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Jun 20, 2013 06:13 AM

Chez Janou-- What a waste!

So I made a 930 reservation. We took a leisurely 1 1/2 km walk from our hotel. Place des Vosges is gorgeous. So we show up at 930 to a mobv scene. People outside, and the NOISE inside, OMG! Louder than the Cookery! 100% tourist crowd.

I identify myself, they send me to the bartender. He looks on a list, says "OK" and proceeds to ignore me as we are just standing between the bar and the door. Then, 5 minutes later, he hands me a wine list. No conversation, nothing. After another 8 minutes of standing with my P___ in my hand, I said to my wife "Lets go".

I had passed an attractive place a block away just off the P de V, "Les Bonnes Soeurs". At 9:50, they were about 2/3 full so it was easy. Great! Started with a surprisingly excellent Coteaux d'Aix wine.

My wife had the Bar Fish, a wonderful form of Sea Bass. It was crispy yet juicy at the same time,. with lovely herbs.On a bed of a unique broccoli puree that looked like mashed pot speckled with green-- didn't taste like potatoes, though-- fabulous! I had Gigot d'Agneau, (leg of lamb) but it was unlike any other I've had. It was like a lamb steak, they made it med rare for me, and it was the best lamb I've had in years! So tender, so tasteful, it really melted in the mouth. Ahhh! (Still thinking about it now).

Wonderful meal. Thank you to Chez Janou for being such assholes, loved Bonnes Soeurs".

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  1. Although I tend to ignore this patch of the Marais in tourist season and haven't been to Chez Janou in years, I was never very impressed by the cuisine, clientèle, and service.... lovely terrace though.

    A rec in the area that might work for you, L'Epouvantail on the rue Jarentes... in summer, it does get an overspill from the swarms of tourists looking for Irma la Douce in the place du Marché Sainte-Catherine... but the vibe and cuisine remain enjoyable (except during heat waves/ no terrace/ bad ventilation inside)... and you gotta love a restaurant that calls itself The Scarecrow :)

    1. Thanks. That will have to be next trip. Have left Paris for La
      Rochelle. (Wish the weather were better).

      I do highly recommend Bonnes Soeurs, though. A mvery pleasant surprise. (Means Nuns, correct?) Food atmosphere and service were excellent!

      22 Replies
      1. re: lemarais

        No, just means "the good sisters" -- may or may not refer to nuns.

        We've never been disappointed by Janou -- not swept away, but never disappointed. Fun, if you're in the mood for noisy.

        Aux Petit Marche just behind Place de Vosges is a good alternative if you're looking for a little quieter.

        1. re: sunshine842

          I agree with sunshine, Chez Janou is a fun, loud brash place, the food is passable but you don't go for the food.

          Its a fun place to kick back with groups of friends over some wine and for. The slightly chaotic wait is part of the charm - for me its always been a place where 20 something professionals go for a good night out.

          I fondly remember a great night with a group that had spent too long at the salon des Vins des Vignerons Independants....!

          1. re: PhilD

            I'm mostly impressed that you remember anything...the Salon has the amazing ability to wipe memories!

            (particularly when you start looking at the wad of receipts, saying "I bought all THAT?" and "oh crap, how am I going to get it all home -- these are all marked that I'm going to pick them up today!")

            1. re: sunshine842

              So true - I think we ended up with four or five cases, a new shopping trolly (they conveniently sell them there) and an interesting metro ride!

              1. re: PhilD

                yeahhhhh....the Metro isn't much fun trying to get that much wine up and down the stairways (because you can count on the escalators being out of order) -- when you're having trouble getting *yourself* up and down the stairs.

                But we were all feeling quite superior that we weren't driving!

          2. re: sunshine842

            No, the idiom means :"Nuns." I knew the literal translation.

            And thanks but no thanks, I already found my alternative, if you read my post.

            "I Don't go to a restaurant for the food"?? Wow, that's a bewildering statement. Be that as it may, Chez Janou is not for me. I don't like rude, shabby treatment, I dont like restaurants, particularly in France, that are so packed with screaming tourists that one can't have a conversation. I;ve been to packed French restaurants with just a low rumble, French people don't speak very loudly.

            I probably had a much better time at Bonnes Soeurs than I ever would have had at Chez Janou. And yes, I liked the place for its food, as well as other factors.

            1. re: lemarais

              I mentioned the alternative for anyone else who might be reading who might be interested in a pleasant restaurant in the area....even you, should you choose to return.

