Interior - chandeliers, zinc and graffiti. Not pictured: matador art and Mexican wrestling masks

Interior - chandeliers, zinc and graffiti. Not pictured: matador art and Mexican wrestling masks

Hens' eggs with cream & truffle

Hens' eggs with cream & truffle

Bacon-wrapped salmon stuffed with pied de veau and surrounded by sea snails

Bacon-wrapped salmon stuffed with pied de veau and surrounded by sea snails

A piece of cod a top a pile of boeuf carrottes

A piece of cod a top a pile of boeuf carrottes

Lamb saddle with a blanket of black truffle atop a knob of (maybe) suckling pig

Lamb saddle with a blanket of black truffle atop a knob of (maybe) suckling pig

The famous rice pudding with salted caramel cream and nougatine

The famous rice pudding with salted caramel cream and nougatine

A miniature Saint-Honoré

A miniature Saint-Honoré

Dining at the anglophone table

Dining at the anglophone table

Interior - chandeliers, zinc and graffiti. Not pictured: matador art and Mexican wrestling masksHens' eggs with cream & truffleBacon-wrapped salmon stuffed with pied de veau and surrounded by sea snailsA piece of cod a top a pile of boeuf carrottesLamb saddle with a blanket of black truffle atop a knob of (maybe) suckling pigThe famous rice pudding with salted caramel cream and nougatineA miniature Saint-HonoréDining at the anglophone table

I felt like a stalker last night at L’Ami Jean. I walked into this place carrying more back-story than should ever be brought to a restaurant. I knew of love affairs that had taken off because of chef Stéphane Jego’s cooking. I’d heard about marathon sessions in which the most serious eaters I know couldn’t finish everything that was served. I’d been checking the Facebook page, on which they post the daily changing menu, for several months. And I’d been writing about it for years* without ever having been.

Virgins who wait too long before sex have a similar problem. We want it to be special, so we keep putting off the deed. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity, during these last years, to hook up with L’Ami Jean. But the timing was never right. I always seemed to think of it, and then perish the thought, when booking for a table that included one of the following: a vegetarian, a picky eater, a girl without the strength of Sophie or Barbra… someone who would interfere with the pig- and gut-feasting for which the restaurant is known.

I started 2012 with a list of restaurants that I really, finally had to visit, and L’Ami Jean was at the very top. When Cédric suggested that we grab a bite after the Stein expo on Saturday night, I knew I had found my moment. I called three days in advance and had no problem booking for the second, later service.

So there I was, standing in the doorway last night, trying to convey with my eyes all that had brought me to this place. “Yes, we have booked (and are so very excited)… under the name of Zimbeck (that’s not French but I’ll eat anything)… for two people (and we mean business).”

My telepathy was not well-understood. The man behind the bar suggested a 15 minute wait, but didn’t ask us about drinks or to take our coats. Instead, he continually reached over our heads to take everyone else’s coats and serve everyone else’s drinks. I finally wrangled two coupes** before being seated at a large table with eight other Anglophones.

I was beginning to regret not coming for the first time with a friend who was already known to the house. But that’s not the way that most of our readers get to experience a place. It was an inauspicious start, but things were about to become much better.

We ordered carte blanche, an €80 option including whatever Jego wants to make. I had starved myself all day in preparation for this feast and was more than ready to eat. The meal began on a soothing note with crouton-dotted crème de parmesan soup. Nothing wild, but quite nice as a base for an empty stomach. Next up: two hens’ eggs with mushrooms, cream and truffles. It didn’t make sense, having two dishes in quick succession that were largely composed of frothy cream. Especially since the truffles (they’re not yet at the peak of flavor) didn’t add very much.

After all of this moaning, let me say very clearly that the next three dishes were among the most delicious I’ve ever eaten. To wit: a perfect salmon nugget, wrapped in bacon skin and stuffed with a lucious sliver of pied de veau (calf’s foot), all surrounded by a sprinkling of tiny bulots (sea snails). A luxurious piece of cod atop an intensely flavored pile of boeuf carrottes (beef & carrots). Lamb saddle, served rosy and wearing a toupée of micro-planed truffle.*** Hiding under the lamb was an unnamed knob of what tasted a lot like suckling pig.

I know from the aforementioned Facebook stalking that Jego sources from Terroirs d’Avenir and other great producers. The base product is impeccable. But the real joy comes from watching/eating what the chef does with these ingredients. Jego’s tweaking of classic bistro flavors doesn’t feel, as is so often the case, haphazard or goofy. Those three great dishes each conveyed a feeling of comfort while also sharing – and this is difficult – something new.

