Chez L'Ami Jean. Orgasm schmorgasm
Parisjo, Sistereurope, Deluccacheesemonger and consorts and I had our annual multi-orgasmic blowout chez L'Ami Jean.
First of all, after reading all the recent complaints, some of us were frankly apprehensive. I admit I went out of a sense of loyalty and friendship with each other. It's our annual blowout, especially among the 3 dudettes. We go first and foremost to laugh until we choke. So what if this meal chez l'Ami Jean means only 3 orgasms instead of 5 ? Orgasm schmorgasm
4 As Usual's coming up:
1. As usual, I reserved for us the table nearest the kitchen, so that the outer half the table could see the action there.
2. As usual, I sat at the seat right next to the kitchen window, sacrificing my right ear-drum. (And sacrifice I did. Stéphane Jégo's yelling is still ringing in my right ear this morning.)
3. As usual it was lunch, which is always less frantic than dinner.
4. As usual we dont bother to open the menu. It may have nude portraits of Peter Beard, or the winning ticket to the Spanish lottery, or a copy of the Satanic Verses. We'll never know.
Told Mario to ask the chef to take care of us.
Just like the last dozen times, we say right afterwards: oops, forgot to ask the price. Oh well.
As usual, Irouléguy Branna wines. Red & white.
O. The starters - charcuteries, jambon de Bayonne, pâté, game pâté. BIting into the lean, bloody game pâté, Sistereurope pronounces: "let the orgasms begin."
1. Parmesan soup poured over crunchy stuff and raw leek bits.
All of us have had riffs of this soup here. All of us thought consider this the best yet, and feel a little reassured.
2. Tuna, just this side of cooked, topped with a slice of green apple and turnip
Daring balancing of contrasting tastes of terre et mer, which is Jégo's trip these days. Moan, we approve. The oohs and ahs rise, but not loud enough to cover Jégo's yelling. He's definitely en forme today, says my right ear-drum.
3. Orzo risotto buoying 2 scallops
Collective loud moan from table.
Parisjo and I want to take off all our clothes and roll amidst the swooningly good orzo matter.
4. Abalone with foie gras and wild hare Oyster juice ?
The abalone may be the one ingredient in this meal that is not virtuoso. The texture of my same piece of abalone varies from tender to thick. But the signature evanescent foie gras melts in our mouth and shuts us up.
5. Swordfish with a side of pheasant aspic paté.
Definitely, by this time, with this main dish, our moans sometimes cover Jégo's Strum und Drang. Even the gentlemen are experiencing multiple orgams, a clinical first.
Oops, that was not the main dish. -- Not the only main dish.
6. Ris de veau
How does he do this ? How does he make ris de veau taste light? How can we finish this chunk of heaven ?
This is Jégo's thAng: between yelling, he sticks his head out of the kitchen window and surveys the orgy. If he sees one diner leave something, anything, on the plate, he frets and asks: what's wrong ? You don't like ? Should have told me. Want something else instead ?
Major diplomatic incident: I can't finish.
The flesh is weak. The spirit is pretty weak.
I whisper to Mario that I don't like to waste orgasms. He immediately whisks the plate off to the kitchen, which comes out a minute later in the form of a Sac à Chien.
7. Rice pudding plus 4 side-desserts: chocolate mousse, panacotte red fruit, pina colada ice cream, Paris-Brest.
My fave - yes I continue to eat, wouldn't you? - is, besides the rice pudding which contrary to rumor has not perdu de son superbe, the Paris-Brest: Crunch is crunch. Shell is shell. Cream is cream. With all kinds of tastes in between, alternating in major and minor keys.
The cheque reveals the price per person for the let-the-chef-take-care-of-you menu to be … 55 euro. All six of us were expecting more, around 75 euro.
Since we had 7 dishes (8 counting the starting charcuteries), that amounts to less than 8 euro per dish. Some hounds complain that Chez L'Ami Jean has become too expensive. Do the math. Do you want Jégo to feed us like a humanitarian mission or what.
Including the bottles of water and two bottles of Irouléguy, and tips, we pay 74 euro per person.
1. I just came back from a week of excess in Burgundy, with back-to-back Lameloise, Loiseau and Ferme de la Ruchette & co proverbially under the belt, hands down this was my favorite meal.
2. Not that we ever ask about the price (yet we are usually budget-sort-of-conscious), value-wise this meal can't be beat. Don't even think about comparing with the prices of the aforementioned six stars.
