LAmi Jean is a Chowhound favorite and an attempt to give it a bad review would probably generate a riot, requiring the Chowhound Team to intervene with whips and buckets of cold water. But any such attempt would be completely unconvincing: this place is super solid, and all I want to do is to add a voice to the general chorus of praise.
27 rue Malar, 7th arrondissement
Tel. 01 47 05 86 89
Closed Sunday, Monday
It is very cold in Paris right now. In fact, its been snowing. Just the right weather for a restaurant that really understands stews, roasted meats, and properly-cooked winter vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, brussels sprouts, chestnuts and sweet potatoes (a little of that last item goes a long way, however). The kitchen here knows just how to preserve flavor and moisture at the same time as the meat is cooked until it falls of the bone all by intself. The overall inspiration here is Basque, but with a lighter, more modern touch. Nothing gimmicky, either.
The basic three-course menu is very fairly priced at 29 euros. It has some excellent items, but I urge Chowhounds to dig into the carte where, among other things, they will find game (hare, boar, venison, red partridge) and fish.
The wine list is small but very correct. There is a nice selection of Southwestern wines that are not so well known outside France, partly because that have unpronounceable names like Gaillac and Irouléguy (guy-ACK, ee-rool-egg-EE). The Corsican reds are good, too.
The waiters are young, polite, and cheerful. The restaurant is packed every night, so there are occasional lapses, but nothing obnoxious or deliberate.
Ok, there are a few things about the Ami that I dont like. First of all, as in many mid-priced French restaurants, the desserts are uninteresting, occasionally contrived. A fine restaurant really needs to have a separate dessert chef, since the ingredients, timescales, techniques, are all unique. At Ami Jean, this means that the last course is best skipped another reason for going à la carte.
Secondly, the place is kinda ugly : small, dark, slightly claustrophobic, looking like it needs a good airing out and a fresh coat of paint. There is artwork on the walls, but this aint the Musée dOrsay. A strange thing : the tables and chairs are sized for an odd race of people who are about 25% smaller than regular humans. You end up sitting with your knees up against your chin, with waiters bumping into your back as they negotiate among the tables.
Lastly, the entire restaurant seems to be hermetically sealed to maximise the concentration of cigarette smoke, and practically every table is decorated à la française with packs of Marlboro Lights and cheap butane lighters. When, oh when, will this end ?