Nicolas Boutin on Ami, the New Casual-chic Venue That Elevates Parisian Classics
Paying homage to a timeless Parisian institution through recipes with a contemporary and elegant twist, new restaurant Ami brings the concept of fine bistronomie to Landmark. We find out more from its executive chef, Nicolas Boutin.
In Paris, Bistros – small restaurants that serve unpretentious classic dishes and good wine – represent a way of life that transcends the act of dining out. For executive chef Nicolas Boutin, who has worked in Michelin-star kitchens around the world and opened the fine-dining establishment Épure in Hong Kong, and chef de cuisine Eric Taluy, this concept is at the core of Ami.
The new venue by Gourmet Dining Group, which also includes the whisky bar Wood Ear, combines elevated versions of classic dishes and an approachable atmosphere. We talked to Boutin about the concept, contemporary French cuisine and the meaning of casual-chic.
What’s the concept behind Ami?
The main idea was to keep it casual, casual-chic, as we embody the concept of “fine bistronomie”. And I think it’s good. That’s something that I personally like very much as well – I’m a bit tired of classic fine dining, which is kind of losing meaning. Good food is good food. Most of the restaurant will serve à la carte bistro-style dishes, and there’s also an area reserved for a more elevated tasting menu, which is still sort of casual and straightforward.
What does fine bistronomie mean?
It means casual-chic, in a way. But it’s also about revisiting classic bistro dishes to make them a bit cleaner and fresher.
What can we expect from the menu?
I like the idea of having both land and sea dishes, terre et mer. We have timeless dishes like beef tartare from my favourite butcher in France and a slightly reimagined croque monsieur. We have snails from Poitou-Charentes [a region near the coast in western France] and a Parisian salad. We serve two types of soup – the bistro-favourite onion soup, which was a bit challenging to modernise as it’s generally seen as very rustic, but it’s already very popular, and a soup similar to the southern French bouillabaisse with both fish and seafood. Talking about terre et mer together, we have a main course that combines guinea fowl and octopus with a slow-cooked sauce. The menu also includes other sharing classics like sole meunière and indulgent desserts like concorde cake, soufflé and tartes of the week – and biscuits that can be paired with a whisky selection from our bar, Wood Ear.
Would you say that Ami’s food is Parisian?
Everything from around France can be found in Paris. The bistros there serve classic food from all over the country – so, yes, we do that as well.
What does contemporary French cuisine mean to you?
I think the style of Ami represents that. The food and atmosphere are clean and cosy. It’s uncomplicated, more natural and accessible. The concept of good food is changing all over the world. Casual doesn’t mean basic.
How long did it take to finalise the vision for Ami and bring the project to life?
I’ve been working on the project since last year. Opening a new restaurant is always challenging and I didn’t even have time to feel the pressure, because there’s so much to do. This year has been particularly challenging, because it’s very hard to find staff in hospitality.
After the opening, there’s always time to adjust dishes, make changes and improve everything. For Chef Eric Taluy, it was challenging at first to understand my cuisine and spend time getting to know each other, and to add his touch to each recipe. We have some people in the kitchen who used to work with me at Épure. It was just about understanding the concept for him to be able to express his personality in the dishes as well.
It took a long time to have the first draft of the menu. At first it was a bit safe and then we evolved from there. On a daily basis, we take feedback and adjust – if necessary.
(Hero image: Baba au rhum)