When you walk on rue Roger Verlomme to get to Chez Janou, you pass...not much. Instead of the quintessential Paris street overloaded with the energy of cafe patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk, this dark, narrow rue sits quietly. On a Tuesday night, at least.
"Well, if it doesn't look awesome, we can always try something else. Like...er, this place looks cute," I said as we walked by a restaurant window that revealed a warm interior full of humans who looked like they were enjoying themselves (we passed on the other restaurant full of fun-loving robots). After Morten, Giso and I turned around the corner I found out that the overstuffed restaurant was Chez Janou. Ahhh...I am slow.
As we approached the restaurant and saw the endless stream of people going into it (not so much coming out), we realized it may be a bit of a wait, if the bit is very long. Someone told us 30 minutes. We waited. Other people waited. We waited some more. Other people got seated. We waited some more. Other people from deep within the restaurant's red-hued bowels emerged and got seated. We waited some more. Stood by the curb. Stood by the entrance. Stood by the tables. Stood by the other people who were standing by. Witnessed diners have their tables cleared and then maybe 10 minutes later receive a dessert menu, adding perhaps another 30 minutes to their meal. Oh lordy.
Luckily we were not dying or hunger or else we wouldn't have felt like hanging outside for about an hour (after getting there around 8:45 PM) as the whizzing by of waitresses balancing plates of colorful, delicious looking food on their arms tortured our stomachs. The point that we decided to leave would surely be when a new table would open—I think that's one of Murphy's Laws. Also, we had no idea where else to go.
I'm happy to say that our patience paid off.
The wait may be long, but the food comes out fast. Sharing two appetizers between the three of us seemed like a good idea to get the most out of our fooding experience without exploding. Toastades de [insert a name of cheese that I can't make out on the menu] presented us with a glorious pair of thick, buttery, crusty, chewy (perhaps a bit too much in some places) toasts smothered by enough melting, browned cheese to resemble a dangerous lava floe. This ultimate open-faced "grilled cheese sandwich" sat on a bed of lettuce, which I've found to taste surprisingly awesome in Paris. Surprising to me, that is, someone who didn't grow up with the French culinary notion that salads must be awesome. Somehow even my lifelong dreaded raw tomato tastes tolerable—hell, even tasty—in Paris (which makes me wonder what a tomato lover would think of them). Most of the salads I've had so far have consisted of some magically soft, fresh tasting hand-torn lettuce leaves lightly tossed in a balanced vinaigrette. It's so ridiculously simple, yet something I've rarely had before. Now I know that my distaste towards salad isn't because I hate leafy greens and want to violently beat them with blunt objects so that they will never think about gracing my presence again, but because most of the salads I've eaten weren't worth liking.
Tuna carpaccio (raw thinly sliced tuna fish) couldn't win in a contest of tastiness against cheese-loaded bread, but maybe it was a good contrast to have the light tuna with the toastades. You know, something to chew on in between mouthfuls of lactose-based bolus. I don't know how to describe the carpaccio besides that I liked it (flavors escape me). ...But as I said before, it ain't no cheesy bread.
My first forkful of brandade de morue, a puréed salt cod-based dish, was surprisingly unfishy. Of course there was some fishiness (since it has...fish in it), but there was also garlic, cream, and olive oil...at least according to the translation I read in Eating & Drinking in Paris. Imagine something like mashed potatoes, but with a lighter texture and with fish. Or read Maki's description:
It is salty, just slightly fishy (but in a good way, like the freshest anchovies, but less so), garlicky, and full of fruity olive oil flavor, with the slight acidic edge provided by the creme fraiche, that elevates it to the highest level of taste.
Surely that sounds appealing to you. If not, EAT IT ANYWAY. I'm not sure if I was supposed to eat it with the tiny side pot of aioli (at least I think that's what it was), but I did anyway. Somehow the top crust was strong and delicate at the same time; it required a bit of jabbing to break though, but tasted surprisingly light, airy and crispy. Morten told me that the crust was merely breadcrumbs. Magical tiny breadcrumbs pulverized by the delicate hands of elves? Yes.
Morten's foie de veau aux pommes (veal liver and apples) had a pleasantly smooth texture that was disturbed by the taste of...liver. If you've never had liver before, you should try it (once, maybe) just so you know what this taste is. A bit heavy. Non-meaty. Non-animal origin. I don't think it's horrible, but it wouldn't make my list of "Things to Eat More Than One Bite Of". (However, I'm still open to foie gras.) I found the potato accompaniment to the liver much more exciting and worthy of eating in quantities of bucket-sized proportions. The cylindrical potato mound consisted of layered thinly sliced potatoes and what tasted like generous amounts of butter and cream, aka "the stuff that can make just about everything else taste good". I'd happily eat it as a main course.
Giso's magret de canard au romarin (rosemany seasoned duck breast), which she ordered well done, was thankfully cooked to something more like medium-rare. The chef must've known that Giso would enjoy her dish more if only she could experience the tastiness of tender pink, moist innards brought about by not cooking meat to within an inch of sterilization. My hang-ups about duck (I've never been a fan, sorry) were erased when I effortlessly chewed on the soft slice of juicy meat that looked more like it came from steak than from poultry. I have a feeling that duck doesn't always taste that good.
Sadly, we decided to skip dessert since it was hovering around 11 PM and our stomach sacs were overfilled. We said "bonsoir" to the couple sharing our table (said to us by the previous couple who shared our table) as we left the still-crowded restaurant. It's crowded for a reason. Delicious food, friendly waitresses, a relaxing environment and quick, but not rushed, service. On top of all that, my meal was only 21€. If you can somehow fit every course into your stomach, you'd only spend around 30€.
I'm already planning to go back. Still need dessert, you know. :)
Thank you so much, Abby, for your excellent restaurant recommendation. Feel free to continue throwing (moderately priced) Paris recs at me. Maybe I'll go! If it's awesome, I'll blog it. If it sucks, I'll still blog it. So make sure it doesn't suck.
I went to Pourjauran to get my hands on a warm, Steingarten-approved croissant. 0.85€ (and perhaps a ticket to Paris) is all you need to taste the web of soft, buttery dough chambers rolled up in at least eight crispy layers of more buttery dough. Ohhh, the things the French can do with butter and dough lead to so many happy stomachs. And perhaps increasing waistlines. ...But focus on those smiling stomachs.
I went back the next day for a pain au chocolat (like a croissant with a surprise chocolate core) and was again filled with warm, buttery dough that was simultaneously crispy and soft, airy and substantial. The top outer layer easily broke off in one paper-thin rectangular piece like a plate of armour. This heavenly treat that few mortals can make well set me back 0.95€. Inexpensive baked goods make me feel foolish for eating eating normal food that costs 15 times more.
ohh, you need addresses or something
20 rue Jean-Nicot
Kathy interviewed me for her blogger Q&A blog, They Blog. And just so I can use the word "blog" more excessively: blog blog blog blog bloggity blog blog blog. Check it out if you want to hear more of my rambling!