Call me a snob, but I tremble every time The New York Times publishes an article recommending Paris restaurants; it’s a surefire guarantee that they will be packed to the rafters with tourists from then on. Getting a reservation will become impossible, and the restaurant is at risk of falling victim to its own success and losing whatever qualities made it recommendable in the first place. I’ve seen it happen many times.
That’s why we counted ourselves lucky to get a reservation at Janine, located in the Batignolles area of northwest Paris, for lunch on a slow day in July not long after it had been reviewed in the NYT. One of the adorable servers told us that right after the article went online, they received 80 reservations. He was sent out in a hurry to get the menu translated into English.
It should be noted that chef Soda Thiam (formerly of another excellent Batignolles restaurant, Gare aux Gorilles), who was featured in all the rave reviews of Janine, no longer works at Janine. Her replacement is Hitoshi Minatani, formerly of the Semilla Group, which owns several fine Paris restaurants, including Semilla and Freddy’s.
That day’s no-choice, fixed-price lunch menu (marinated sardines with gazpacho, calf’s liver and apricot-nectarine tart for €28) didn’t appeal to either my friend or me, so we turned to the à la carte menu instead, with prices that are a bit steep for this type of restaurant: around €14 for a starter, €27 for a main and €12 for dessert.
I started out with grilled leeks in vinaigrette, served with creamed peas, Brocciu (Corsican sheep’s cheese), fines herbes and black-olive powder. This simple veggie dish (sprinkled with fresh dill, like many of the dishes we sampled) rose above its humble roots, especially thanks to the ricotta-like Brocciu.
Terry was thrilled with the deliciously crunchy, grease-free fried sardines served with zucchini cream and basil, green apples, Parmesan and sauce vierge.
For the main course, I ordered the sliced roast beef, served warm with hummus, arugula pesto, chimichurri sauce and ponzu vinaigrette, an interesting mix of Middle Eastern, Italian, South American and Japanese ingredients, the whole smothered in radishes and dill. It was served with a strange skin-free baked potato decorated with mayonnaise and house-made barbecue sauce. The beef was lovely in itself but in spite of all those fancy accompaniments, it was still just a slightly exotic version of an old-fashioned Sunday-dinner favorite that didn’t quite click.
Once again, Terry was heaven-bound with her dish: perfectly cooked tuna with bone marrow, served with little rolls of Swiss chard, creamed peas, endives, pastis vinaigrette and, once again, dill.
The dessert we shared was also divine: a peanut cookie with white-chocolate cream and bread ice cream. Yes, bread. The chef cuts down on waste by recycling leftover bread into his homemade ice cream, giving it body and a pleasant, mild flavor.
Terry had made great choices from the menu and proclaimed Janine her new Batignolles neighborhood favorite, but I was slightly more reticent, based on what I ordered.
The restaurant’s decor is simplicity itself, with wooden tables and chairs, a tiled floor and tasteful drawings and paintings picked up at flea markets and framed. Upstairs are two attractive dining rooms that can be reserved for groups.
Good luck getting a reservation!
See our Favorite Restaurants by Arrondissement page to find a good restaurant in the neighborhood where you want to eat.Favorite