chez l’ami jean: food glorious food

i’ve been attempting on my last 3 trips to paris to land a reservation at chez l’ami jean, and finally managed to snag a spot. yipee!  the meal did have a rather shaky start.  my husband and i arrived about 10 minutes late for our 7.30p reservation (i had a slight malfunction with a certain pair of ballet flats  — don’t get me started on that topic). when we arrived, we were asked to wait outside until our table was ready  (either we were late and they gave away our table, or they messed up the booking).  we ended up waiting an entire hour for our table to be ready and it was about 90 degrees outside.  however, they tried their best to keep us comfortable, bringing out cool glasses of wine, bottles of iced water and 3 boards of the most delicious basque charcuterie (the spicy chorizo pictured below) — all on the house.  i think we were pretty full by the time we got seated.

the interior of the restaurant is dimly lit, boisterous and tightly packed.  i felt like i was inside a scruffy tavern, rather than a prototypical parisienne bistro (or whatever that means in my head).  there are quite a few personal drawing and photos that the chef and proprietor (stephane jego) hung on the wall — one of which is a photo of him with new york’s daniel boulud.

there are 3 general menu options:  ordering a la carte, 3 course for €35, and carte blanche at €60.  the staff speaks easy to understand english and helped us decipher the menu.  we went for the 3 course and it turned out to be very generously portioned.  i think the waiters were a bit concerned that we didn’t enjoy our meal because we could only get through about half or less of each dish.  (or maybe we shouldn’t have eaten so much ham while waiting!)

hubby’s appetizer.  it’s #3 on the blackboard menu above in the starter section. i remember it being herbs mixed in with salmon with some ricotta, all artfully piled on his plate.  check out the bacon strips.  i don’t know how they do it but it’s wafer thin, not a bit greasy and exquisitely crisp.

here’s my appetizer, #2 on the blackboard menu.  an impossibly rich egg mousse (really really good but so rich that i only managed a few spoonfuls ) accompanied by sauteed girolle mushrooms and baked bread sticks (got a bit cut-off but they’re on the far right side).  this dish was amazing.  in fact, the table that sat down next to us, took a look at my dish and asked to order it.

wanting to keep it light, we both ordered the fish (#1 in the entree section) as our main course. little did we know of course that chef jego would be serving us the entire fish!  it was succulent — roasted whole with sauteed fennel and greens on the side.

pictures can be deceiving.  this is a huuuge bowl of what they call grandmother’s rice pudding served as a portion for one.  it could easily serve 6 to 8 people.  the pudding is divine — creamy, not too sweet, imminently comforting.  you can eat it by itself but it comes served with the perfect homemade caramel sauce — almost like a dulce de leche and freshly toasted granola on the side.  i must get my hands on this recipe! (anyone have it?)

here’s what hubby got for dessert.  i think its the last item in the dessert section.  i was so enamored of the rice pudding and heck, hubby as well, that neither of us have a good recollection of what this dessert ended up being.

i plan on going back to chez l’ami jean the next time i’m in paris.  although in the future i’ll know to starve myself the entire day, run a marathon beforehand, and arm myself with a more extensive vocabulary of superlatives!

Chez L’Ami Jean
27 rue Malar, 7e
Tues-Sat: 12p-2p; 7p-12a

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