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Review: Petite Maison (Scottsdale, AZ)

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My 22 verse Haiku Review of Kaito Sushi (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/647346) has thoroughly depleted my creative juices. Nearly three weeks ago I had an incredibly good meal at James Porter’s new restaurant, Petite Maison, yet I haven’t been able to muster-up the finger strength to write it up. Which is a shame, because Petite Maison is a major departure from Porter’s cuisine at the sprawling Tapino, which was shuttered several months ago, and one that deserves some serious accolades.

Take the setting, for instance. You might as well pull up in a Citroen 2CV, because this place actually feels French without being contrived. Once Baby Kay’s, the space is tiny and exudes a homey, comfortable feeling. Much of the handiwork was done by Porter himself and Earl, his dad. Instead of the often-imitated (but never duplicated) brasserie feel of Balthazar in New York City, Petite Maison is just that…a small house with a miniscule kitchen that pumps out some great food. The roof even leaks in the rain. Perfect!

Complicated food it isn’t, and that’s what makes it great. French food often gets a bad rap for being fussy, but the essence of great French food lies with fresh ingredients and simple recipes prepared with love and passion. We told our server to “bring us what’s great” and left the rest up to him. Starters included Escargots en Croute, Foie Gras, and Steak Tartare. The snails, a source of frequent disappointment for me when dining locally, were plump, garlicky, and topped with a simple puff pastry. My only criticism: accompany it with some crispy bread for dipping into the rich, buttery sauce. The Foie Gras was exceedingly rich, and the fat was nicely offset by the acidity of the pickled grapes. And then there was the Steak Tartare…C’est Magnifique! If you’re not afraid of raw beef (and you shouldn’t be), order this appetizer. You will not regret it.

I rarely order chicken and usually feel that I can do a better roast chicken at home than any restaurant can do. So I was a bit disappointed when our server arrived with two entrees: Poulet Roti and Porc et Lardons. Both were entrees that didn’t jump out at me as my first choices when I first read the menu. Yet the chicken was cooked perfectly; juicy, oozing with goat cheese…and it actually tasted like chicken. I generally profess that the thigh is the most underrated part of the chicken and I despise flavorless chicken breasts, but this one defied all negative stereotypes. If Porter can get me to like a chicken breast, then he’s accomplished something. The Pork was equally surprising, and pleasantly so. I enjoyed the celery root and red wine gastrique almost as much as the meat itself.

On a subsequent visit, I tried the Brandade de Morue (crispy salt cod fritters), Steak Frites, and Cassoulet d’Agneau. Anyone that knows me has heard about my annual – and very costly – attempt to make an authentic cassoulet. The cassoulet at Petite Maison was not a traditional cassoulet from Toulouse, but the lamb chop was rich and flavorful. I’m hoping that Porter moves towards a heavier, more traditional cassoulet as the weather cools off. It’s a heavy dish, but – done right – has the ability to astound.

As with many restaurants that I love, Petite Maison is more than the sum of its parts. The atmosphere is nearly unbeatable, and will be even better once the weather cools down and the patio is usable. The food is fresh, comforting and well prepared. The service is friendly and genuine; much of the staff seems to have followed Porter from Tapino. And there are no gimmicks. Despite James Porter’s heavy involvement in the locavore “movement”, you’ll see no reference to that on the menu. It’s just good food, plain and simple. Although slightly modified for American tastes, it’s how the French really eat. (I don’t think many French nationals that regularly flambé their food at home.)

Petite Maison is the right restaurant, with the right menu, in the right location and – most importantly – at the right price. Not a single entrée exceeds $32, and that’s for the Poisson Entier that feeds two. Everything else is $18 or less. The wine list is equally approachable; there is one bottle at $73 but most are between $20 and $30. It's a smart formula.

The French have suffered enough bashing from the Americans in the last decade. Freedom Fries? Tariffs on Roquefort? Enough already. I, for one, am joining Porter’s new French Revolution.

Photos can be found at www.ericeatsout.com

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Petite Maison
7216 East Shoeman Lane
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
480-998-6887
www.petitemaisonaz.com

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  1. EDIT: My wife reminded me that the desserts were fabulous...and we tried every single one of them in one sitting. The souffle, in particular, puts Zinc Bistro's to shame.

    1. Thank you for posting this. I've been watching and hoping someone would post a review soon. I've got a big soft spot for bistro food and having been a fan of Tapino's am anxious to try Petite Maison. Unfortunately, household circumstances have prevented us from getting up to try it but it's been first on our list to try as soon as we are able to get out. Your review really solidifies this intention.

      I love Cassoulet as well. Have you found any traditional versions in Phoenix worth trying?

      2 Replies
      1. re: ziggylu

        None. 5th Ave Bistro did a good one, but they closed. Given the time, labor and expense in making a traditional cassoulet, not many restaurants choose to do it right. If you find one, let me know.

