It’s been quite a while, but I took a quick weekend trip to Paris a couple years back with PcessJK. Eating and shopping were highlights, so this was definitely worth posting.
This was the one really good restaurant that I ate during my recent sojourn in Paris with PcessJK. Not that we ate a bunch of bad ones, but we didn’t really eat at my sit down places. We just kept snacking at random boulangeries and patisseries as we walked around throughout the day which turned out to be just as delicious and equally filling to keep us satisfied for the time we spent in one of (if not my most) favorite European city. Chez Janou is a bistrot Provençal located in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, and from the moment you walk in, it exudes everything you would expect from a French bistro. The bar area is smack dab in the front and the bartender is there to greet you from the moment you walk through the door. As you make your way through the dining area saying “Pardon” and “Excusez-moi” every couple of steps, you finally get to your tiny table which is butting up against your neighbor’s table making it feel like you’re all part of one big dining party. With the waiters’ limited grasp of the English language, it made the place feel a lot more like a local spot.
The tuna carpaccio was probably the best dish of the meal. The tuna was thinly sliced and carefully layered across the place. Nicely enough, there was barely a hint of fishiness, although raw tuna tends to be relatively bland in general. The real component that brought this dish to new heights was the balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled on top. It was slightly sweet as opposed to a more lemony tasting profile from a carpaccio dish, but it really tantalized my taste buds.
Risotto is one of those dishes that I absolutely adore but more often than not end up scolding myself for not thinking twice before ordering. Risottos are quite difficult to prepare right, sometimes it is undercooked, sometimes too cheesy, sometimes too gummy. Given we were in Paris at a “bistrot Provençal,” I actually thought twice but decided to just go for it anyways since the reviews showered a fair bit of praise on the risotto. Thankfully, I was quite pleased with the results. The rice used in this dish was very different than what I had seen in other risottos. It was a rounder grain that reminded me of quinoa with a less nutty texture. It was rich and creamy and unlike most Italian risottos did not taste as cheesy which is perfect for me. Like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae, a quartet of perfectly seared scallops were served atop the bed of risotto. They were tender and had a lightness that truly complemented the risotto.
There was actually another dish called Moules gratinées a la provençale which was a plate of mussels topped with some cheese and breadcrumbs and baked in the oven. I’ve actually never had mussels served this way. Honestly, the mussels were small and a little overcooked, but the gratinées preparation saved the dish.
We ended dinner with the much ballyhooed chocolate mousse that came to the table in a ginormous bowl filled with enough mousse to feed like half the restaurant. We were seriously awed by the amount in that bowl, and since France has never been known for American-sized portions, we should have paused before digging in. As it turns out, that ginormous bowl WAS supposed to feed half the restaurant. The bartender scolded us in French telling us that we should expect to finish the bowl ourselves. Embarrassed and shocked, we didn’t know if he was serious or joking and we were debating back and forth about it forever. Either way, it ruined my appetite. I am not much of a fan of chocolate as it was, and the mousse actually wasn’t bad, but after the whole debacle, I felt guilty taking another bite.
All in all, and mousse mess aside, I really enjoyed the meal. The ambiance was typical of a French bistro. It’s cozy, cramped and totally casual, but that is what makes it so charming. The food wasn’t necessarily what I would have expected, but it was still quite delicious.
2, rue Roger Verlomme
75003 Paris, France
PAFO Ratings for Chez Janou:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars