For my 30th birthday, my sister and I finally went to a restaurant we had been trying to visit for years.
Chez L’Ami Jean may look unassuming at first glance, but this Basque restaurant somehow manages to unite everything I most love about classic French comfort food as well as everything I love about the small plates trend. Stéphane Jego is a master of that sweet spot of bistronomie: a French portemanteau that connotes both hearty bistro fare and the delicacy of French haute gastronomy.
He’s created the kind of restaurant where you eat well without that starched, uncomfortable feeling that so many haute cuisine spots in Paris have so perfectly cultivated. Chez l’Ami Jean is cozy and edgy and warm, with just the right amount of elbow room so that you can see what your neighbors are ordering but not be forced to converse with them.
(Er… on second thought… bear in mind that I’ve been living in France for a while. Americans might find the seating too close for comfort, but I kind of like it.)
And it’s always busy – a very good sign.
On the night we visited, the ever-changing menu included this perfectly roasted pigeon (and yes, we say pigeon in French, though if you’re squeamish, call it squab). It was perfectly cooked and accompanied by a rich pan sauce.
We also tried the asparagus with ham, served in a savory broth. (Jego’s sauces are on point: not overly salty and perfectly balanced.)
And there was no way we could miss the house specialty: the delicious (albeit not-too-photogenic) rice pudding for dessert.
Reservations are a must, here, but for a special occasion meal (or even to turn a normal night into a special occasion), Chez l’Ami Jean is definitely one for the books.
Chez l’Ami Jean – 27 Rue Malar, 75007