My earlier complaints about the welcome dissolved in the wake of Jego’s food. And the Anglophone table turned out to be delightful – we shared an Armagnac with a couple of Maltese experts in Bordeaux wine who have been coming to L’Ami Jean for years.  The problems I mentioned (and a few others I didn’t) stem largely from having two seatings and not enough time to devote to every table. If they had only one seating, prices would be higher, it would be harder to get in, and not as many people would have the pleasure of discovering Jego’s food. It’s a trade-off that I can live with.

Practical information

Address: 27 rue Malar, 75007
Nearest transport: La Tour Maubourg (8)
Hours: Closed Sunday, Closed Monday
Telephone: 01 47 05 86 89
Website

Read other trusted reviews on our website Paris by Mouth

———————————————————————–

* When I say that I had written about it, I mean short blurbs (not proper reviews) for guide books like Frommer’s Paris.

** Everyone at the bar was drinking Jacquesson (Champagne) with ice cubes. Are we doing that now?

*** The dish was outstanding, but I’m not sure that shaving truffles this fine is the best way to maximize their flavor.

Tagged with:
 

12 Responses to Review: Chez L’Ami Jean

  1. great piece, love the build-up ! but um… was there no dessert ?!

    • Meg says:

      Kerrin, I can always depend on you to ask about sweets :)

      There was of course dessert, but Jego’s riz au lait has already received soooo much attention elsewhere. What more can I say about that extraordinary (and strangely light) concoction? It came with a miniature Saint-Honoré and a fraîcheur of tropical fruits. I suppose that makes 8 tastes in all (3 of them dessert). And then there was Armagnac, courtesy of the friendly Maltese couple next to us…

  2. i’m so predictable. ;) very cool, thanks for sharing.

  3. Kate says:

    I am so pleased you finally got there! As for the Champagne, they do seem to be trying to make that happen. I won’t quickly forget being served Moet Ice I think they call it at a very fancy trade dinner with big blocks of ice in white plastic wine glasses…

  4. JG says:

    Fun article! I was just wondering if you can order off the menu and just have two or three courses without committing to the Herculean seven or eight course journey?

  5. Meg says:

    Kerrin, it’s my pleasure. Kate, I thought the ice was bad enough, but put it all in a plastic cup and it’s starting to sound a lot like the Boone’s Farm wine that we used to sneak during my Kansas teenage years. JG, they do in fact allow ordering à la carte. A few are cheaper, but many dishes (examples here) are priced between €30-40, so I managed to convince myself that €80 was a steal ;)

  6. Noah says:

    We ate at L’Ami Jean twice and couldn’t get enough — a wonderful experience that is highly recommended despite less than friendly service, a confusing menu and being surrounded by other tourists. Some of the dishes are, as you say Meg, some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

  7. Dawn says:

    Hi Meg,
    I follow you on Paris by Mouth and want to thank you and the team for making my last visit to Paris one of the tastiest! I just want to add that I had the CLJ tasting menu at lunch and also swooned (had the cod and beef as well, which we were calling Jego surf and turf). I have dined there for dinner in the past and I wanted to recommend that next time you might want to consider lunch. We spend a leisurely 3 hours and the service was perfect.
    thanks again for your work!
    Dawn

  8. Ptipois says:

    Beautiful article, Meg.

    But was it Jacquesson? The house champagne is Drappier. And yes it is a good idea to drink it with an ice cube because 1. it is a champagne that, in my opinion, should be drunk very cold, and 2. an ice cube makes the bubbles happier.

  9. S Lloyd says:

    Hi Meg,
    Not too sure why this place is so divisive, but I really liked the pics of the plates you had at L’Ami Jean. They look really appetizing. I’ll add L’Ami Jean on my list. Question: would you by chance have suggestions of reliable French bistrot around the 5th, the 6th, but also not far from Eiffel tower as well as Arc de Triomphe. Anything well done, with great flavors and very authentically and classically French. I do not mind a crème brulée as long as it’s a great one and not just another standard crème brulée. Just so that you get the idea of what I am looking for. Thanks a lot!

  10. S Lloyd says:

    Hi Meg,
    Not too sure why this place is so divisive, but I really liked the pics of the plates you had at L’Ami Jean. They look really appetizing. I’ll add L’Ami Jean on my list. Question: would you by chance have suggestions of reliable good value French bistrot around the 5th, the 6th, but also not far from Eiffel tower as well as Arc de Triomphe. Anything well done, with great flavors and authentically classically French. I do not mind a crème brulée as long as it’s a great one and not just another standard crème brulée. Just so that you get the idea of what I am looking for. Thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>