway. I can't imagine taking a good bottle of wine or liquor except for one specific exception (friends have done this) - it is a casual place and you know the owner well. You are sharing it, as a sort of present.

      1. re: pikawicca

        LOL. I imagined that reaction. Maybe I should add that I can speak some basic French, and that we travel to Europe quite often (my husband's in the wine biz). But it just doesn't make sense to me to waste such delicious food. I guess I was wondering that even though it's not typically done, would it really put people off to ask? I suppose you're saying, well, yes.

      2. While all of the previous posts are absolutely correct, I will add that I never leave the hotel without several 1Qt ziploc freezer bags rolled up in my handbag. I just can't get through an 8 ounce portion of protein. And rather than send it back to the kitchen, I just drop it in the bag in my lap while smiling and chatting with my husband and, voila, problem of excess protein and tomorrow lunch or snack solved. Perhaps your first attempt will not be seamless, but with only a little practice, no one, I repeat, no one will ever notice. In fact, my husband will often chide me for scarfing my meal, not having seen me pocket a major chunk.

        1. Simple and clear answers to 2 and 3:

          2) No.

          3) Yes, absolutely. Do not hesitate to ask for the leftovers to take home, especially at Chez L'Ami Jean, where they have plastic containers and printed paper bags especially for the purpose.
          Taking leftovers home is far more common in France than one usually thinks. It is very seldom refused. It's just that many people do not dare to ask.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ptipois

            Thanks for the tips! And do let me know if you have favorite dishes there.

            mangeur, your reply made me laugh - I will have to try that in situations I feel uncomfortable to ask to take away.

            1. re: kat888

              I hoped it would. We sometimes, as Pti suggests, need to lighten up in dining situations.

          2. I'm with ptpois on this one. Sure, no one normally asks for doggie bags because they think they 'shouldn't' But, really I'm a bit over that. I bought my dinner, don't want to see it go in the trash and, i hate wasting food, so I'll happily take it home and eat the rest later. And I think visitors sometimes get too wrapped up in what one should and shouldn't do. But, i feel like if you're a nice person and just ask nicely, they'll happily wrap stuff up for you. i don't ask often - mostly because my other half will clean my plate before I get a chance. But, really, take home/not take home is not the biggest issue on a vacation. (although I do appreciate those trying to 'do as the locals' - although sometimes us 'locals' don't know what we're doing) Just be nice, ask for what you want - and if they don't do it, not the end of the world. But I'm sure they will there - in fact last time I ate there, which was admittedly ages ago, the chef came out and yelled at us for sending too much food back on our plate uneaten. So, he might have been happier if we had just asked him to wrap up that huge pile of meat and foie to go. :)

            5 Replies
            1. re: forestcollins

              But what do you do with cold leftovers in a small hotel room on on a plane flying home? I can understand doing this if you live in Paris and have a kitchen to reheat food etc but most Paris hotel rooms don't even have a bar fridge to keep things cold.

              1. re: PhilD

                Phil: i completely get that...i've had to leave leftovers many times because of that...staying somewhere and the food was great, but I'm not going to bring a smelly doggie bag back to my hotel room where I can't really reheat or re-eat later. However, if i have the capability to do something with it (which just happened earlier this week in Vienna - had boiled meet and we all took it back and made a delish hash in the morning for breakfast...because we were in an apartment) But, i felt like the question was whether or not they could ask for leftovers to go...and not what they should/could do with them after (which presumably the OP knows what they're doing?), so I just answered in that vein. Sorry...i know you guys are much more active here and I'm usually a quiet watcher so i'll go back to watching. ;)

                1. re: PhilD

                  Enthusiastic we may be, but my husband and I can't come close to polishing off a lobe of foie gras between the two of us. Last time we were at CAJ, we shared all our courses with our neighbors, which made for great fun. Seems like we avoided a scolding from the chef as well.

                  As for what to do with leftovers, most hotels we've stayed in do have a mini-fridge. But, yes, there is no way of heating, though I have tried a sort of sous vide method of heating, in desperate times, if a coffee maker is available. Usually I don't bother. But if we're going to be in a car on a highway or airplane the next day, room temp food is still typically better than what is available. Just depends on the item. (i.e. pate, yes, foie gras, unfortunately, no.)

                  1. re: PhilD

                    You've never had cold steak or foie gras at a picnic? Or cold chicken? Or gnawed a lamb chop? What on earth do you take on a picnic, then? I will cheerfully sit at the table in our hotel room confronting any of the above, add a glass of gaspacho (from Monoprix or Big Bon), a chunk of baguette and call it quite good. A glass or so of wine is not out of place.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      Mangeur - of course I have, but generally prepared for that purpose rather than leftovers.

                      CLJ obviously does this, and it does have huge portions, but is it really common elsewhere? (and is Jego cleverly playing to his audience here - it's very Anglo ESP in the evenings).

                      I generally find portion size in France to be pretty good with enough on the plate to satisfy but not too much to over face. So leftovers are pretty rare.

                      I also find the idea of diners filling up take-away containers from the "communal" dishes quite sad, it really misses the point of the tradition. Again I understand CLJ's rice pudding is no longer the communal dish it once was (it's got smaller) as they face up to the reality of diners ordering one and thinking it was OK to share it "because it was a large portion".

                      Next we will see people hoovering up the leftover terrine - maybe just take some glad wrap and you don't even need to take it from the pot. Another good tip is to slip the extra bread into a plastic shopping bag - there is always some left in the basket before they clear it away - or slip in a few piece every few minutes so they keep filling it up.

                2. "leftovers"
                  Like others I carry ziploc's and bigger sacks (for Monoprix) but I do believe attitudes have changed 180⁰ (I attribute it to the 1991 Loi Evin when they started encouraging people to doggie-bag the wine left instead of polishing it off and driving tipsy). As others have said I use bags for dry stuff but take plastic containers or aluminum when offered for juicy stuff. And I find, and maybe it's because of where I eat and my look of decrepitude, wrapping is routinely accepted. This and being offered seats on the Metro are the only good things about getting old.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: John Talbott

                    The only place in France I've ever been grumbled at for asking for leftovers to take home was Chez L'Ami Louis (my one and only experience there).

                    And I'm positive that they did it just for the sake of grumbling. ("We're a restaurant, not a grocery store!"). Which I found rather rich considering the price and size of portions — Hey buster, I paid for the whole damn chicken, so it's MY chicken you're about to take back to the kitchen. Deal with that.

                    (And they did pack it for me anyway.)

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      I remember eating at Chez L'Ami Louis: I ordered the quail, thinking it'd be the smallest dish. The quail was the largest I had ever seen. I finished most of it was was feeling pretty good about my progress, when... (and you probably already know the punch line)... they brought out a second one.

                      That place reminded me of Peter Luger, an old time steakhouse in NY. At both places, the waiters are grumpy and all have clearly been there as long as the decor. It's part of the charm or price of eating there, depending on your point of view.

                    2. re: John Talbott

                      La carte senior (autrefois, la carte vermeil) as well. Lots of those benefits start from 60 in France...

                      John, you look distinguished, not decrepit!