My wife's birthday meal and oh what a disappointment. One of the starkest gaps I can recall between a mouth-watering menu and the execution on the plate. Starter of snail croquettes lacked discernible flavour and the garlic sauce didn't even taste of garlic. Under-seasoned certainly. Sea Bass Ceviche was bizarre. Grapefruit jelly was nice but couldn't disguise the inadequacy of the marinade which lacked all the flavours you've come to associate with ceviche. The fish was pleasant enough but this was not ceviche either in the peruvian sense or in the way I've ever eaten it elsewhere and was hugely disappointing. Mushrooms were much better, a lovely ingredient simply prepared.
My wife had a demi lamb, hugely generous portion for E16 with two cutlets cooked, perhaps, a touch longer than they should have been, and some good vegetables alongside them.
I had the sweetbreads with potato and mushroom. Never in my life have I been so aware of the need for contrasting textures in food. The sweetbreads were nice but weren't very crisp and the whole dish faltered awfully. The addition of crunchy carrots from my wife's plate helped hugely but this was the worst dish of sweetbreads I've ever had.
Cheese plate was lovely.
Nice atmosphere and very friendly staff, but despite that the service was pretty awful, drinks ordered which never came, butter never came with bread even once requested, asked for the wine list back when we ran out, never came.
Semilla is decent value for Paris and a nice space but I left with an uninspired shrug, I couldn't recommend it.
Chez L'Ami Jean
It doesn't really matter how late you come to the party if it's as good as this. The carte blanche menu on a Saturday night, seated right outside the kitchen watching Monsieur Jego at the pass and his voice ricocheting around my right ear drum.
The French couple next to us, and their later replacements from the US, looked extraordinarily glum. This is not the restaurant to be fussy I think. Half-cooked salmon? Pheasant instead of lamb? tick and off we went with the best pate we've eaten followed by a tour de force of formidable cooking that instantly placed about 15 two and three star meals in the shade.
The parmesan cappucino started, followed by scallops with a fois gras terrine and bacon with microherbs that looked all the world like an aesthetic garnish but which enhanced and flavoured every mouthful. Innovative plating continued with the quail and orzo rice and squid ink, wild salmon with the night's cleverest tick of squid noodles in a deep mushroom broth and chanterelles was exquisite as was the pheasant and mashed potato. Cheeses and dessert trio followed before the Riz au Lait.
Service was generous, friendly, jovial (and rushed) and as it was well past midnight the chef himself was very kind to us as we left. I don't know whether it was the reservation in French or sheer luck but we were relieved beyond measure not to be on the communal anglophone table.
But this is extraordinary cooking, in the most wonderful setting and once we'd embraced the evening it turned into arguably the best restaurant night of our lives.
A few other small notes
Thanks to Jock for this recommendation, filled in perfectly as a lunch spot on our shopping route around the marais. Pate, smoked salmon and their cheese-laden croquants were all excellent and very good value fare.
Cafe de Flore
A lovely little institution which I'm sure residents raise their eyes about. Ludicrously over-priced but exactly the sort of place you want to go when your feet first touch the ground in Paris. Sandwiches and tomatoes with vinaigrette hit the spot.
Nice looking breakfast spot on Bonaparte in Saint Germain. Lovely pastries and orange juice, awful coffee.