[Paris 7] L’ami Jean in 2022: oui ou non?

I continue to be behind writing up our most recent trip to Paris in May/June, but as we returned to L’Ami Jean this trip, I thought a quick post here would be apt.

We went for lunch on a weekday. We liked it, but to use an old American expression, This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. Almost everything was different here - good and bad - versus prior trips:

  • The service, far from being curt or abrupt, was wonderful.
  • It was not at all cramped (we were particularly lucky, with the table by the window), the room seemed brighter, and I don’t believe the place was ever full that afternoon.
  • The portions were not gut-busting (if they even have the chef’s choice option any longer, it seems to be deemphasized), and most of the food not “heavy” at all.
  • Plenty there appealing for my “picky eater” wife; in fact, it was one of her favorite places this trip.

but…

  • The terrine de campagne at the beginning of the meal is not comped (that part not a big deal) and was very mediocre, below average for all of Paris, and light years worse than on each previous visit
  • The bread was just average (I don’t recall whether the bread is much of a change or not, to be fair).
  • The rice pudding at the end was fine, but nowhere close to “wow” like each prior time.
  • The mains (saumon and cochon for us) were fine, but IMO not up to the level of previous visits.

I’d still go back, but I’m not rushing to do so, and will stay way from the pate de campagne as opposed to look forward to it.

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Thanks for the interesting and balanced report. Much appreciated. As we stay for a month + each trip, we usually wind up going twice each time, although never been for lunch. We’ll be back for this coming May, so we’ll (no doubt) go again and report back. Cant say that I’ve ever loved their terrine that much (always has been comp’ed and added to an already over-ordered meal), but I’m hoping that I still love the rice pudding (even though its no longer “new” for us and other places also do excellent versions). But, as with your wife, it’s always been on our list of our well remembered meals each visit so, hopefully, it’ll be again. Going back any time soon?

appreciate the report - its nice to get an update view from one of the HO folks!

There is a review by Pete Wells, coming up in this week’s NY Times, of Libertine (in NYC). I’m hoping that, by mentioning it here, Parn & Carmenere (& all of my other non-Paris residents) will read it, for several reasons. First, the obvious: Wells references L’Ami Jean repeatedly in the review (including the rice pudding). Secondly, it’s interesting (well, to me at least) to read Wells’ categorization of French cooking and how chefs innovate off of it. Not sure I really agree with him, although I do get where he’s coming from with it. And, thirdly, to read what we financially put up with here in NYC in order to have a reasonable French meal. By the way, you can mentally add 8% tax and another 20-25% tip at the end to figure out that my wife and I can probably fly to Paris & eat at L’Ami Jean for only a little more than what we’re going to pay when we go to Libertine (yes, a gross exaggeration but still…we will probably go). Happy reading.

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How is it that you have Pete Well’s reviews before they are published in the Times?

Subscribers get several columns a day or two in advance by e-mail.

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The review is on the website now. My thoughts on a one-time read-through:

  1. Does he only mention those three (Bistrot Paul Bert, Le Baratin, Chez l’Ami Jean) because he doesn’t know anything more about Paris bistrots or does he mention them because he expects most of his readers/Libertine’s customers will know those three and probably not many more?

  2. Not sure what you mean by his comments on French cooking and how they innovate off of it. Can you expand, Steve?

  3. Yeah, price is a major thing. For the cost of the chicken (not including tax and tip), I can get a full meal with wine here, including tax and tip here in Paris. One thing he doesn’t comment on is the difference in portion size between US restaurants (and it looks like Libertine may be in that group, but I’m not sure) and most Paris bistrots; OTOH, if all he knows in Paris is Chez l’Ami Jean, maybe he’s not aware of the difference.
    Speaking of the chicken, he says it’s $64 and the duck is $72, but the summary at the bottom says mains are $28-44. What gives? At any rate, for a ** (out of ****), that sounds really expensive – welcome to NYC 2023, I guess.

Thanks onz: I appreciate the response, even after a one time read through. On #1, Wells was quoting the owner, who said that those were some of his favorite bistros. That alone (& Wells’ lack of commentary on it) made me wary, even though I’m one of the L’Ami Jean lovers. On #2, I was not articulate & meant to refer to both Wells’ description of how NY bistros can just be riffs on other, older NY bistros & not related at all to the real things in France (which he believes Libertine is. – and, from reading about it, I’d probably agree) & also to his stating that L’Ami Jean, Le Baratin and Bistrot Paul Bert are known as “stripped down” or “bare bones” bistros. This, second part, is something I’d be interested in hearing opinions about, as the 1st part (except maybe for a couple of exceptions) is evident to those of us living in NYC and traveling to Paris. As for #3, I was going for a little shock value to Carmenere & Parn. When seeing how we tourists react (or don’t) to prices in Paris for both food & wine, maybe this’ll provide some context. As overpriced (comparatively) as Paris prices might now be for you, we’re in heaven when we can get a good glass of wine for under $18 or a bottle under $50. And a Paris dinner for those prices in a comparable bistro? – well, I’ll just use his L’Ami Jean comparison and state that we eat better, with equally large portions, for under half as much there.