        My all-time favorite cassoulet is at Chapeau, in San Francisco.

        1. re: ziggylu

          There was an article in the AZ Republic a few weeks all about Cassoulet. It suggested that it is on the menu at Binkleys (which would obviously be wonderful), and a different version at Cafe Bink. It was not on the menu at Cafe Bink a few weekends ago, but we were there for lunch, so perhaps it is available for dinner (or a special available irregularly).

          http://www.azcentral.com/style/hfe/fo...

          It is a dish I appreciate as well, and would love to find a great version in the valley.

          -----
          Binkley's Restaurant
          6920 E Cave Creek Rd, Cave Creek, AZ 85331

          Cafe Bink
          36889 N Tom Darlington Dr, Carefree, AZ 85377

        2. Also had a great experience on our first dinner at Petite Maison. As mentioned service was very friendly and we were made to feel right at home. The place is indeed petite but cozy. It will be nice when the weather cools off to sit on the patio.
          I had the French Onion soup and the pork loin. Both were delicious and had great simple flavors. Hubby had the house salad and the steak frites and the bites I stold were also delicious. We finished off with the souffle which was amazing! We will defintely be back. Well prepared food, friendly service and a cozy atmosphere.

          1. I Completely agree with everything ejs said. I had dinner at Petite Maison over the weekend, and it was a phenomenal experience all around. I really can't find a single thing to criticize about the place, everything was flawless.

            The building, as noted, is very small with ~8 tables inside, and ~10 seats at the bar (as well as a nice-looking patio, which I don't think was being seated), and was jam-packed with people from the time we arrived to when we left. It was clear that everyone was having a great time, and it gave the place a lot of energy. The building and interior has tons of atmosphere and character that is completely unique.

            I basically had the same meal as sunshineinaz: onion soup, pork, souffle, and chocolate creme brulee. As a massive onion soup fan, I try it basically anywhere that it's being offered, and Petite Maison's version is superlative--definitely one of the best, if not the best versions I've had in the valley. Also ate quite a bit of vichyssoise, which was delicious. The pork dish was fantastic, with slices of bacon-wrapped loin next to some slow-cooked shredded pork, every component of this dish was great. Also tried some of the lamb/cassoulet (lamb was very mild and tender, cassoulet provided some great texture and flavor), and the steak frites (the frites, seasoned and dipped in the accompanying sauce, were ridiculously addictive). Both deserts--instead of taking an all-too-common backseat--were incredibly good. We left talking about coming back soon and making an entire meal of as much of the souffle we could pack in but, unfortunately, it'd be way too difficult to resist the other courses...

            Service was equally impeccable. From the helpful lady who answered the phone and fit us in, to our server and the genuine appreciation the hostesses seem to express as they hold the door for you. We sat at the bar, and had nothing but knowledgeable and attentive service from the bartender/server. Chef Porter came out and checked in with everyone, and I noticed him pop his head out from the kitchen every once in awhile to (I assume) ensure everything was running smoothely. With Porter's and the staff's attention to detail, and the excellent food and vibe of the place, they have a serious hit.

            1. Has anyone been to one of the "staff dinners" Petite Maison does on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays?

              It basically sounds like those in the kitchen rotate coming up with a couple of dishes--anything that they want to make--and just offer them at even lower prices than the standard menu, as well as a couple of items off the regular menu (I think cheese/charcuterie is one of them...).

              Anyway, sounds like a fun way to have a very inexpensive and spontaneous meal. Looking forward to trying it, but was curious if anyone has been and could provide some details.

              2 Replies
              1. re: crsin

                I went to staff meal last week where the menu was "endless bowl of mussels" (PEI) for $10 and stuffed peppers w/Arizona Cheese Co.'s cheese curds ($8) from OTFM. The mussels were fantastic, served in a fragrant broth with a piece of grilled bread. They were so good, everyone at the table was drinking the broth out of the shallow bowls. And they were indeed endless - in fact we cleared them out. If you're on Twitter, follow them at @PetiteMaisonAZ, as they tweet the staff meal menu.

                I'll also add that the escargot are crazy good, and on a previous visit enjoyed the salt cod fritters, steak tartare and b-t-g wine list. The one dish that didn't work for me, and was extremely disappointing, was the foie gras. The pickled grapes served alongside the piece of foie were way too tart and through the whole thing off for me, which was sad. But other than that, I've really enjoyed Petite Maison. The patio is awesome, and rivals The Mission for best patio ambiance in Old Town.

                1. re: azhotdish

                  Mmm...sounds great. I didn't even think about their twitter page, so it's good to know you can find out what's being served ahead of time. I'm looking forward to giving it a try. Gotta agree with you on what I've had from the btg winelist, and the quality of the patio.