Clinging to an unassuming corner in the 10th arrondissement in Paris, Ama caters to the hip crowd, but offers more than just a trendy vibe. With its vibrant, fun, and exciting food, from comfort dishes to innovative takes on classics, Ama exemplifies the transformative allure of neighborhood restaurants.
On a rather unassuming corner in the foothills of Rue du Faubourg du Temple, just on the border between the 10th and 11th arrondissements in Paris, lies Ama, a five-ish year old restaurant that caters to the increasingly hip crowd of its surroundings. But Ama is more than just vibe, the food is vibrant, fun and exciting.
Entering Ama, the restaurant takes on a different look depending on what time you visit. Come early, when they open at 7pm, and the restaurant is rather empty, looking for you to add soul and energy to the space. At this time, you’ll be dining in silence, only accompanied by the crowds outside on their way home from work. At this point in time, Ama is all about the food.
But show up later, at 8.30 or 9pm, and Ama is buzzing with energy, laughter and pizzaz. Now a borderline club, the restaurant aspect of the space is still there, but it is slowly fading into the background. The food becomes less important, and the stylish crowd takes center stage.
For me, Ama is at its peak just in between the two – when diners are dining, and drinkers are drinking – but none of them are overpowering the other. At that time, Ama has the perfect vibe, and it might just be the perfect neighborhood restaurant, even if it doesn’t really try to be.
The food is excellent at Ama. Ambitious, but not to the extent that it’s confusing or arrogant. Instead, the cooking is comforting, familiar, yet fresh and contemporary. A cauliflower, roasted and brutally whipped into submission, served with an egg yolk and airy grated parmesan hits several notes at the same time. Decadent? Yes. Hearty? Absolutely. But still fresh, still light. A smooth foam is partially interrupted by small morsels of earthy crunchiness, and the parmesan rounds the dish out perfectly. It’s a triumph.
Clams, gently cooked in garlic and white wine is a classic bistro dish, served perfectly and with just the right amount of bite to each individual clam. It’s a celebration of traditional French cuisine, and it’s served better than at most of the famous brasseries in town. I could have five servings of this dish, and still not be bored with it.
The tuna tataki is a great symbol of how French bistro cooking has changed over the past years. Where tuna used to be served canned, or perhaps seared with a Salade Nicoise, the tataki at Ama is just another example of how the taste of Parisians has evolved in the last decade. It’s fresher, lighter, and with a deep focus on the product at the center of the dish. Nope, it’s not French. Yup, it’s delicious.
Similarly, the sea bream ceviche, with green peppers, grapes, ginger, and mango, is a far cry from the traditional cooking of the local French restaurant – but it is only fitting that it graces the menu at Ama. While the marinade slowly cooks the fish, it still keeps its bite, with all the fresh flavors of the accoutrements popping as you dig into the “Frexican” style ceviche. And you know what, it doesn’t feel out of place at all.
The barbecue beetroot kicks in some spicy flavors from horseradish, but it’s subtle, made to open eyes more than make them water. The beet is sweet, with just the right texture, and the horseradish a classic companion – elevating the flavors of the dish to something that is at the same time expected and surprising. This particular dish, although described as Japanese-inspired on the menu – strikes me more as a play on Scandinavian summer food.
A taramosalata – which seems to be Paris’ favorite dip these days – is smoother than the original, almost cream cheese like in texture, and the bottarga is blended into oblivion, but the flavors are all there. The sea, the seafood, and the creaminess of deliciously whipped dairy. Topped with fresh fruits and salmon roe, it’s yet another triumph.
The service at Ama is friendly, never rushed, and just as the restaurant itself – pretty damn cool. They roll with the punches, and aren’t afraid to try things. This particular American ordered a vodka on the rocks to finish off the meal – an order that was accepted with equal amounts of excitement and bewilderment. Apparently, vodka on the rocks is a weird order in Paris. Sorry about that. But just as Paris is today, no one is judged at Ama, and everyone will definitely have a deliciously good time.
So at the end of the day.
At Ama, come for the food – or the good vibes.
And stay for the vibes – or the good food.
2 Rue Bichat, 75010 Paris
Kalle Bergman is a food writer and media entrepreneur who is the founder of Honest Cooking and PAIR Magazine. As a food writer, his writing has been regularly featured in publications like Gourmet, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and Serious Eats. He is obsessed with simple food, more often than not from his native Scandinavia.