              1. re: lemarais

                ""I Don't go to a restaurant for the food"?? Wow, that's a bewildering statement." - Not really. I lived in Paris and went to restaurants for all sorts of reasons. It would be great if every meal was in a place with great food but isn't. I was also speaking about a specific restaurant and you changed my words in the quote so the meaning changed.

                Chez Janou was a central meeting point for a group of friends (mainly French), the food was OK, it had a lively atmosphere and was a place for a fun night out. So as part of our life in Paris it fitted in, however, if you are a visitor there for a short period of time it shouldn't be on the list. It's sometimes recommended on the board and when it was I used to try and put people off because I didn't see it as having any special food merit. However, there are those who found the food good from their perspective.

                I love food and prioritise great food when choosing a restaurant. This week was fairly typical for me with six restaurant meals and two really chosen for food. Of the six: one was a quick snack between meetings and was chosen for convenience; one close to my hotel s no-one wanted to venture far; one by the beach because we we wanted to be by the beach, a simple but good steak on Friday after a long week because they had a table and didn't want to wait; a wonderful long lunch with my team who showed off some of their very good local Shanghai food; and final a new restaurant with a great young chef for Saturday night. So no I don't always choose a place simply for the food.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Nor do any of us have the luxury. In theory, yes, and always the goal, but sometimes sights are lowered or, better, food sought gets simplified. Like yesterday morning's stop at an outer Balboa Street dim sum storefront. Or seeking out the totally authentic menudo seller at the flea market this morning.

                2. re: lemarais

                  ""I Don't go to a restaurant for the food"?? Wow, that's a bewildering statement."
                  You have a point.
                  I have gone to restos not for the food, but I avoid doing so. I would not glorify the experience by calling it a "choice". Eating somewhere because it is convenient is not choice. It is "do" food, as in "this'll do".
                  And I believe that if ever we recommend a restaurnat that we think one should go for non-food purposes, we should specify so.
                  I always do. I even recommend that one eat before going to certain restos.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    There is a deep difference in perspective between living in Paris - at least for a period of six months - and visiting the city for a very limited period.
                    In the latter case, one wants to make every day and night profitable and the natural hit-and-missness of any dining experience in any city of the world is like a chaos to be avoided at all means. Especially with the frequent US attitude of insisting on hitting "the best", which makes for some sort of superboosted experience that is lightyears away from the way Parisians experience daily life in their city. Many Parisians eat badly for different reasons. Some of them care, some don't.

                    I am sometimes of the opinion that positiveness is slightly overrated as an approach to travel, some imperfect experiences may be more exciting and fulfilling than just having great food. Of course I am not referring to noisy tourist traps but some will get my point. And of course (2) the accent here is not on just travelling but on eating, but I think that even in that realm it is not always good politics to seek just the best or the great. First of all it prevents the traveller from developing that sixth sense that allows them to stand before two different unknown restaurants and decide "this one here will be the right one". In the end they will have experienced a lot of good food, but learned nothing.

                    For a local, it is possible not to go to a restaurant for the food. Also it is quite clear that PhilD was not suggesting that anyone goes to Chez Janou not for the food, but that he remembered going there not for the food as a resident, and that is a different thing.

                  2. re: lemarais

                    This being Chowhound and not Tripadvisor or some other travel website, I do understand that the focus is always on the food...

                    I have to admit that I'm becoming more and more of a "food snob" myself... I hate to ruin a night's out, and usually try to stay discreet, but going to a place with bad food usually brings me to a bad mood, however nice the atmosphere and the people I'm with are, I will still feel a bitter disappointment...

                    Recently, "Le Concorde" near Assemblée Nationale. A "do" food as Parigi is saying... bad, bad, bitter disappointment.

                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                      Rio - not certain anyone is saying the regulars recommend places which don't have great food. I know I have never recommended Chez Janou for example, but for some it is great food which is where it gets tricky as it does get some positive write-ups from visitors.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Of course, I just said this because I felt the discussion was steering towards a "going to the restaurant is not only about the food" discussion, which is true, and fine, and everyone is entitled to go to a restaurant for whatever reason they choose, be it food, company, beer or karaoke... But this being Chowhound one might expect that the main focus remain the food.

