Ah.. Chez L’Ami Jean (at my friend Jean). One of my favorite dining experiences on the Left Bank of Paris headed by culinary extraordinaire, Chef Stéphane Jégo. This teensy tiny Basque style bistro is a favorite among the locals and those who are “in the know”. Jégo worked alongside Yves Camdeborde (Chef at Le Comptoir) for many years, and you will see certain similarities in their cooking style. Jégo, too, takes classic and traditional dishes and reconstructs them into gastronomic brilliance. The moment you walk in from the unassuming exterior, you’re lured in to the bustling, high energy atmosphere. There are two menu options, one in a traditional leather bound book and the other, a handwritten pre fixe market menu. This menu changes daily based on seasonality and whatever Chef Jégo may be feeling at that moment. Expect some game dishes. Wild Boar? Deer? or “Bambi” as he called it when I was unsure of what appeared on my plate. My meal here from beginning to end was a journey of succulent, rich, mind blowingly inspirational creations.
I don’t quite remember how many courses were in total but as far as the main dishes go, the wild boar topped with scallop, sprinkled in truffle, and garnished with a crisp slice of bacon forever holds a special place in my memory. Then, what next but a superbly seasoned langoustine (prawn) atop a perfectly cooked piece of bass? Finally, Chef Jego’s signature and LEGENDARY salted caramel rice pudding dessert. I’ve never been much of a rice pudding aficionado but this dessert was so delicious that I had it wrapped up in a “doggy bag” (yes, they do that here) and indulged on the plane the next day. You could taste the firm grains of rice embedded in the velvety smooth pudding, flavored with bourbon and vanilla. On the side, he offered a variety of toppings such as peanut brittle, brown sugar, and granola. This dessert was a masterpiece. Our meal lasted hours and the longer we sat, the more we ate, calories but an afterthought. If you’re going to Chez L’Ami Jean, sit back relax, eat, drink, and be merry.