Saturday, February 4, 2012

Incredible Edible Adventures at Chez l'Ami Jean

Can we talk about the magicalness, nay, the magicosity of last night?  As always, another successful meal at what is now officially my favorite restaurant, Chez l'Ami Jean.  In many ways, my first meal there in May 2010 led to a series of events that ended with me living here in Paris.  A brief historical recap (insert music & squiggly memory lines):

Dinner at Chez l'Ami Jean two springs ago with Brooke & Julie.

Table next to us turned out to be 4 chefs. (One came late).

Started chatting, had 4 hours of fun banter & joking during dinner, then hung out afterwards at one of their restaurants down the street.  The chef & waitstaff from Chez l'Ami Jean even came, and we found ourselves dancing to the Cotton-eyed Joe in magical chef land in a closed-for-the-night Michelin-starred restaurant.  Typical Paris amazingness.

Met up with our new Irish chef friend on my way back through Paris at end of trip.  Hung out all day.

Moved flight and stayed 3 extra days (for Paris, not for the guy. Just friends). Continued to hang out with awesome fun Irish chef, became great buddies.  Saw his Paris life, which ignited my dormant desire to live in Paris.  Once ignited, could not be ignored.  Fast forward, here I am.

So...thanks Chez l'Ami Jean, for being the catalyst which propelled that small series of events and led to me moving here. Appreciate your involvement.

Last night was the 4th time since I moved here to have a fabulous meal at this famous-among-foodies restaurant.  The first time was when I had this awesome experience, which contributed to a slowly growing notion that the chef, Stéphane Jego, and I are secretly best friends.  Because every time I go there, he hooks me up.  He sends appetizers, elaborate dessert trays, champagne, always something...Maybe he's just really generous with all his customers...or maybe just with females...either way, I accept.  And last night was no exception.

Even though I called at the beginning of the week, the earliest dinner reservation available Friday night was 10pm, so we decided we'd hang out and have some wine & snacks before our late dinner. The night of magic began with hilarity and bizarre hypothetical scenarios, per usual, chez Maygan & Kyle.  I don't know if you knew, but I'm actually a famous vineyard owner, and I produce my own wine.

We thoroughly enjoyed this bottle of JULIE NAS! while laughing and musing over Maygan & Kyle's secret Goth life back in Houston, Buckley's nose ring, hypnotizing & shock therapy as a training method, and confirmation that Maygan would be ordering a flat one-eyed stink fish for dinner.

When it was time to leave for the restaurant, we walked outside to be greeted by SNOW FALLING!!!  This is the first snow we've seen this year! the exact moment of the Eiffel Tower sparkling above the building across the street.  Of course.

Kyle responds with a celebratory lunge, and we're off & on our way.

We arrive at the restaurant around 10:10pm, and the place is packed to the brim, bustling, and full of life.  This place is fun and quirky and rustic - there's cured hams & copper pots hanging from the ceiling, cartoon drawings on the wall of Jego as various super heroes, exposed brick, mirrors, and a big chandelier in the corner.

It's Basque cuisine, from the southern region of France near Spain, and Jego was actually one of the first chefs to pioneer the latest culinary movement with this restaurant, providing incredible quality of cooking & ingredients, like you would usually only find at fancy expensive restaurants, but in a relaxed and jovial bistro atmosphere, and at prices that won't set you back $400 per person.
Look at all this jovial conviviality happening under Superman Jego holding a cured ham & saucepan next to the Eiffel Tower.

We waited at the end of the tiny bar, crammed up against the coat rack, snacking on slices of saucisson while we waited for our table.  I became unofficial coat-passer by reason of necessity and having nowhere else to move to get out of the way.  Happy to help.  I accept tips.

Finally, it is time, and we're summoned over to our table.  You know how when someone waves at you from across the way, but you're scared to wave back because they may actually be waving at someone RIGHT behind you?  As we walked toward our table, the open kitchen window was straight ahead, and from the kitchen, amid all the hustle bustle and cooking, Jego smiled and called out "Bonsoir" to me across the room as if we were fast friends.

I can't help but think there is absolutely no way he would recognize or remember me as a customer - I mean my 3 visits in the summer hardly qualify me as a regular.  But when we went to order, the waiter (I've always had the same guy every time), asked how I was doing and said that it had been a long time since I'd been there.  Crazy huh??  That blows my mind, because this place is packed and bustling every day all year long (even on a snowy February night at 10:30pm), so there's no reason that anyone should remember me.

And when it came to the meal, my uncertain but hopeful expectations were met beyond measure in the manner of getting special treatment & extra everything.  So I hadn't made it all up in my head.  We are, in fact, best friends and/or secretly in love.

This has already reached a ridiculous length, so I'm going to make a Part 2, with pictures of all the incredible courses, since he decided to give us the 80€ carte blanche tasting menu instead of the 55€ mini tasting that we ordered.  I. love. this. restaurant.


  1. Seriously, that sounds like an amazing night! I know you know that already but I totally enjoy reading through your experience!

  2. Thanks Faith! It was really fun...I wish I could afford to eat there all the time! I'll have to start eating PB sandwiches during the week to keep up my dining habits on the weekends. :)