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Would you have a link to that article please? I could perhaps comment on the contents.

Thanks, in the meantime I found it on a mirror site since I am not a subscriber to the NYT.

I read the article, then I re-read Onzième’s comments, and I don’t think I have anything to add to that.

The only thing I could add is that labeling Chez l’Ami Jean as a bistrot, moreover a “traditional” bistrot, is rather misleading. And “stripped down” certainly doesn’t apply to it. Paul Bert, Le Baratin, OK, they’re bistrots all right. L’Ami Jean is not. It is a restaurant serving extremely personal, complex cooking, based on the market and seasonal stuff, for a relatively high price, and the chef is almost never where you expect him. All that is done in an old bistrot setting that has hardly changed since the Basque owner put it in the hands of Stéphane Jego, aside from the murals. But a bistrot setting does not a bistrot make, just as a Palme d’or doesn’t a good film make.

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Well written post. In describing bistrot food, I go by the long-standing adage: “The oldest pots make the best dishes.”

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I think that adding my take of last night’s dinner at L’Ami Jean to this thread is probably a good idea. Two friends from Boston are passing thru Paris so we took them to Le Mazenay (which they (& we) loved) & then to L’Ami Jean. They’ve been thru Paris before & have been to a # of places on this board, so they wanted to see what we think some of the worthwhile places to go are. I was worried that L’Ami Jean would not be as good as its been the 4 or 5 other times we’ve been in the past several years, but the worry was unfounded and all 4 of us had great meals. For starters, no terrine was offered nor ordered. The 2 Parm. soups were, as always, very nice, the charcouterie platter equally good but the menu had an eggplant dish that I ordered and was outstanding. A half small eggplant, hollowed out and filled with the eggplant meat and a # of other ingredients (foggy memory & I dont want to get it wrong). I think that this dish is an example of both the chef’s talent and why some folks may underrate him. A simple menu description followed by what looked like a simple preparation, followed by a taste explosion that is above/beyond what most chefs get from their ingredients. Seriously, double the portion size & serve this as a main plate & rave reviews would follow. As a 1st course, it couldnt be a better start. At any rate, on to the mains. I had the suckling pig, done perfectly, 3 juicy medium size pieces surrounded by fresh vegetables and a sauce. A vibrant dish, very flavorful. One friend’s flank (?) steak was a very large piece of beef with a nice crust & still burning fragrant embers of rosemary on top. The meat was tender and enough to feed an army. Excellent mashed potatoes for both of us made these great orders. My wife and our other friend each ordered the duck and out came a very large ceramic cookware dish, just out of the oven, holding a huge portion of sliced breast surrounded by a mix of fresh peas, squash, pearl onions and other vegetables. Probably one of the best duck breast dishes I’ve ever tasted, with the duck retaining all its flavor but with a deep rich broth/juice setting. More than enough for 2 people and served, again, with a side of mashed potatoes (great for soaking up the liquid. A split rice pudding (pretty much the way I remembered it) for the 4 of us was more than enough. As for the cost, well I think it was more than reasonable at a little over 100euros per person all in, including 2 bottles (one white, one red) of very nice wine in the 60-70euro range. Of course, living in NYC, this represents maybe half of what we would’ve paid at home (if we could find this kind of cooking at all, so well done). The service was very friendly, the room suprisingly half empty from opening till we left at 9 or 9:30, and the chef attentive to every dish coming out of his kitchen, but very restrained. As with previous trips, I’m guessing that we’ll be back for a 2nd dinner here before we leave.

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I’ve only been there once, but memory is strong of those mashed potatoes. Simply the best!

More about Stéphane Jego: my report on the first dinner of the Epicuriales festival which was held in Liège (Belgium) last week. Stéphane (with the help of the brasserie’s chef) took care of that dinner and it was awesome. So glad to see him back on track and as sharp and bouncing as ever. He’s been through a lot in recent years and what I witnessed was a rebirth.
https://sophiebrissaud.fr/?p=800 (scroll down, I don’t get to dinner until late)

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That meal looks amazing! Well, the whole experience looks like it was just a whole lot of fun and great food.

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How many were served that dinner? It can be so, so difficult to orchestrate something like that, especially the temperature of the beef. And the size of it. I am officially jealous. What a privilege!

I am wondering what the beef looked like cut open…

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So good to know that this remains a memorable lieu. Thanks so much for the description.

“we took them to Le Mazenay (which they (& we) loved) & then to L’Ami Jean.” That’s a lot of dedication for one evening!

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My English ain’t so good no more. 2 evenings, 2 dinners. :roll_eyes:

I really enjoyed reading your beautifully written (even with Google Translate!) report of what sounds like a splendid dinner.

I was quite moved by this sentence:
We all have things to say to each other, because there were the horrible years from 2020 to 2022 and we don’t all get over them at the same time.

Thank you too for including the bunny picture.

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