                        As for the fact that "for some it is great food", there will always be a subjective part to food recs, and I've had my fair share of disappointments with highly ranked Tripadvisor restaurants. But again, this is what differentiates this site from travel sites, the focus "is" on food, "not" the overall experience (not to say that the overall experience is not important of course). So although I've been disappointed by Tripadvisor reviews, I've yet to go to a Chowhound recommended restaurant and not like it, and that has to do with the fact that people coming here, whether they are knowledgeable like the regulars, or just "occasional foodies" do put food as a priority when they go to have a meal.

                        Whether that leads to maniacal planning, and possibly not experiencing the "true" common food of a country, that's quite possible, but it doesn't make the recs on this board any less valuable.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            In theory yes - but today we have a Champs Élysées thread. I have lost count of the "romantic meal" threads, the need for a big table for 400 hungry people all with various dietary needs, and the special places to get engaged that don't seem to mention the food desires.......

                            I do find the board is valuable, don't get me wrong, but also let's recognise ambiance and the expectation of a "storybook" Paris that many visitors have overrides the pure food motive.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              Can't agree with PhilD on Chez Janou (just not my cup of tea) but do agree that this board should be wide-ranging to fulfill its function of guiding visitors to the best experience. For some earnest foodies, the "best experience" will be narrowly focused on the quality of the cuisine. For others, the sense of time & place, the value, the vibe, and the overall enjoyment will be even more important. Perso, I feel much more sympathetic to the curious adventurous visitor who wants to experience Paris than the what-to-order-at-Pierre-Gagnaire type.

                              1. re: Parnassien

                                I don't know. I agree with you that on a "personal level" I think I would enjoy more the company of someone who wants to "experience Paris" as opposed to someone just going from one 3 star to another... But I still think that, on this board, this enjoyment of the city should be primarily about the food (from Urfa Durum to Pierre Gagnaire and everything in the middle).

                                When I went to Japan I searched Chowhound a lot, and ironically one of the few "travel" tips I got was the only thing I didn't like of my trip. All the food recs were spot on of course (but Japan is an entirely different beast, as it is hard to find a poor place food-wise).

                                There are a bunch of travel websites with ideas for romantic scenery, cheap hotels, luxurious hotels, itineraries etc... And although I'm not suggesting that people stop asking these kind of questions on this board, I really think the power and particularity of this website is that for some reason food experts from all over the world flocked to it like magnets, and this is priceless, again considering how disappointing the comments on other websites can be (food-wise).

                                You say "For others, the sense of time & place, the value, the vibe, and the overall enjoyment will be even more important.". I fully agree with you, but I have a feeling that those people will probably not end up on a food website to have information about their travel journey, most of them at least.

                                It's an interesting discussion, and hard to answer at the same time. What makes internet internet, is the freedom of speech (usually), and the fact that anyone can post his opinions on a subject. So it's hard to tell people what they should or shouldn't talk/ask about. But what makes Chowhound such a great resource is the specificity of its content, which is essentially food-related.

                                1. re: Rio Yeti

                                  Agreed but even in a "food-oriented" perspective, the constant craving for "the best" or "the great" can be counterproductive.

                                  In many cases, reservations are made months in advance at only a small number of high-reputation restaurants that are always mentioned and visited and repeated at nauseam, thus drawing a rather unrecognizable map of Paris to those who live there on a regular basis. Eventually the visitor's perspective of Paris as a food place ends up somewhat distorted.

                                  This is a case of "blind selectivity" that IMO is not the best idea of discovering what any place is about, foodwise.

                                  1. re: Ptipois

                                    I *so* agree with you....on every level.

                  3. I have no idea about the food at Chez Janou. But shabby treatment is not to be tolerated, for some reason folks went off on a tangent and forgot that the disrespectful treatment I got was the focus here about CJ.

                    I also don't care about having "the best" meal of my life every night in France, just an acceptable meal with pleasant service. It also annoys me that people do research based on that hope, which of course makes for inevitable disappointment

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: lemarais

                      Very busy restaurant/bar in Paris sounds like the service was pretty normal. Its not rude, its simply that the staff expect you to ask if you want someting. It's sort of the way things are done in Paris.

                      The restaurants don't have have a high server to customer ratio, the service is perfuntory but in its way highly professional, you just need to ask. God help you if you expect them to bring the bill without you requesting it - which is the complete opposite of the US.

                      I think there was a big mismatch between your expectation and the restaurant you chose - not your fault, but equally not theirs.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Thanks for the lecture. However, I have been to Paris over 15 times, dined at dozens of restaurants,many equally as busy, and just never get the shabby dont-give-a-crap attitude I was shown at CJ.

