It’s been a while since I’ve been on the Chowhound boards, so I decided to do some reading and catching up last night. Last year, I did embarrassing amounts of reading and stalking on Chowhound to make my restaurant choices, and then after my visit last May, I decided to move here. So here I am in Paris. (Yay!!)
Reading all the recent questions and reports last night made me remember how torn I usually feel having to choose just 4 or 5 restaurants during my short stays in Paris. I had felt so pressured to make the right choice for my limited time in the city. The whole point of moving here was to have more time to visit, see, explore, try, and frequent all these places whenever I want…and I realized I’ve been here 3 months and truly have not taken advantage of being here. And that's coming from a girl who practically moved here for the food. I've taken advantage of the pastries, believe you me, but in the restaurant department I could stand to step it up.
All that to say…the Chowhound boards re-inspired me last night, so I woke up this morning and made a reservation (for one!) at Chez L’Ami Jean. That’s why I’m here, so I can do stuff like that!!
So thanks for the inspiration. On to the report!
Last year when I came to CLAJ, it was for dinner, and it was much more boisterous and crazy. Lunch is calmer, not as packed, the waiters were less rushed and everyone was friendly and relatively relaxed. Really enjoyable.
Based on Chowhound advice, I ordered from the chalkboard. I’ve always wanted to try pigeon, and there it was, so I ordered it. The waiter responded, “Have you had pigeon before?” “No.” “It’s gamey.” “Okay. Is it good?” “Well, it’s gamey.” “Okay, I’ve just always wanted to try it.” That made me nervous that it wasn’t going to be good, since he just responded about the gamey-ness. He asked how I wanted it cooked, and I said whatever was the best way. I’ve heard before that pigeon is usually served rare to medium rare. I trust the French to cook it correctly, so I let him make that call.
Moving to Paris by yourself isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but today I was happy to be a solo female diner. I can only assume that it was my state of total aloneness, sitting in the middle of the restaurant, that made Jego have pity on me and decide to send me some extras. First, I was brought a complementary fish soup as a starter. It was very good, but I didn’t want to eat too much because I knew I’d be ordering rice pudding after the pigeon.
Then when the main arrived, I was told that the chef made a slight modification to the pigeon for me. He added seared foie gras & some other delightful chilled cactus-like thing from Spain that I don’t even know how to describe. It had flower buds on the end of it and just complimented the whole thing wonderfully. The pigeon was delicious. Perfectly cooked just a step above rare…I don’t even know how he got the flavors in there that he did, but it was so delightful. I was trying to not look like a fool smiling as I ate it. I wanted to yell out, “THIS IS SO DELICIOUS, EVERYBODY!!!” and sing and say "mmmmm" after every bite, but I kept my cool. Just the awkward involuntary smiling. The accompanying cocotte had the other half of the pigeon with fresh spring vegetables. I ate every bite. The guy next to me got the pigeon and couldn’t finish it (Lightweight!!) No really, I can eat.
(Side note - it was served with the head & neck on top and the head was split in half. Was I supposed to eat the brain? I know the French eat lots of organs. Please advise.)
I was given the menu afterward to look at dessert, but set it down w/out opening it since I knew I wanted to get the rice pudding. Before I could say anything, a waitress came by and picked up my menu, and then came out with a huge bowl of rice pudding that I swear was bigger than the couple’s next to me, followed by a huge wooden tray with 4 glasses of different desserts, and a glass w/ 4 spoons, “un degustation de desserts” from the chef. It was beautiful. Even the wood tray was decorated w/ cocoa powder & fine crumbled pistachios. Geez, I love being a girl!! I need to eat alone more often apparently. How nice is that??
Of course I looked like a total pig with 19 desserts in front of me, it was hilarious, but I didn’t care!! At that moment, I was slightly saddened at my fullness from the pigeon because I couldn’t fully enjoy all this dessert, but I did my best. I have no idea what I ate in the 4 desserts – a fruit one with hot peaches, cherry, and a strawberry w/ cream; a chocolate icecream & sorbet one, a cream & caramel w/ pistachios & meringue pieces; a chocolate cake swirled w/ cream with edible flowers on top. The rice pudding, of course, was as good as ever. I would have gone for thirds if I didn’t think the couple next to me would judge me. Let me tell you, I want to go back tomorrow!
Ended with an espresso served w/ cocoa covered walnuts. Delight!! THIS IS WHY I MOVED HERE!!
The pigeon was 40 euros, glass of wine for 6, café was 3.50.
Etiquette question here – Since I was given the soup, extra foie gras topping, rice pudding + 4 mini desserts…how much should I tip in this scenario?? I didn’t want to overdo it because I didn’t know if this was more of an American thing – to give money as appreciation - but didn’t want to be unappreciative either. The total was 49.50, and I got all that deliciousness given to me. What would you have given? Would appreciate any social education here for future reference.
All in all…I cannot WAIT to go back. It was so fresh, perfectly cooked, flavorful, and just delicious. And how nice to make a solo diner feel special. Sign me up for the fan club. Looking forward to returning soon!
Thanks Chowhounders for the inspiration to take advantage of my time here. It was wonderful.