Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lunch At Petite Chou

Amy and I headed north this afternoon, so she could look for a summery dress sort of thing at Castleton Square - and we stopped for lunch in Broad Ripple. We parked on Westfield Boulevard and then stood on the sidewalk for a second, trying to decide between Bazbeaux and Petite Chou, which is a Patachou restaurant with a French twist.

I was feeling more like pizza and remembered being dissatisfied at the quality of food we got for the price we paid when we tried Patachou on the Park, the version of Patachou inside the new Simon building monstrosity downtown. However, we decided to check the chalkboard outside Petite Chou to see what today’s specials were. Their omelette of the day was filled with mushrooms, ham, pesto, and Gruyère cheese, and their soup special was tomato artichoke. That pretty much did it for me, and that was Amy’s preference, I think, before we even saw what the specials were.

I don’t know enough about interior design to be able to say anything really insightful about the décor, except to say that it felt quaint and rustic in a sort of precise, polished way. The cooks in the open-air kitchen were wearing berets, and the patio seating gave it the feeling of a place that very much wanted to evoke the spirit of a streetside café in Paris. I’ve never been to Paris, so don’t know if they got it right or not - but I suspect that if I ever were in Paris and were looking for a streetside café, something that looked like Petite Chou would work for me.

The service today was spotty - they were quick to seat us, but slow to do most everything else (though the entrées came out relatively quickly), and they forgot Amy’s iced tea. Amy just asked that it be taken off, which the server did - and then she brought the new check out, along with an unsolicited iced tea in a to-go cup for Amy. A nice touch.

Okay, now that I have that out of the way, we can get to the food - because I wanted to make sure that we ended on the right note; and the right note here is that the food is so good that it trumps everything else - and might make you want to go back for another meal the very same day.

Amy had the potato leek soup, which was sort of an odd color of green, owing undoubtedly to the use of the greener part of the leek (think regular old green onions, only grown up and much bigger) and the application of an immersion blender. Creamed just a touch, this soup had the flavors of potato and leek balanced in nearly perfect harmony. The garnish of chiffonade of basil was a fine complement. My tomato artichoke soup was also creamed just a touch, and had been subjected to the immersion blender, because actual pieces of artichoke were not to be seen. The flavors were, again, nearly perfectly harmonized, the bright taste of brined artichoke hearts working nicely against the dusky, smoky taste of what I suspect might have been roasted tomatoes. Underpinning the whole thing were slivers of parmesan cheese that had melted away to chewy perfection by the time the steaming cup was set before me.

For the main course, Amy had the goat cheese salad ($8.25), a terribly simple affair that was, nonetheless, most delightful - nothing but a bed of dark, leafy field greens dressed nicely in a sweet blackberry pear balsamic vinaigrette, topped with what the menu calls “warmed goat cheese croutes,” which is a fancy way of saying goat cheese melted over crusty little bits of bread that had been drizzled in olive oil, seasoned, and baked in the oven. Thanks to Amy’s lactose intolerance, she was only able to eat one and a half of the goat cheese croutes, which left the other one and a half for me. The cheese had softened the bread but left it a bit crunchy, and the flavors - yet again - came together perfectly, with the seasonings and the oil of the croute working nicely against the creamy, pungent taste of the very good goat cheese.

My omelette of the day ($8.95) - mushroom, ham, Gruyère, pesto - wasn’t quite up to the same quality as Amy’s salad, but was still pretty good. I was a little bit disappointed that the promised pesto seemed nearly nonexistent, and also a bit disappointed that this supposedly four-ingredient omelette turned out to be little more than a glorified ham bomb; but the diced ham was admirably smoky, and the mushrooms and Gruyère brought a nice, earthy counterpoint to the smokiness of the ham. The fresh fruit cup that came with it was chock full of blueberries, strawberries, apples, and oranges and was - for a guy who does not normally go in for cups of fresh fruit at meals - excellent. The blueberries, especially, were plump and tender and very ripe. Plus, they’re full of those popular antioxidants, those things that kill cancer and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and communism and all the rest of it. In fact, I’ve heard that if you eat enough blueberries in the vicinity of someone who has cancer - then you start to emanate a cancer-killing aura and can actually make that other person’s cancer go into remission. The other pleasant addition to my meal was the stack of brioche that came with it. Brioche is, apparently, a French word for huge stack of bread. Four thick slices of rich, slightly sweet bread that had been toasted, lightly buttered, and perhaps slipped through a cloud of cinnamon vapor on the way to the table - and it was the tallest thing on the plate.

There were a number other things on the menu - such as a chocolate ganache crêpe - that sounded so good that we almost entertained the notion of coming back for another meal later in the day - except that we had already planned to attend a Carrie Newcomer concert at Amy’s church (more on that in another posting). Suffice it to say that we will be back. The patio seating will be a great place to people watch when the weather isn’t set to broil and the leaves have started to turn.

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