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Le P'tit Laurent

Think Small

Although the culinary intelligentsia have ignored its existence, the neighbors have been keeping Le P’tit Laurent, a modest French bistro in Glen Park's commercial center, extremely busy.

Glen Parkers of a certain age, especially, have cozied up to Le P'tit Laurent, which pushes Gallic nostalgia alongside approachable French favorites. Even on weeknights, there's often a wait for one of the dozen or so tables, or for a spot along the bar.

The restaurant is perhaps best experienced on weeknights between 5:30 and 7:00pm when twenty bucks gets you a choice of soup or salad, one of two entrées, and dessert.

The food is generally as pleasant as it is undistinguished. The menu starts with French-American bistro staples such as escargots and salads and moves on to more French-American bistro staples such as roast chicken ($15) and rabbit ($17). A slightly more Californian dish will appear here and there, like a risotto with large prawns—deemed a success by its devourer. The cassoulet Toulousain ($19), which one might hope to be heart-stoppingly rich, turns out to be meekly flavored—more exciting to say than to eat.

The desserts raised our eyebrows, and some questions. Was the pastry in the profiteroles recycled from stale ice cream cones? Probably not. On the other hand, you do have to cut corners somewhere to serve three courses for twenty bucks.

The restaurant’s name comes from its owner, Laurent Legendre. A former owner of the well-loved (and now shuttered) Richmond district bistro Clementine, he works the front of the house.

The interior is sort of a muted Epcot-center version of a French bistro: French tchotchkes are littered across unreachable shelves; an alcove is painted to mimic the view from below the Eiffel Tower.

The service mirrors the warm kitschiness of the decor. Starting with the welcoming "Bon soir monsieur," the staff liberally peppers singsongy French phrases throughout the meal. (Even the check screams "MERCI! A Bientot!") Diners seem more than happy to respond with their best "au revoirs" and "mercis."

One recent night, a theatrical waitress took it a step farther when she halted all conversation with a cheery announcement: "It's someone's birthday!" As we're singing, half in French, half English, my companion and I could only force smiles and stare, wondering why Mr. Legendre did not import some of the legendary French aloofness along with the ceramic tchotchkes.

P'tit Laurent is not the place for food scenesters or particularly refined palates, but the middle-aged folks from the surrounding streets press on this place in great numbers, delighted to conjure up their high-school French and feel as if they're Glen Park boulevardiers.



French Bistro
Glen Park
$$

Reservations Essential