Lunch at Le Petit Café
Been here before at night with the family, bunch of French people mostly, and I was able to gather that they had a great old time. It was about as rollicking as a French joint can be (except in France where they rollick frequently), the food was very good and cheap enough to make Papa happy, and I have felt a strong desire to revisit many times over the intervening three years or so. Today was the perfect opportunity: had a late-morning medical appointment at St. John's for which I had to show up starving. I was still starving when I finally found a parking space and walked a couple of blocks to the restaurant.
So of course there was nothing on the daily-specials chalkboard that I didn't want two helpings of, and when the waiter mentioned Boeuf Bourgoignon I thought I'd faint, but as I'd just had a stern lecture about my eating habits I went for the duck confit with baby greens salad and a glass of pinot noir (if they'd had muscadet by the glass I'd have gotten the sand dabs, and I hope they read that). While I nibbled at the good bread and butter and the inner pain subsided, I looked around and noticed that it kinda rollicks in the daytime, too. Didn't see anyone who didn't look at least pleased, lots of couples and groups of friends, more than a few elderly folks who appeared to be from the neighborhood, a nice scattering of what you could call Hollywood Intellectuals and some plainly hard-working industry people. It felt like home, except someone else was cooking.
And doing a damned good job of it, I must say. The confit was perfectly ducky and succulent, just chewy enough, the skin crisped as it should be. It was also the biggest honkin' duck leg I think I've ever seen - you think it's the same farm that raises Pann's chicken wings? Not too salty either, a problem I haven't managed to solve with the stuff I make. And that salad...I think the reason I had to wait twenty minutes for this was to allow someone to go out to the garden and pick this leaf by perfect leaf, paint each one with a film of exquisite vinaigrette, and carefully art-direct them into a shimmering pile next to the duck, underlaid at the plate's edges by whole Belgian endive leaves, and slices of tomato that actually tasted like tomato. The wine, which had started out a bit sour and unpromising, unfolded nicely after a bite or two of confit. The espresso I had in lieu of dessert was not wonderful, but not awful either, and kinda necessary as I don't do wine with lunch a lot these days, if you catch my drift.
Service very friendly, but the kitchen's small and I saw several people ask for their food to go as they'd outwaited their lunch breaks. The room is intimate and comfortable, joint smells good...oh, and there is that rollicking. My daily-special plate was $14.95, wine $9, espresso $2.50, total with tax & tip about $34. About twice what I usually spend for lunch, but I didn't feel abused. I felt happy. On Colorado at Yale in Santa Monica.