We went for a great lunch at Chez l'Ami Jean http://www.amijean.eu/ and check out Chowhound.com for reviews. They are mixed but we thought it was just wonderful!
We arrived early - the staff have a comic routine going, the waiter said the Basque wine was just like him, brash but good. We told the waitress he/it certainly wasn't Margaux but went well with the food.
My first course was a lobster soup served over a mix of nuts - hazel nuts, chestnuts, almonds - sesame seeds, and something else, that transforms it from the usual taste of lobster bisque to something quite a bit more interesting. Paul had calamari with a delicious sliver of air dried bacon or Basque ham, caviars - tiny black and larger red - and more nuts.
Since it was early, the chef Stephane himself? tried out some new recipes on us - he said if we didn't die he would serve them to others ;-) Needless to say they were fabulous. There was a bouillon light and delicious, though a little salty for me the salt-o-phobe, but fine for Paul, with finely chopped Basque smoked peppers, celery root and leaf and something else I can't remember - delicious. The second dish was a ravioli - basically two thin slices of dried and/or roasted eggplant with a cube of game - venison or sanglier - on top and mussels with chopped lobster underneath. It worked! The mussels have enough flavour to stand up to the game and the eggplant provided a medium to prevent a hostile confrontation.
Our mains were 1. milk-fed lamb with Jerusalem artichokes and 2. maigret with tiny macaroni to die for. The meats were perfectly cooked - since we like rare (they did ask) - the potato puree was like cream, the artichokes were beautifully al dente and the macaroni were done with a little spice and ham or lardon. Just fantastic - plus the continuous pleasantries of the staff starting to get busy but sparing a joke for most people - we loved it!
Dessert - well, we had to try the rice pudding and yes, next time we will order one for a table of four. Paul had the Paris Brest creme but I think the rice pudding was better. Paul finished with an 1992 Armagnac that pretty much finished us!
We'd go back in a heart beat yet I completely understand the reviews. If you can't bear dishes not to come at the same time, a wait staff that doesn't take anything too seriously and a chef who takes everything that goes out of the kitchen very seriously but loves to experiment, don't go.
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