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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Chez Janou

My favorite restaurant in Paris, and hands down the best lunch I've ever had, is a rather small little bistro in the Marais, called Chez Janou. Set on a corner very close to the Place des Vosges, Chez Janou is very much like a neighborhood restaurant, with a homey, lived in feel, complete with mismatched tables and Toulouse-Lautrec posters on the walls. Dining is inside or out. I recommend sitting inside, where the ambiance is just wonderful, but if you prefer an al fresco dining experience, by all means, go for the small sidewalk terrace; it can not be faulted so long as the day isn't too hot.

The meals at Chez Janou are hearty, in the Provençal-style, and reasonably-priced from the Prix Fixe menu (€14, lunch), though before the bistro changed owners, they were much less expensive. It is the only place I have ever eaten in France where I had to struggle to finish my meal, and believe me, you'll want to finish your meal; the food is insanely delicious. There's a reason restaurants all over the world send their chefs to train at Chez Janou. I have never had a bad meal there, and it's next to impossible to single one out as best, because every time I go, I try to get whatever I had last time, but inevitably that item is unavailable, and I end up with something new...to the everlasting joy of my tastebuds. But the Pavé de Rumsteak is to die for...topped with chevre and served with a hearty side of small potato wedges and mushrooms. I challenge you to finish it. Likewise, the roast pork ribs with marjoram in semi-sweet glaze are awesome, and I'm not even a big pork eater. They, too, were served with the aforementioned potatoes and mushrooms. And the green salad with vinaigrette, served on chicken and pesto with tomatoes??? Oh. My. God. :)

I hear the chocolate mousse desert is awesome, but frankly, I have never had room for desert after a meal at Chez Janou, so I'm afraid I am utterly unable to vouch for it! (I do love the little pre-meal bowls of niçoise olives they set on the table, though...can't get enough of them.) :)

I have always found the service at Chez Janou to be very pleasant, if sometimes quirky. The last time we were there, our waiter behaved in an extremely haughty fashion and steadfastly refused to speak more than a few words of english, and I wondered what we had done to offend him...until I figured out it was a huge act, at which point it became a game to see if we could make him break character and smile. I caught him just barely twitching a few times, but he never dropped the act until we were leaving, at which point he very warmly wished us goodbye and a pleasant day and said he hoped I enjoyed my time in France. The wait staff all seems to speak english (as they do in most Parisian restaurants), and service is efficient and accommodating.

From what I hear, the place is very busy at dinner, and reservations are recommended, but again, I've never had dinner there and don't know. And if you're into pastis, they are rumored to have the largest selection of the traditional anise-flavored french aperitif in all of Paris. After lunch, if you feel like working off some of your meal, stroll over to the Place des Vosges and cross it, to the upper corner on your left, where lies la Maison de Victor Hugo, the one-time home of the Les Miserables novelist. A tour of the house is free and worth the hour or so it will take you to work through it.

Chez Janou is open from noon until 3pm for lunch during the week, noon to 4 on Saturday & Sunday, and then again from 7:30 to midnight, for dinner. It is located on the corner of rue Roger Verlomme & des Tournelles, at 2, rue Roger Verlomme, Paris 75003. The nearest Metro station is Chemin Vert, but you would do well to consult a map or ask for directions. The phone number is 01-42-72-28-41.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your remarks about the wait staff are interesting. I had an early dinner reservation and a decent meal, but it was ruined by the "waiter-from-hell." My command of French is good, so there was no problem in that respect. Rather he chewed me out before I'd even ordered for taking a paper napkin from an empty adjoining table to put olive pits on. Chez Janou gives diners a small bowl of olives for an appetizer. I was reprimanded like a school child and forced to apologize two times. I may return again sometime but not until this guy works somewhere else!

7:29 AM  
Blogger grant said...

My wife and I had more than 5 wonderful meals there in august, 3 weeks ago, as we were living 50 meters from the restaurant.

