Jamat is a cozy mini-restaurant in the ninth arrondissement, so small that the chef, Matthieu Sales (who used to work in the fabulous bistro Les Arlots), needs no assistants in the tiny kitchen, in which he can reach everything with no help, in full view of customers.
His partner, Jacinthe Vandendriessche (Jacinthe+Matthieu=Jamat), is stationed behind the small bar. From there she keeps an eye on all the customers, advises on and dispenses wine, takes orders and delivers the finished products.
Not surprisingly, with such a limited staff, the restaurant’s menu is a short one, with four choices each for starter and main course and two for desserts, all of them original and tempting.
My friend’s choice of starter was especially original: a tarte tatin, normally an upside-down apple pie, transformed into a savory dish with endives and topped with a mountain of gorgonzola espuma (foam) sprinkled with toasted sarrasin (buckwheat). It filled the bill as the only vegetable-based dish on the menu and as a creative, delicious starter.
My starter filled both of the latter two criteria as well: a fricassée of escargots in bone marrow with potatoes (cooked to tender perfection) and topped with guanciale (Italian cured pork cheek, similar to bacon but far more refined). This was a highly satisfying winter dish, with its deep, rich flavors and comforting potatoes.
For the main course, I had a delicious fregola (bead-shaped Sardinian pasta) risotto with mushrooms and toasted hazelnuts – a pleasant contrast to the meaty starter although it, too, was rich and satisfying. The toasted hazelnuts made a fantastic crunchy, flavorful addition, as they do on almost any dish.
The other main dish was a generous plate of delectable caille (quail) legs, succulent on the inside, and crispy and salty on the outside, served with bok choy.
The only glitch we encountered during the entire meal came with one of the desserts, the lemon cream with candy zest, served atop a sablé breton (shortbread cookie). The cookie, hidden underneath the cream, was burnt all around the edges, a strange oversight since it must have been very obvious to the person who put it on the plate. When it was pointed out, however, it was quickly replaced with a fresh, unburnt version, and was extremely tasty.
The other dessert, a luscious brownie with pistachios, sat in a pool of crème anglaise delightfully flavored with tonka bean.
Thumbs up to Jamat, which would soon become my local if it were in my neighborhood. It’s a great little place to return to over and over again.
See our Favorite Restaurants by Arrondissement page to find a good restaurant in the neighborhood where you want to eat.Favorite