While Petite Jacqueline doesn’t offer the most mind-blowing French food on the planet – I adore the place none-the-less.
Granted, it’s no Au Pied du Cochon (Montreal) or Au Vieux Comptior (Paris) – two places embroiled in my brain and heart (not to mention my thighs) for all-time top French dishes (guinea hen liver mousse and sweet breads with morels, asparagus and a river of cream – respectively).
But, I’m just delighted to have a solid French bistro in Portland. One that makes a tasty Nicoise Salad, an appealing Steak Frites and a lovely Fluke Meuniere.
Consistently. In authentic style. Wrapped in a bright, boisterous package that transports you straight to Boulevard Saint-Germain.
It also doesn’t hurt that the bubbly, dimpled Gwendolyn – who always seems to get stuck with us – is one of the most enthusiastic and appealing servers in town.
And – this is vital to my post-vacation budget – the house red is surprisingly stellar and comes in a huge carafe. A pinot noir-syrah blend, it’s a steal for $20.
Nicoise Salad: A sizable Nicoise approaches “Parisian” with chunks of tuna, bright, al dente haricot vert, slighly runny hard-boiled eggs, nicoise olives and fingerlings. See if you can pick out which salad photo (below) is from Petite Jacqueline – and which is from a café in Montmarte. (Okay – the anchovies probably give this away. That’s one key component PJ needs to improve upon).
Steak Frites: I recommend you order this richly marinated flat iron steak rare or on the “rare side” of medium rare. To cook it longer defeats the dish and toughens the meat to (from a French – and my – perspective) a perverse level of doneness. Seriously. Hand cut fries come skinny, crackling and drizzled with mayo and a dash of parsley. Expertly fried and made from what I presume to be local Maine potatoes, they offer not just crunch but complex flavor. Marvelous.
Fluke Meuniere: Pan seared with capers and loads of butter, this local fish gets a light flour coating before its crisped to a perfect golden brown and draped over spinach. Delicate simplicity on a plate.
Timely note: In honor of Bastille Day, this Thursday, July 14, Petite Jacqueline is offering a traditional celebratory meal – a three-course dinner with wine pairings for $50. Check out the menu.