Unequivocally one of the best restaurants in Paris - If you don't like the waiters, who are very french and proud to be, then don't go there but you will miss a superb dinner. The guests who dine there are very friendly and helpful and interesting people. It's funny to sit next to someone outside who is smoking beneath the NO SMOKING sign!

The waiters can be haughty but they know how far they can go. i thought it was really funny when our waiter immediately ripped the menu from my hand after he had recorded our order and then shoved it unceremoniously into the face of the diner next to me... The french can be very entertaining but they live in a different culture than ours with many sublte nuances-and, they generally like americans - however, we can also easily be perceived as haughty and rude because of our directness.

One of the best dining experiences you will find anywhere.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Marina said...

My wife and I just got back from a trip to Paris yesterday, and from our experience it is clear that Chez Janou has gone significantly downhill.

Our meal was a comedy of errors, starting with a 90 minute wait for a reserved table. Even though the hotel concierge at the Park Hyatt had confirmed our 8pm reservation in advance, we were not seated until 9:30pm by the surly host, who did not feel it necessary to offer us any apology or explanation for the incredibly long delay.

Then, after we were seated the waiter for our section proceeded to literally ignore us for over 30 minutes. No menus. No bread. No water. No service whatsover.

Finally, after we ordered it took another 60 minutes to get our food. We had to literally get up from our table and ask another waiter what had happened to our meals. Five minutes later, another waiter came to our table and apologized, saying that that our waiter had "forgotten" to place our orders with the kitchen. She promised that the food would be out shortly.

When the food finally came, it did not come close to meeting our already lowered expectations. The shrimp were a bit slimy, and did not taste fresh. The avocado was not ripe. Our main courses were worse. The lowlight of our horrendous meal was a steak that was literally 75 percent gristle. There were perhaps 2-3 bites of meat, and the rest was not fit for human consumption. We did not bother sending it back to the kitchen. Instead, we got the check, paid our bill, and resolved to never return to Chez Janou again.

There are too many great restaurants in Paris to waste a meal on a place like this.

4:10 PM  
Blogger John said...

We live just up the street from Chez Janou, and it's one of our favorites, especially for lunch. To anonymous: You never never never swipe stuff from another table in a French restaurant without asking! How rude! You should have asked the waiter for "une autre serviette, SVP." Or just put the olive pits on the table. As for reservations, although guides like Frommers say "reservations recommended," they really don't honor them. Get there before the French dinner hour - at 7:45 - if you want a table. And brush up on your French. Yes, some of the wait staff understand English, but remember this is a local bistro in a non-tourist neighborhood.

We've always found the food to be very very good for such a little place. And the prices won't break the bank.

10:14 AM  
Blogger f said...

After my last trip to France in May I went again to Chez Janous, where the quality remains superb and the waiters are still very French.

It's worth noting that this little restaurant has become very popular after receiving the attention of Samantha Brown, who identified it as one of her favorites. As I was about to meet an old school friend who has been a 30 year resident of Paris at Chez Janous, there were hordes of tourist all speaking English, running to get into the restarurant before we did. It was very interesting.

One of the owners, Herman, never forgets a customer and if one is polite then he will find room for you.

Perhaps some of the negative reviews are "dis-information" to keep this treasure unknown from the vulgar, common folk!

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Caitlin said...

I'm doing a math project where I have to find the price of Ratatouille in Paris, France (I know it's random...). I was wondering if you have eaten the Ratatouille, and if you know how much it costs? A response would be a BIG help!
If you know the price of Ratatouille at any other restaurant that would be amazing as well! Thanks in advance!

2:47 PM  
Blogger Jenie said...

Holy smokes, so many comments; I'd left blogger and forgotten about this blog; oops! I've responded to all of you at this blog's new location: http://paristourguide.wordpress.com/2006/03/11/chez-janou/

Sorry for the delay & inconvenience.

2:22 AM  

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