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Jul 2, 2011 03:12 PM

Petrelle report

Since Petrelle has had remarkably little reporting on Chow, hopefully this will be useful.

Firstly, we're not sure we can trust Souphie anymore. We chose Petrelle chiefly on his recommendation and were disappointed by his description of what to expect.

Petrelle isn't just expensive but very expensive for what you get: our two starters cost 53 euros
and our two mains cost another 68 euros. That's an awful lot for a starter like an artichoke salad or a main of pigeon amounting to no more than two thumb size pieces of the bird, on the bone. The pigeon was delicious as was a main course SINGLE sweetbread and both had excellent vegetable accompaniments. But we didn't feel either main (or 24 euro plus starter) earned its pricing considering the location near the Gare du Nord and the tiny portions for the mains. Honestly, we are not greedy and portions are very rarely too small for us but even though the starters were generous the mains were pitifully small. Compared to this place, L'Ambroisie is good value considering its great location, portions, luxury ingredients and service. Petrelle lacked generosity when it came to the main part of the meal and thus seemed somehow inauthentic given the simplistic cooking approach.

Aside from the food, the restaurant's atmosphere initially struck us as charming but was undermined by the affect of the sole waiter; who ultimately didn't look after us much, pushing a not exactly competitively priced Domaine du Cayron 2008 (49 euros, large markup) so much it was tough to refuse. He never poured our wine or water for us beyond the first time. Unfortunately, we were also seated next to a ghastly Englishman, exceptionally friendly with the waiter and a regular, who chatted loudly with him in English about NY dining and complained about Per Se's wine list being too pricey compared to Petrelle's. Quite bizarre. He was dismissive about NY eating in general, despite not having even heard of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon when the waiter recommended it (surprising recommendation we thought, given the place). The English international dining expert asked us if there were any good restaurants in Brooklyn when we talked to him...

We were aware of the cat but were surprised to see a dog cruising around the kitchen too. This seemed like an extra animal too far (especially for the expense, clearly the chef is eccentric). The toilet is in a phenomenally dank basement.

Would we go back? Obviously not, although we at least liked what we ate in its smallness. Just to put things in perspective, we ate a fantastic meal at Spring two nights ago and look forward to going back there. Lunch yesterday at L'Arpege was super. Will report on those in more detail later.

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  1. While l certainly agree about the size of the portions and that the food was wonderful, l found the somewhat harried waiter to be no problem. Found a very unusual Romorantrin wine on list at a decent markup, 40 up to 54 euros. Had a rhubarb stew there that was my fav dessert of the trip.
    Did l walk out hungry yes, but the huge tables and the sense of almost eating in someone's home, made up for the limited amount of food. The place is very quiet and romantic, l liked it.

    1. The wine list is one of the highlights of this place. My wife knows wine and chose a delicious 1999 Chateau Chavin for us at what was I recall, a shockingly low markup.

      The food is a bit overpriced but they also have an approximately 30 euro prix fixe menu. When we were there, hardly anyone was ordering off the prix fixe.

      As for the food quality, my wife and I both still talk about the vegetables, the fresh radishes, the carrots that tasted like carrots. We had a great meal.

      2 Replies
      1. re: r.vacapinta

        I think souphie has received a bum rap here; of course L'Ambroisie and L'Arpege are superior, at 4 to 5 times the price, they should be. People constantly ask for small bistros with great food and no tourists, well, here is one.

        1. re: Oakglen

          We only counted one table of French speakers. Not that this mattered so much to us. The pricing was by no means such a decreased proportion of l'Arpege's lunch menu for example. A search for the Domaine du Cayron we drank on wine searcher finds it available for less than 20 euros in the U.K. Basically we were baffled that a 34 euro pigeon main in such a setting would only amount to a tiny leg and cuisse. All the dishes were sized between starters and mains and the ingredients weren't so luxurious that they couldn't have been more generous.

      2. I went with my girlfriend to Le Petrelle this past March, and we enjoyed the experience, food and fat kitty very much. I don't know if the portion sizes could be called generous, but the leg of lamb that I was served was superb, and the vegetables very fresh.The welcome was warm, and the service very friendly. Perhaps not my very favorite restaurant in Paris, but certainly would return.

        1 Reply