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Jardin de Ninette: Eurozone menu, Paris-trained chef

Once you enter the modest Jardin de Ninette’s restaurant entrance, you encounter one of the most recommended new sites in Ajijic. There’s a small interior dining room, clean, tidy unpretentious. But another outdoor atmosphere sprawls back 40 meters into a quiet reserve behind the main building.

The restaurant garden is an open savanna – a wide open natural meadow, green, balmy and full of sunshine where you can have a genuine al fresco lunch or dinner. Either as a small intimate group or as a banquet-size soiree. Large get-togethers enjoy plenty of room to table-hop, stroll and enjoy true outdoor dining entertained by nature itself in this “north forty.” You can even choose where your table or tables should be set. And how they are arranged.  

What’s on the menu. The menu changes daily, and is quaintly presented on chalk boards. I went there for lunch with a friend. The menu featured both light and heftier fare. You nibble on a small, thin focaccia topped with red onions while your order is being prepared. 

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Interestingly, Oscar, the chef and owner, trained in Paris for more than seven years, turned what could have been appetizer specialties into complete comidas. I had the mussels and were assured they were fresh, not frozen. They were served in a traditional white wine sauce. And each was fresh, tender and juicy. I completed my meal in seven minutes, it was that delectable. And this included the side of mashed potatoes, slightly diced and flavored with chopped spices and onions. Other starters-turned-entrees were foie gras, duck comfit, gazpacho soup, in addition to other prized luncheon dishes, including something called tataki (a Japanese invention), which is a decorous plate of sliced meats, either of a single kind or a combination. Oddly, there was no chicken dish. Closest we got was the duck comfit.

For hungrier diners, there was a nice selection of weightier dishes, such as a tequila shrimp dish, a catch of the day, lamb loin, a sea food soup and a risotto. My companion had the risotto. It came looking special in a mound that reached across the plate: braised rice, French style, sauteed with onions and mushrooms in a chicken stock, customized without the cheese and butter for a perfect vegan treat. I believe this is what the French call a pilaf.  

With only a brief Ajijic history so far (a year and a half), Ninette’s has found an avid following.

First and foremost, you’’ll be having the real-deal prep and recipes for varied continental favorites. Presentation and service was spot-on. And the chalkboard didn’t rush off before you could make up your mind. It’s a clever European trick: there’s more than one board.

There’s an extensive wine and beer list, along with non-alcoholic lunch drinks.

Jardin de Ninette is just across from Farmacia Guadalajara in Ajijic. And there’s usually plenty of parking, especially for dinner. Think Ninette, if you’re planning an event of more than six people. The expansive back Jardin offers a nice private setting and plenty of al fresco atmosphere and spaciousness.  

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