Dining outdoors in Southern California is fun. We have almost perfect weather. It’s hard to think what could be better than sipping wine and tasting great food while people watching. With this in mind, French bistros sprung up years ago becoming a classic part of our dining culture for years. With the trend toward healthier cooking styles, bistro-dining popularity has waned.
There is an exception to every trend. Le Petit Bistro continues as a popular dining spot on restaurant row at La Cienega and Melrose. For 40 years the Lachkar family has served a variety of European fare in the Los Angeles area, highlighted with this delightful bistro, which recently celebrated 20 years of service.
From starters to entrees there is a blended California French flavor that makes Le Petit Bistro an outstanding find for food lovers. This is casual dining at it’s best, without the pretense of formal dining. Comfortable décor, friendly service and moderate prices are sure to please.
There is another taste notch on the food presented. The family is from Morocco and so there is a definite Mediterranean touch on many dishes. This is not your typical French bistro. You can dine in the comfortable main room, making friends with your neighbors or outside, on a candle lit garden patio.
Full bar service is available. There’s a bar in the back of the restaurant with a few stools and lots of conversation.
Upon seating, along with warm French baguette slices, guests enjoy house-made humus and an olive tapenade. Perfect for cocktails and conversation. The tapenade features eggplant and tomato, blended with the olives. The dish is reminiscent of a campanada. It’s a further reflection of the Mediterranean history of the owners. Of course, it’s wonderful with the warm bread.
Humus, made from chickpeas, garlic, spices and olive oil is another flavor from the Mediterranean. This area includes all of the Middle East. All countries from Israel to Greece, Syria to Lebanon serve humus, with the mix of spices being the difference. It’s a nice starter with a drinks or wine.
Noted on the menu as a must try, the Shrimp Picante are excellent. Jumbo shrimp sautéed in butter, garlic and special spices, this is a nice version of a scampi. Picante means spicy, but don’t be afraid. While there is heat, the flavor of the butter and shrimp come through. The shrimp are tender, sweet and not over cooked. Over cooked shrimp is very common in the restaurant world.
The Merguez a la harissa are spicy lamb sausages. You can find these as Moroccan Cigars in a Middle Eastern restaurant. It’s an unusual dish to find on a French bistro menu.
Not overly spicy, the Merguez have a nice texture and subtle lamb flavor. This is another good starter.
One of my favorite dishes is Black Mussels “Poulette.” This is a simple preparation of mussels steamed in wine with a dash of cream. Many places use green mussels, which are as flavorful to me as the black. The warm bread is perfect for dipping into the wine, shallots and cream sauce. In years past there was a lots of cream in a preparation like this. The light drop at Le Petit Bistro helps balance the dish. It’s available as an appetizer or entrée.
Served with the mussels are some of the best French fries in the Los Angeles area. Thin, crispy and lightly salted, these are tremendous. Thick cut or steak fries are heavy and doughy. They come in a paper cone, which soaks up the excess oil and are enough for two.
The baby lamb chops are surprising. The cost is reasonable, with other establishments charging far more. A mild mustard sauce is good and savory. The lamb is tender and flavorful. The lamb was a bit overcooked. The chops would have been perfect if presented medium rare.
A special of the night was fresh whitefish. Simply prepared, it’s an excellent choice if available. Cous cous can be bland and unexciting. This side dish was flavorful and full of color (carrots, raisins and parsley). This is a winning dish.
The apple tart was my favorite dessert. The thin pastry dough, almost like a filo, filled with apple and spices reminds me of sweets from another time. The soufflé is worth waiting for. A nice chocolate steamy dish, topped with fresh whipped cream.
Le Petit Bistro is not a typical brasserie. While it has the earmarks of a classic place, there are subtle nuisances that make it good to come back time and again. The Lachkar clan has maintained their original bistro fare, offering class French comfort foods with their special touch.
Le Petit Bistro
631 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069