Monday, April 05, 2010

Chez L'Ami Jean (Paris, France)

We just arrived in Paris for our Songkran holiday. There is one bistro we always go to when we are in Paris. It is our favourite and we cannot be in Paris without eating at L'Ami Jean at least once. So, our first night in Paris...we went to L'Ami Jean.

L'Ami Jean is one of those mythical bistros that has a huge following. Therefore, it is not a surprise that we had to reserve a table several weeks in advance. We always reserve our table in Bangkok before arriving in Paris.

L'Ami Jean is not a very large restaurant. All the seats are very close to each other; so you should not have claustrophobia if you eat at L'Ami Jean. You will hear your neighbor's conversation and you will see what they eat. However; that is the fun about eating at L'Ami Jean.

Chez L'Ami Jean was opened by a Basque nationalist in 1931, and fans claim its Basque cuisine and setting are the most authentic on the Left Bank of Paris. Today chef Stéphane Jégo is in charge of the place. It is certainly the best bistro at this time in Paris (in my opinion).

Every time we go to L'Ami Jean, I need to be strong and not eat the bread accompanied with a white cheese spread. Since, the chef recognises that we are always eating at L'Ami Jean, we are also offered a huge platter of pata negra ham. The bread and the pata negra were so good. Even though I knew we were having the 'carte blanche' (a special menu where the chef decides what you eat), I still eat so much bread and ham.

The first dish was seafood soup. The waiter first brings a large bowl with fresh bacon bits, herbs and diced vegetables. Then the waiter returns with a pitcher of the seafood broth and he poured the soup slowly into the large white bowl. The soup was so tasty. Lots of textures, colours and a strong taste of seafood.

The next dish was sauteed calamari on a bed of presse de boeuf & fois gras. What a combination; seafood and meat. The calamari was so tender and cut like butter. The beef & fois gras were so fine & moist. Again, the chef's amazing skill at blending flavours and textures are masterful.

The next dish was baked scallops. It looks so simple but the flavours are complex. Two perfectly baked scallops with a slightly crispy top due to the herbs. So so so good!

The next dish was a large cut of turbo. When turbo is cooked to perfection like at L'Ami Jean, nothing can beat it. The turbo was so tender and juicy. The herbs added extra tastes, texture & colour. Just lovely.

The last dish was sweet bread, beef with bird tongue pasta. You seldom get sweet bread and when you do; you are always reminded how good it can be. This dish was so hearty, rich and delicious. Everything was cooked to perfection and the combination of flavours were just right.

The red wine we chose to accompany our wonderful dinner was a 2006, Les Camille, Clos Siguier. A terrific value, this delicious Malbec had complex aromas. Herbs, damp leaves, and spice all wrap around a core of cherry and plum. After sipping the wine you are left with more black fruit and tinged with licorice.

The first dessert was L'Ami Jean's world wide famous rice pudding. After eating so much and thinking there is no way I can eat another bite because I am going to explode. Then arrives a kilo of rice pudding. Rich, creamy, white cloud of heaven. With a small pot of caramel cream and another pot of roasted pistachios and almonds. What is one suppose to do? Eat of course! We scooped a very large spoon full of rice pudding onto our bowl, added some caramel and roasted nuts, mixed it all well together and viola...absolute paradise. The damn thing is soooo good that I had to make myself another serving. My stomach was saying no more. My brain, tongue and eyes were saying more more more. You know who won that battle.

The next dessert was a cup of reglise (liquorice) topped with a soft cream and roasted pistachios & almonds. A very nice dessert because at the same time it helps you to digest (which is what we really needed).

The final dessert was fresh strawberries topped with a light cream. I barely could eat anymore; but could not stop. The strawberries were fresh and so tasty. Living in Asia you forget what strawberries really taste like.

Another striking thing about L'Ami Jean besides the amazing food is the service. I have to tip my hat to the people who work at L'Ami Jean. They work so hard, yet they are always so friendly and the service is impeccable.

And finally, it is always so fun to watch chef Stéphane, scream at his staff (I know, this sounds weird); either in the kitchen or in the dinning room to get their act together and get everything right. Chef Stéphane a perfectionist, sees everything not only from the kitchen but he watches the dinning room like a hawk. He knows when a table is finished with a dish, missing something or not happy. He screams at his staff in the dinning room to fix whatever problem there is. He is really amazing to watch. His energy and passion is felt.

We are returning back to Paris from the South of France on the 17 April. You will never guess where we are going to be eating again, but this time with six other friends....of course Chez L'Ami Jean.

27 rue Malar, 75007, Paris
Opening hours : Tues-Sat: noon-2pm and 7pm-midnight
+33 (0)1 47 05 86 89

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