Some thought me silly to fly to Paris from Florence, destination Provence. To go from south to North to South did not compute. Some have no imagination. To glimpse the grand avenue of the Champs-Elysees, the Seine, or to sleep in the quaint haunt of Saint Germaine, is reason alone to visit the capitol of 'des artiste!' even for an overnight. To dine is another.
A Parisian friend had made a reservation for my friend Virginie and me, in a well-known Basque bistro in the 7th. Popping into chez L'Ami Jean was like being invited into a party of a bon vivant. Lively, old, preserved and raucous, we were squished into a two top so close to the other two tops that the metal Ark-like breadbaskets straddled the tables down the crack, it was confusing to know which one to chose from. The waiter said, 'boo, it doesn’t mat-ter!' He was the same waiter that answered me candidly when I asked, 'what is the most typical Basque dish on the menu?" He answered, 'Moi!'
Big fish eat little fish. Feeling like a sardine, I chose the sardines. The other dishes were interesting to say the least,veal cheeks, quail, a side of beef stacked on roasted potatoes, but the thought of sardines seemed simple.
The plate was presented like order in chaos, not unlike the bistro itself. Same, same but different. Rough, rustic, a little noisy, yet friendly and charming, the sardines fell onto the plate like silver torpedoes topped with a confetti of pickled red onions, thin leaves of tarragon and capers. A potato slice for a bed and a drizzle of fruity olive oil for sanity. Second course was simple. Grilled turbot. House white. Just one glass but it fit.
No dessert, but L’Ami Jean was ‘sweet’.