                        I have no idea why you chose to staunchly defend their miserable treatment of their money spending clients. Handing someone a wine list without any information or conversation after going beyond their reservation time with no table in sight is NOT "perfunctory". It's a "I've got plenty of business, so if you don't like it, tough".

                        If you enjoy CJ, have a good time. But I have a flash for you: There are scores of restaurants in Paris that do NOT treat folks this way. You'll find me at one of those.

                        1. re: lemarais

                          Not a lecture, simply putting forward a different view. You don't like that style of service, others enjoy that sort of busy chaotic scene. Each to their own, it doesn't automatically make it a bad place it it doesn't match your preference or how things are done in other cities or countries.

                          The service style in Paris is not uniform, like many cities it ranges from slick and professional to the too cool for school aloofness. But in general the service in many mainstream places is fast, professional but not engaging. The server to guest ratio is often very low, the staff want to serve quickly and move on.

                          Chez Janou on a busy night is going to be just like that. Is it a bad place because the service style wasn't to your liking? Obviously a mismatch of expectation, and a bad choice for you.......but their fault....?

                          1. re: PhilD

                            You just keep going with the Paris dining lessons, eh?

                            I don;t like Chez Janou, I will not return there, ever.

                            I guess the info about my knowing all about dining in Paris didn;t sink in.

                            Have a good day.

                            1. re: lemarais

                              Lemarais: i can't help but laugh. Why o why do you have such unreasonable expectations as good food and good service ? Really, what's wrong with you?

                              1. re: lemarais

                                I'm really sorry that we all didn't crowd around you all eager to throw stones at Janou.

                                But we've all had different experiences there, and/or didn't find it all that egregious.

                            2. re: lemarais

                              They did not go beyond their reservation time strictly speaking. Their customers did. In France when customers stay a bit longer than expected at their table, nobody tells them to "beat it, there are other people waiting for your table" - they are allowed to finish their meal peacefully. People who have a reservation are made to wait when the table is not quite ready. That is done everywhere and happens all the time. It is not considered a fault on the restaurant's part. If you were handed a wine list, that only meant that you were invited to choose an apéritif before you could be seated. And if they did not seat you anywhere, it was because they had nothing to sit you on. Does not sound like bad service to me. Just the usual Parisian.
                              You don't like Chez Janou: fine, but that's another question.

                        2. I have to say this is one of the more entertaining and educational threads on CH. Just reading the original post it seems like the restaurant was super busy and the bartender was somewhat perfunctory (sp?) -- not necessarily in a rude way, but in a Parisian manner that might be unfamiliar to some tourists. I'm sure that if the OP and his wife had actually asked for a glass of wine, they would have been served and perhaps the evening would have progressed in a more pleasant manner. I've only been to Paris twice (not 15 times as I think the OP has) but the differences in manners and expectations between Paris and the U.S. is sometimes subtle and sometimes huge [as you all know!] I just have to say that there is absolutely nothing in the poster's experience as reported that made me think the staff/bartender acted like a##h@les or that they were trying to offend. And while there was a complaint that the resto was 100% tourist, wasn't the OP a tourist as well? (I mean, I hate those "touristy" restauarants as well, but who's kidding who? I'm not a local!!)

                          3 Replies
                            1. re: sunshine842

                              If it were another poster, I may also wonder if there wasn't a cultural misunderstanding. But I have followed many of Lemarais's posts. It does not seem to fit his profile to fall so easily into cultural misunderstanding. He is one old France hand. (Old as in experienced...)
                              Besides, I agree with Parnassien's reply which was the first reply in this thread. I never found Chez Janou worth my while in terms of food or ambiance. One does not go there for the food, the food ain't good. One does not go there for the hip, it ain't that hip. In fact it is très 2009. The terrace, yes, but go there for the terrace alone? Maybe best to (1) have a real dinner first before going to dinner there, (2) bring ear plugs, (3) gas mask, (4) one's own bottle in case waiter is otherwise engaged.
                              Some restaurants are so good that one is wiling, and even happy, to put up with quirky service, etc. Such restaurants are a very short list. And Chez Janou ain't on it, ain't on the next 50 runners-up either.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                Obviously *someone* likes it -- it's always busy, and the majority of the clientele are speaking French with a native accent.

                                If you don't like it, fine....but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong or inherently inferior for the many, many folks who do.

                                It was recommended to me, by the way, by native-born Parisians who eat there regularly.