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Food

Local Flavors, Continental Style: La Petite Grocery

La Petite Grocery Dining Room
The La Petite Grocery Dining Room – I’m glad we made a reservation!

First off, let me just say that La Petite Grocery is a lovely space, and like every building in New Orleans, it has a real history to it. Over 100 years ago, the restaurant was opened as the “Central Tea, Coffee and Butter Depot” when Magazine Street was (it still is today) a bustling hub of commerce. In March of 2004 the space was reinvented for stylish dining: La Petite Grocery.

What I love about the restaurant is that it feels like one of the “Grand Dames” of Creole cuisine found in the French Quarter, such as Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s or Antoine’s. With soaring ceilings, the front bar retains the pressed tin ceiling restored from the original market. The dining room has artful trompe l’oeil, suggesting paneled walls, and wonderful enlargements of historic photos of the original store. It’s a very comfortable spot for a knock-out dinner – I’m lucky to be able to count it as one of my neighborhood restaurants.

As the names suggests, one can expect French technique at La Petite Grocery, but one may not expect the strong influence of local foods and flavors that give the cuisine a true New Orleans twist.

Yummy fried Quail with a Crystal Butter Sauce
Yummy fried Quail with a Crystal Butter Sauce

Friday night’s dinner captures the spirit of the place perfectly. I began with Louisiana quail, fried to a lovely brown crispness, served with a bright, buttery “Crystal Hot Sauce” sauce with roquefort and pickled onion garniture. I ate it with my fingers and didn’t think twice about it, despite the white table cloth setting. Louisiana food will do this to you – in fact, I’m willing to bet the chef would recommend my technique. 🙂

My partner had wonderful crispy boudin, served with a homemade aioli and whole grain mustard that was prepared for a special that evening. Boudin is a south Louisiana treat, inherited from Cajun country. It’s a special sausage traditionally made with pork, rice and various vegetables, like green onions. Both of these appetizers had a light “kick” of  spice to them so they paired beautifully with a glass of cold Sancerre white wine.

We came for an early seating and the restaurant was filling rapidly. I was glad to have made a last minute reservation on OpenTable.com, as I could see hungry folks just back from Jazz Fest filling the bar, happily enjoying cocktails and conversation as they waited for a table to open up.

Gulf Fish in 'Courtboullion' Sauce and a handmade Spaghetti with Crab in Saffron Butter Sauce
Gulf Fish in ‘Courtboullion’ Sauce and a handmade Spaghetti with Crab in Saffron Butter Sauce

Our entrees arrived and we sized up each others plates with satisfaction. Simple, straightforward presentations… The stars of the show are the flavors. I settled in with my selection, Black Drum, a light gulf fish with an accompanying “courtboullion” sauce. A little blue crab ‘beignet” pastry puff was a welcome treat. My partner chose a house-made spaghetti, topped with jumbo lump crab meat and mixed with char-broiled tomatoes lightly sauced with a saffron butter.

Fond as I was of Friday night’s dinner, there were other menu favorites that were hard for me to pass up. Chef Justin Devillier always has inventive, delicious soups featuring market-fresh ingredients. And if you are ever just craving a burger, his LPG cheeseburger featuring house-made pickles, onion marmalade, arugula and gruyere is done to perfection.

P.S. Did you know that Chef Justin keeps a blog? Check out some of his latest videos where he can show you some of his signature techniques.

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