3. Never mind comparing with others, compared with past meals here, all 6 of us agree that clearly, clearly, this was the best meal, of all the orgasmic meals we've had there.
My guesses - they remain guesses - re how to get a good meal out of CLAJ:
1. Lunch. Consistently We eat better at lunch than at dinner. Why ? I don't know. Maybe the marginally more leisurely pace allows Jégo to focus his unfathomable multi-tasking brain better.
2. Try to have more interaction with Jégo, or with Mario the head waiter. Mario cultivates a super-cool attitude - probably to counterbalance all the kitchen drama that permeates the salle - and in his dry humor gives good advice and relays your fears and loathing and libido to the kitchen. The more Jégo/Mario know about you, the more they go out of their way to give you … care.
3. Don't bother with the menu. Let Jégo play your palette like an instrument.
4. Are you a picky eater ? Theoretically no problem. Mario always asks if everybody eats everything, including game, including offal, seafood, etc. But remember, Jégo - and he is not the only chef who does this, composes. He planseach taste to contrast with other tastes. Asking for a substitute is asking to be a volunteer for diluted pleasures. Every time you add an antichrist constraint about what you chicken-eating vegetarians can't eat, it's is like asking Glenn Gould to play with one finger less. A Glenn Gould who plays with 7 fingers is not going to sound like a Glenn Gould who plays with his all.
5. Last but not least, I DON'T KNOW !! We have had excellent meals starting with our first meal chez l'Ami Jean, when no one knew us from Mars. Yes by now Jégo and Mario recognize some of us mainly as the kind of diners who will pop anything proposed by him into our mouth, but starting on Day One, we already got the kind of great low-key service and outstanding food.
Au fond, I don't understand the rhetoric that maintains that Jégo is like a wild beast (uh, wait a minute, maybe I do), that you need to know how to tame him somehow in order to get a good meal. We do the opposite. Every time we go, we tell him in no uncertain terms: "Do it ! Do it to us."
And, yes, maybe his yelling is directly proportionate to his form, his rhapsodic inspirations. I am starting to guess: the more he yells, the better the meal gets.
P.S.I must have forgotten many details, which I count on my table partners in crime to provide.
Parisjo and Sistereurope took many photos while I stuffed my visage.
I had that orzo risotto last Monday, at one of the dinners celebrating our new book. Stéphane cooked at Table Ronde, a new restaurant in the Marais specializing in guest-chef events. The risotto was laced with shitloads of fresh cèpes from Normandy and too much whipped cream. It was, indeed, worth howling like a wolf and being heard as far as the tour Eiffel. And Stéphane does some pretty crazy things with tuna and sweetbreads these days. I'm glad you had a great time.
And I do agree with your last "au fond" remark. You don't tame Jégo (the mere thought makes me chuckle). You surrender.
Still, to be fair, this is not a restaurant for everybody. People who can truly surrender are rare.
Madame, your review is as good as the meal was. Amazing how you remembered details without jotting a note.
It was an awesome lunch, in every detail, service, food and company.
The dishes that rally hit me hard
The game pate was so moist, finest pate l have ever experienced, could have made my meal from just that.
The soup, yes his soup is always the same, but who cares it is fabulous, bitingly hot, creamy, and so full of flavor.
The 'risotto', first time have had it, was indeed soupy, but what soup. It really made me moan.
The abalone dish at the bottom had a wine stew of rabbit that again could easily have made my meal alone, it was that good. After God knows how many courses at that point, still had to take bread to get ever drop of sauce, just outstanding.
The rice pudding with bitter caramel custard has had high notes and lesser notes over the years. Yesterday hit on all cylinders, not too sweet, not too creamy, it was baby bear, perfect.
Look forward to doing it with this group next year.
Oh my, I think I need a cigarette....
Thank you, Parigi, for the very-detailed and mouth-watering review.
"Ask the chef to take care of us" is exactly the way we like to eat. I wish we could do that in more restaurants.
CLJ was already on the list, but it needs to move towards the top. And I agree - from what you described, it sounds like a great value indeed.
Wow! Thanks for this superb report on today's CAJ.
You certainly crushed all recent complaints about the place. Not only every dish an epiphany but an unbelievably small tab. Most important, you also re-enforced the wisdom of the often recommended trust-in-Jego order.