Saturday, December 13, 2008

Petit Robert Bistro: Needham

When a restaurant starts opening multiple locations, sometimes it does not work as the additional restaurants just don't seem to have the same quality as the original. Other times, the owner is very successful in spreading out to multiple spots.

French Master Chef Jacky Robert has recently opened a third Petit Robert Bistro in Needham so I went there to ascertain whether it was as good as the other two locations, in Kenmore Square and the South End. I was not disappointed.

It is hard to miss the Needham location with its iconic Eiffel Tower outside, brightly lit at night. The restaurant is long with a small bar, that seats around ten people, at the front. It appears larger than their Kenmore location and my only quibble is that some of the tables seem a bit too close together. But it does offer a cozy and elegant ambiance. Though this location has only been open a short time, it already seems very popular. On a Tuesday evening, the restaurant was nearly full.

Their wine list and food menu are essentially the same as at the other two locations, with a list of daily specials. The wine list is predominately French with additional selections from California, Oregon and a few other regions. Wine by the glass averages $9-10 and bottles range from $22-$98, with plenty available under $40. During my dinner, I enjoyed a glass of the La Craie Vouvray, Loire Vallée, a delicious Chenin Blanc as well as a glass of the Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne a light and fruity red.

The goal of their dinner menu is to keep their entrees under $20. The menu has many traditional French bistro items as well as some of their own French-inspired creations. I like the various menu choices and they are diverse enough that everyone should be able to find a dish they want.

Prior to your food arriving, you are served a small loaf of warm French bread with butter. This is a delicious bread with a nice crusty exterior and soft interior. Warm bread is such an excellent way to begin your meal and I am not sure why more restaurants don't do it.

I began my meal with an appetizer of Apple Wood Smoked Salmon & Pain Grillé ($8.50), a good-sized plate of thinly sliced salmon with a couple slices of grilled bread. The salmon had a nice smoky flavor, was very tender and I enjoyed it very much. Though I had not finished my appetizer, a server brought me my Garden Salad with a Shallot Vinaigrette and Panko Crusted Goat Cheese ($9.75). I think the server should have waited to serve my salad only after I had finished my appetizer. The salad is primarily various greens with a couple small, tomato slices. The star of the salad was the golf ball-sized Goat Cheese, creamy and flavorful. I smeared some of the goat cheese on my bread and it made an excellent combo.

For my entree, I chose the Medallions of Venison with Blueberries and Poivre ($19.75). The plate came with four thick slices of venison, very meaty with almost no fat on them. They were in the Poivre sauce, which had a nice peppery flavor, with fresh blueberries. The plate also had some mashed potatoes and a veggie mix. The venison was excellent, tender and flavorful without any off-putting gamey flavor. It was some of the best venison I have tasted in quite some time. This is a dish I highly recommend.

I had also ordered a side of the Gratin Dauphinois Potato ($4.75). This dish contained large, thin sliced potatoes in a rich cheese and cream sauce. It was large enough for two people to share. This dish was superb, such a compelling taste that I almost could have eaten just this for dinner. The potatoes were tender, without being mushy, and the sauce was decadently delicious. Forget your worries about cholesterol or fat, order this dish and savor its taste.

For dessert, I ordered the Gran Marnier Souffle ($10) and it was a fitting end to my dinner. Hot, light and flavorful. You have to wait 15-20 minutes for the souffle to be prepared but it is worth the wait.

Overall, service was excellent, attentive and accomodating. My only minor service quibble was over getting my salad before I had finished my appetizer. They had plenty of staff and it appeared that they were attentive to everyone in the restaurant. There was also a woman, maybe a manager, who wandered the restaurant, trying to ensure that the diners were happy and that there were no problems. The restaurant appeared to run very smoothly even though they have only been open for a very short time.

It appears that Chef Robert has succeeded in opening a third restaurant which will match the quality of his other two locations. Though new restaurants often need some time to work out the kinks, the Needham restaurant is already working very well. The food is delicious and reasonably priced and well worth checking out. Go there and tell them the Passionate Foodie sent you.

Petit Robert Bistro
45 Chapel Street
Needham, MA
Phone: (781) 559-0532

Petit Robert Bistro on Urbanspoon

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