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Petit Robert Bistro (South End) - I hate it

I had dinner last night at the Petit Robert Bistro in the South End and it was the worst dining experience that I've ever had.

I ordered my favorite French dish, foie gras, for the appetizer. After it arrived, I cut it up into bite size pieces. Then I tasted it and noticed that the middle of the foie gras was still cold! I told the waitress that the foie gras was cold and undercooked. The waitress took away the plate. They reheated the foie gras and brought it back. The foie gras didn't taste good after reheating it. I think they should have cooked me a new piece of foie gras instead of reheating the old pieces!

My GF ordered the duck confit and it was overcooked, dry, and chewy. I complained to the waitress about the duck. Her reply was "oh" and didn't do anything about it.

The lamb entree and smoked salmon we ordered were just ok, nothing special.

Minor complaints: my GF sat on the long bench next to the window and it was not level. When she sat down, the other end of the bench went up. When some other customers sat down on the other end of the bench, her side went up like a see-saw. Also, the waitress cleared away the plates before my GF finished eating her bread. The service was pretty slow too.

That was my first and last trip to Petit Robert Bistro. I've gone to other French restaurants (my favorites are Radius and Pigalle) and they're head and shoulders above Petit Robert Bistro in terms of the food and the service.

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  1. I was at the new South End location of Petit Robert on Monday night. While the service was very slow, I attributed that to it being a new place and totally unprepared for the crowd they had. I thought the food was as good as their other location, which in my opinion is pretty good (not great). I wouldn't expect it to be on par with Pigalle and Radius given that the prices here are much less (not that this is any excuse for the bad experience you had). I ordered the romaine salad with roquefort dressing which was chopped romaine, a decent amount of cheese and lightly dressed with a vinaigrette . Then I had the skirt steak medium rare with a side of spinach. The steak was cooked as requested, the spinach was good if a bit salty and the fries that came with the meat were not hot (I didn't want them anyway so I didn't complain). My friend ordered the garden salad with goat cheese and the pate plate which I thought was pretty good, especially for the price tag which I think was $7 (try ordering the pate at Butcher Shop and you will pay a lot more). Total bill, including 2 glasses of wine was about $70.

    1. Oof, that sounded awful. Two thoughts:

      a) You went within the first couple of days of opening, always a prescription for trouble. Like super-busy holidays and Restaurant Weeks, this may not be representative of the place once it gets past its shakedown cruise. They clearly did a lightning-fast renovation of the Rouge space to open up this quickly.

      b) PRB clearly isn't aiming for Pigalle- or Radius-like refinement, nor charging upwards of $40 for entrees. Assuming it is cloning the Kenmore Square menu, it's closer to what actual bistro cooking is supposed to be, without a lot of labor-intensive technque, and with prices dialled down to match. I think the original location offers pretty good value on this score.

      If I were you, I'd reach out to management, re-iterate your post here, and see what they do. And then report back!

      4 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        a) The restaurant was not super-busy. We got there early and we were the first customers to get seated into the dining section of the restaurant. At the end of our meal, the dining section started to fill up and there were still empty tables available. They were certainly not busy when they cooked my foie gras. My guess is that they have an inexperienced chef who doesn't know how to cook foie gras yet.

        b) Even though Petit Robert Bistro isn't a refined restaurant like Radius or Pigalle, that doesn't mean that they should have lousy food and service. They undercooked and overcooked our food, which has nothing to do with prices or being refined. Also, their customer service was pretty bad because the service was slow and they were not responsive to my complaints. I've had better service at non-refined and lower-priced restaurants like a Bugaboo Creek.

        1. re: southender

          I was reacting to your comment "I've gone to other French restaurants (my favorites are Radius and Pigalle) and they're head and shoulders above Petit Robert Bistro in terms of the food and the service". My point is that they should be: they're big-ticket fine-dining restaurants, whereas Petit Robert calls itself a bistro, (in my opinion, rather more accurately than most places so doing).

          As I said, your experience sounded pretty awful. I quite agree that bad food and indifferent service are a problem at any restaurant, from Bugaboo Creek on up. So I guess we agree that your experience was bad by the standard of all restaurants, not just high-end French-influenced ones.

          I disagree with Gabatta's unqualified pan: I've had several very solid experiences at PRB-1, certainly never noted a cleanliness problem. PRB is clearly just one of those polarizing places on this board. I'm probably going to give PRB-2 a few weeks to settle down before I give it a shot.

          1. re: southender

            I would be really interested in how the foie dish was described. Your assumptions that the chef doesnt know how to cook foie is very strong. traditionally a seared peice of foie gras is served still cold in the center. often foie is overcooked to cater to our american tastebuds which arent accustomed to cold foie.

            what was the dish called???

            1. re: vegchefboston

              that is how I think of foie gras being prepared.

        2. The Kenmore location is terrible in everyway (food, service, cleanliness), therefore it is not surprising that the new location would live up to the same standards.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Gabatta

            I must disagree, based on our experience last month. Food, service and cleanliness were very good for our table of 5 with a 6:30 reservation on a Thursday night. The only negative was, tho' flavorful, the rabbit was a little dry for 1 of our party. Staff couldn't have been more welcoming, knowledgeable, timely & helpful. I agree w/Slim on b).

            1. re: Gabatta

              I disagree, as well. I've been to the Kenmore PRB several times (most recently, about a month ago), and have only had good-to-great experiences there. The food was always delicious from start to finish and the waitstaff couldn't be more pleasant. While the cuisine certainly isn't up to high-end levels, I've always walked out of there feeling like I got a good meal for my money.

              I didn't know they already opened the South End location, but judging from the comments thus made, I'll probably give it a few weeks to work out the kinks.

              1. re: Gabatta

                Let me add to the chorus of disagreement. The Kenmore PRB is a wonderful restaurant, and a refreshing bargain for this city. The beef bourgignone with the fresh crusty bread for dipping is heaven for a stew fan!

              2. A friend and I went to Petit Robert Bistro in the South End last night, and I must say, our meals were wonderful. My friend got the pork loin and I got the lamb and both were very tasty. Our waiter was very accommodating and polite, the hostess was very nice, and we had a wonderful experience. I wonder if it was first week opening kinks that might have led to the bad experience that was talked about earlier.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BackBayGirl

                  I doubt it's a "first week opening kinks" problem. In a recent post in the Dining Alone in Boston thread, another Chowhound complained to the manager that their beef dish was too chewy. The manager replied that "sometimes this can happen" and walked off. Their customer service is just lousy and they don't care if the diners are satisfied with their food or not.

                2. While I have not been to the new SE location, I too would attribute your poor experience to participating in RW before a proper shake-down. Yes, they were probably over ambitious. I have always enjoyed my visits to the original MR and the PMR.

                  It stinks that you had bad experience, but in my opinion PMR prices are reasonable enough that you might give it a second chance in a few months, once all of the kinks are worked out