The Paris Diaries Series: Entry #3 Chez l’Ami Jean

21 Mar

The Paris Diaries Series: Chez l’Ami Jean

Chez l’Ami Jean came with high recommendations from a friend who had been to Paris several times in the past few years but failed on all occasions to get a table.  Planning ahead I had booked a table in advance for the very European time of 10pm – perfect timing to allow for some retail therapy before our first French meal in Paris (for readers who have been paying attention – yes these diary entries are not in time order).

Weaving our way through the streets of the 7th arrondisement we arrived at l’Ami Jean with people literally spilling out onto the otherwise quiet, dark street.  Inside, even without the all the people, there is little room to move between tables and the place is electric what with the waiters zooming past and the patrons talking (loudly), waving their arms around (very passionately) whilst enjoying the Basque cuisine created by Stephane Jego.  But even with all the buzz, l’Ami Jean is your quintessential Parisian bistro and has the feel of being totally authentic and local – all in the midst of the city, under the Eiffel Tower.

Chez l'Ami Jean

Even though we arrive 15 minutes late, our table is not ready.  But alas we are placated with a plate of the most delicious, finely sliced prosciutto whilst we wait patiently.  After another 15 minutes we are shown to our tiny table, sandwiched between a father/daughter and a lovely old French couple (who knock back at least 2 full bottles of red wine during our meal, and are still there when we leave).  The menu is basic and I can recognise basic terms like ‘Boeuf’ (beef), ‘Porc’ (pork), ‘Fruits de Mer’ (seafood) and ‘Poulet’ (chicken), but unfortunately that is where my French culinary vocabulary ends, so we went with the 3 course ‘prix fixe’ meal and left the ordering to our waiter.

Despite not being a pumpkin fan, J had been talked into a rabbit served on a bed of risotto with a puree of pumpkin.  Aesthetically, the dish looked like a watercolour with the brightness of pumpkin serving as a backdrop to the succulent rabbit and topped with a swirl of bacon.  The dish tasted just as good as it looked – the rabbit had been slowed cooked to perfection, and was perfect with the sweetness of the pumpkin – testament to the dish was that J finished it all, even the pumpkin.

Rabbit served on a bed of risotto and pumpkin puree

I had gone with the seafood – an assortment of razor clams, mussels, squid and other shellfish served amongst a creamy foam, assembled to replicate an ocean scene with a swirl of bacon on top.  Each of these elements together created a beautifully balanced and textured dish with the sweet freshness of the seafood, the saltiness of the pork and the light, airy but at once creamy foam.

Fruits de Mer

At this point J and I are starting to feel the effects of jet lag and general fatigue (it’s past 11pm), but we soldier on – intrigued as to how pork could possibly be cooked ‘rose’ (rare).  It arrives shortly on a bed of herbs and topped with the requisite bacon encircled with bone marrow. The meat is succulent and juicy, and it is indeed pink inside.  First time having rare pork – but can happily report no gastric allergies or viruses contracted…

Pork - 'rose'

I had ordered steak, which despite looking beautiful on the plate, was actually too tough and sinewy for my liking.  This too was served with marrow and bacon artfully placed on the plate.

Steak served with marrow

Time check – its close to midnight and the place is still raging (and the old couple next to us have just opened their second bottle of wine).  Thankfully our desserts arrive promptly, the famous Riz au Lait – a rice pudding with salty caramel and a fruit and nut mix on the side, and an apple crumble with custard served in a cute glass jar.  Both were the perfect finish to the meal – light and with just the right level of sweetness.

Riz au Lait

Crumble - served in a glass jar

And so we departed – very happy to have dined like the locals.  For anyone who does visit Paris, Chez l’Ami Jean comes highly recommended not only for its rustic and beautifully presented food, but also for the quintessentially French atmosphere. Oh and if you have time, sit back and kick on with another bottle…just like a real Parisian…

Chez l’Ami Jean

27 rue Malar Paris

75007 Paris, France

www.amijean.eu/

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