Dinner at Chez L’Ami Jean
This is a continuation from my first day in Paris, on May 25, 2010. In case you haven’t read the first part, please click here.
When we arrived, it seems a bit too desolate that I almost thought we’re in the wrong restaurant. Admittedly, our dinner reservation is considered early for Parisians, as it was about 7:45 PM by the time we arrived but we went in and went up the hostess station and be seated.
The dark, wooden interior, a small bar to the left and the rest of the dining room were filled with tables that were elbow-to-elbow, barely allowing more than one person walking from the kitchen to the front of the house. Legs of ham, strings of espelette peppers (also known as piment d’Espelette in French) and heads of garlic were hanging from the ceiling, this looks like a carnivore’s dream.
Nudged in between two two-tops occupied by Asian couples, one Japanese and the other were Chinese-Americans, we’re slightly surprised how there’s not that many French people were present. Possibly because of the tanking Euro? I think so.
Whilst reading down the chalkboard menu, we’ve noticed from one of our neighbor’s table was a basket full of gorgeous looking charcuterie. Sighing and regretting at the fact that we’re not starving enough to consume those sausages and more, we inquired each other to gauge how hungry we really are before we overdo it. (Doggy bagging food is not a typical thing in Paris.)
After ordering our food, we’re presented with a wired basket full of crusty pain de campagne and a cheese spread. The basket was balanced in between the mere three inches from our neighbor. The cheese was flavored with piment d’Espelette and chives, though a bit watery and tangy. The bread itself was crusty on the outside and soft, almost spongy crumb can sop up any good sauce. But the cheese was not exactly the most desirable thing I would spread on it.
The appetizer to start was the Tête de veau travaillée pas conventionnelle, oeuf dur et et autres gourmandises. A large platter lined with calf’s head parts (like cheeks and sweetbreads) braised until it’s tender and accompanied with halved hard boiled eggs, some greens, mushrooms, and large caper berries. The head meats were rich and gamy, but not overtly so, mostly giving us a surprise since I haven’t really encounter such flavors like this in NYC. The sauce splashed on top was acidic to contrast the gaminess of the meat as well as the huge, super tart caper berries that were the size of my fingertips. It’s gutsy and rustic, I like it.
The Mignon de cochon fermier rôti au poêlon, asparagus et lard was a gorgeous thing to look at. As you, my readers might know for some time, I love pork. This beautifully seared portion of porcine revealed a perfect, pink-purple, medium-rare when cut in half. Tender, juicy and succulent with a few stalks of crisp yet tender cooked green and white asparagus, topped with a long thin strip of lardo. A pork lover’s dream dish.
As we ate and lingered around this restaurant, it got a lot more busier, crowds built up around the bar, waiting for a table to free. Waiters were in a frazzled state running up and down from the kitchen to the front of the house serving up food. Then the sudden heavy showers (it happened quite frequently during my stay in Paris), adding more buzzing activity as the rain-soaked people crowding up around the bar. Loud and bustling yet all under control.
We ended our dinner, as we were stuffed from the earlier pastry-driven run. Satiated yet I felt the need to revisit this bistro in the near future, as I know there are so many more dishes I should try.
Chez L’Ami Jean
27 Rue Malar, 7th Arr.
75007 Paris, France
Tel 01 47 05 86 89