Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Organ friendly

Feasting with mom continues: Chapter 3

Last night with the stormy, cold weather bringing us right back to winter after the glorious spring weekend, mom, friend + I headed over to the quiet 7th arrondissement to dine at the hearty bistro, Chez L’Ami Jean at 27, rue Malar. We came in out of the cold into a warm and bustling environment. Simple décor of wood tables and chairs, set side-by-side, and a wait staff that was ultra busy and not really concerned about frivolities such as smiling. The open kitchen where six or seven chefs danced around each other, provides non-stop entertainment as well as the pleasure of being able to see all the incredible dishes that fly out of there. We started with three coupes de Champagne to celebrate my friend W’s recent publishing success, and nibbled on the lardons served in a stainless steel bowl.

The menu offers the choice for a 32 euro menu for entrée, plat + dessert or you can order à la carte. It is very organ heavy including many cheeks, kidneys and brains. I almost felt happy, for once, that it was cold out because this is serious winter eating.
W + I settled on the oyster, served warm with a bed of volaille, and a mousse (more foam) of carrot. The plate came warm and each item had a full flavor. As W described it, “it’s like a foamy, briny, meaty morsel.” Delicious, and likely I suspect, a great cure for a hangover. Mom settled on an emulsion of vegetables that was pureed and served over more lardons. It was rich and full of flavor. For dinner two of us selected the Agneau de Lait (baby lamb...oh the guilt) marinated in herbs and olive oil and served with the consistently phenomenal French style of pomme puree, which essentially takes American mashed potatoes to the a whole new, creamy level. For the lamb, the ribs, a leg and some other cut I didn’t make out, were served and I started off by trying to politely cut meat from the bones and soon ended up Fred Flintstone style gnawing away at it to get the goods. It was delicious, but rather bone-heavy. Call me traditional, but I think I prefer the simpler chop or filet. W selected the trifecta of porcelet (pork). Ear, cheek and maybe a slice of the actual flesh came stacked together on top of a bright green Parsley gel which looked like crème-de-menthe. The head chef is from the Basque country and there are certain elements (foam/gel), which veer from being totally French traditional and this is a welcome addition. In my opinion food that has more than one origin is always the most interesting. The bread was fresh, brown, country bread with crisp crust.

We selected a lovely 2004 Cahors to go with the meal. The wine menu is diverse and well priced. The selection ranged from a 20 Euro Gaillac from the South-West to a 400 Euro Pomerol. There is also a nice selection of after dinner drinks- from a 10 Euro glass of Chivas Regal to a 5400 Euro bottle of Armengac from many years ago. We ended the meal with two desserts which continued the layered and robust nature of the main courses. One was a sable Breton (oat-like, butter cookie) served with vanilla ice cream and strawberries and the other was like a rhubarb soup with large chunks of baked rhubarb and more vanilla ice cream. Chez L’Ami Jean is a full-French experience from the décor to food and best experienced with chilly weather so all the more desire to fill yourself with full bodied red wine and full-flavored and meaty based dishes. Don’t expect to be hand-held through your experience. Even when the crowds died down the staff moved at such a pace that you felt you were bothering them even to get the check. But all of that aside, the food is fantastic. Reservations are highly recommended.

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