I was distraught the other day when I saw that the restaurant Monjul in the Marais was no longer there (not long after I had discovered that another old favorite nearby, Taxi Jaune, had also disappeared). For years, I had been in the habit of taking foreign visitors to Monjul to impress them with the incredibly creative cooking of chef Julien Agobert. There have been no foreign visitors for some time, of course, but I was hoping that they would soon return. Monjul was pretty much the perfect show-off Paris restaurant: fantastic food, reasonable prices, attractive setting and friendly service.
I rushed up to a nearby shopkeeper who was chatting outside with a friend. What had happened to Monjul? To my great relief, he told me that Agobert had opened another restaurant named Jackpot a few blocks away. No need to wonder where I booked my next meal. My friend Jeff and I showed up for lunch a few days later.
What a difference between Monjul and Jackpot! Instead of a colorful contemporary interior, Jackpot has an almost rustic decor, with wooden tables and chairs, exposed beams and plant-patterned wallpaper that gives the place a jungle feel.
Different food for a different atmosphere: the food, too, is rustic. The sophisticated concoctions full of surprising flavors found at Monjul are nowhere to be seen.
The food is simple but warming, flavorful and hearty (perfect for winter, so we were lucky not to eat there on a hot day). At lunchtime, the three-course, no-choice menu costs €19.
We started with letcho, which the friendly server informed us was a kind of “smoky ratatouille.” That was a pretty good description: it turned out that the smokiness came from the inclusion of lardons, or fatty bacon. Since she also let us know that we could be accommodated if we were vegetarians, I guess a lardon-free version was also available. With it were seductive pommes dauphines: imagine the fluffiest mashed potatoes possible, and then imagine them quickly dipped into a deep fryer. Perfection!
The main course was also rather homely but delicious: a gratin of beef, eggplant and gouda cheese with lots of cumin giving it a nice spicy zing.
The dessert stayed in the humble but delicious mode: creamy meringue that had been charred like a marshmallow was dished up with cookie crumbs, with a few bits of raw lime balancing out the sweetness.
My friend Jeff, an excellent cook himself, was full of admiration for the chef’s skills.
Jackpot is more than just a good, honest bistro: you can hang out there all day: have breakfast, then lunch, and stick around until happy hour – the restaurant also serves cocktails and beer. Makes you wonder if Agobert changed restaurants just so he could have a built-in social life… It’s the kind of place where regulars are happy to pop in for a meal several times a week.Favorite