I vaguely remember my first visit to J’Go. I think it had something to do with a wild night at the bar, and involved French rugby players drinking Armagnac shots off my belly. But unless someone has photo proof, I’m going to just assume that my memory may be off. (It very well may be, if it involves my having a belly concave enough to hold any sort of liquid.)
The name J’Go is a jeux de mots, a play on words for ‘gigot‘, which is pronounced exactly the same and means ‘leg of lamb.’ But here, it’s a bit of Franglais, since it can mean “I go” if you’re mixing the two languages up. But if you’re someone who likes great spit-roasted lamb, I’m not sure how to conjugate that in a similar fashion, so I’ll just tell you that j’go’d to J’Go three times this month alone,
J’Go is based in Toulouse and the two Paris branches specialize in the hearty, meaty foods of Gascony, the southwest region of France. There are a few salads on the menu, but no one comes here for a light supper: the bowl of mixed greens comes with a Pot de Lou Pastifret de Porc Noir de Bigorre, which is essentially a terrine of pork covered with a layer of fat as thick as the Guide Michelin, no one comes here for a light supper. Ladies (and men) who lunch lightly can find a menu of open-faced sandwiches and salads for those on-the-run.
The salad of jeunes pousses and vegetables is barely-dressed, and only makes you hungry for the main course, which are heavy on the aforementioned stars of the show—roasted lamb and pork. All the pork is Noir de Bigorre, a race of black-skinned pigs that graze on wild acorns and chestnuts, and is prized for its tenderness and deep flavor.
The two J’Go restaurants in Paris are wildly different. Up in the 9th, near the Druout auction house, the crowd is more office workers during the day, and at night, the scene is livelier, especially when a sporting match is on in the large bar downstairs.
(Tip: Beware of French men in rugby garb wielding Armagnac.)
During my lunch, I wasn’t wild about the côte de Porc Noir de Bigorre, which arrive quite overcooked and even through the fries cooked in duck fat are a specialty of the house, they suffered from the same fate as most of les frites in Paris by being soft instead of nice and crisp. Am not sure who likes soggy French fries, but there’s no sense in eating mediocre frites.
I’ll skip the description of the dessert, which was Le Café Gourmand Maison, the dessert vague that’s sweeping through many of the bobo restaurants in Paris. I like the idea; a small coffee with various little bite-sized sweets. The little caramelized prune crème brûlée was good, but the warm chocolate disk of cake was as flat as an unfolded métro map, and chewy. And I can’t tell you how the grapefruit sections in neon-purple violet syrup tasted because..well, I mean, I like you all well enough. But there are some things I’m just not willing to do, even for you.
So I recommend that you travel to the other side of Paris, across the Seine, to the Saint-Germain branch of J’Go. It’s a bit more relaxed, especially on a warm day when you can sit outside and enjoy the gentil Left Bank vibe. Although while I was waiting for a friend, some older gent whipped it out and took a leak against a wall. Nice.
(Where are those rugby players when you need them?)
Because J’Go is a rôtisserie, you can order things like Gascon chicken and duck, pork chops, lamb chops, or entire sides of meat in advance and roasted to order. Aside from overly-fatty ribs, they’re all good, although it’s best to just order off the menu unless you have a large crowd. The lamb chops, I think, are the best in town.
For those searching for cassoulet, you can order one in advance, too, and they’ll cook up a casserole of white beans and sausage that will be ready when you arrive. This isn’t the most authentic version I’ve had, although to be fair, it’s not exactly standard Parisian fare. Plus I happen to to think the cassoulet that we made was the best ever.
The wines of the regions are well-represented and although the heartier red wines are perhaps more appropriate to the food, it’s awfully pleasant to start with a glass of very cold rosé or white wine, and give the other regional wines a break. The blackboard selection changes often, and it’s worth asking one of the extremely friendly waiters to offer a suggestion. In fact, when I was trying to decide between the three rosé wines on the list, our waiter brought us a taste of each to help us make up our minds.
He also was extra-generous with the last course, as he was with the first. Even though my friend and I ordered one Pain Perdu d’Huguette, he mistakenly brought one for each of us. When we pointed out his error, he said not to worry, that we’d only be charged for one.
Admittedly, it didn’t look like much. Yet the moment we each took our first bite, we looked at each other and there was no mistaking this: le pain perdu was the best dessert I’ve had in a long, long time. Each slice of crustless bread was soaked in custard, than fried in hot, sizzling-brown butter, until crusty and caramelized. I couldn’t image anything better, unless I had it again last night, with a scoop of Prune Ice Cream swimming in a pour of hearty Armagnac. Which seemed like a fitting end, since Armagnac is how my first adventure at J’Go started.
6, rue Clément (Marché Saint-Germain) 6th
Tél: 01 43 26 19 02