DINING: Wherefore art Chou? Patachou spin-off shines in Carmel

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Dining - A&E

Malls typically rank right down there with hotels and airports on my list of desirable dining destinations—a bias I admit could cause me to miss a gem hidden among the rubble of mass-marketed cuisine.

Sure, I’ve been known to grab a bite during an all-day shopping excursion, but those meals are rarely remarkable. Then I tried local restaurateur Martha Hoover’s Petite Chou Bistro and Champagne Bar (14360 Clay Terrace Blvd., Carmel; 566-0765).

ae-diningpetitechou03-15col.jpg A fried egg tops the Croque Madame, a ham and cheese sandwich that necessitates a knife and fork. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

The little sibling of the popular Café Patachou restaurants, Petite Chou melds the same comfortable “student union for adults” atmosphere with French bistro charm. Their breakfast-and-lunch menus also are similar, with Patachou favorites like Broken Yolk Sandwiches and the Hippie with a Benz omelet finding spots in the bistro’s more European lineup. Unlike its café counterpart, though, Petite Chou also is open for dinner.

We visited at lunchtime, avoiding familiar items by ordering only difficult-to-pronounce dishes. First up was the Croque Madame ($14.95): essentially a fancy ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg. Eating it required a fork and knife, but every bite was well worth the effort. Thick-sliced bread enveloped a generous portion of Smoking Goose ham, accented by a béchamel sauce (fancified milk, butter and flour) and smothered by a slice (or two) of Gruyere cheese. The egg perched on top provided a nice contrast to the sweet-and-salty overtones of the sandwich.

My friend had the Ratatouille Crepe Provencal ($11.50), which included zucchini, eggplant, onions, tomato and feta cheese. The large crepe, made with imported French flour, was perfectly browned, and the abundant veggies were al dente crisp. The flavors mingled beautifully, reminding her of a gourmet pizza. Her only criticism: the “lightly dressed field greens” served on the side were limply overdressed.

We also tried the Vegetarian Tartine ($9.75), an open-face sandwich featuring curried lentil pate, tomato and cucumber with a few ribbons of creamy dijonnaise. I expected the pate to be a spreadable paste—not slices of what reminded me of vegetarian meatloaf—but it was tasty, nevertheless. I’m glad I added avocado (an extra $1.60), which supplied a much-needed creamy element.

Our dessert choices weren’t quite as adventurous, but they were just as successful. Harrison’s Crepe ($6.75) wrapped fresh berries and chocolate ganache in another perfectly prepared, paper-thin pancake, topping it with more chocolate and crème anglaise. The Lemon Tart ($6.25) kept our taste buds on high alert, its shortbread crust and baked lemon curd filling offering a nice balance of sweet and sour.

Petite Chou (which has another location in Broad Ripple) just made Travel & Leisure magazine’s list of the best French restaurants in the United States. I can’t make that bold a statement, but I know this: It sure beats the heck out of the mall food court.•

—Andrea Muirragui Davis


Last in a month-long series of mall restaurant reviews.


  • um, paragraphs
    Sorry for the appearance of my post...I forgot that IBJ's commenting system doesn't translate paragraph breaks. They were there when I typed; please insert them mentally.
  • impressed
    Hi, Andrea, I'm glad you seem to have taken the previous criticism so well. It is in that spirit that I'd like to offer the following: Difficult to pronounce? I'd like to think not, at least if we want to continue to cultivate a food culture here in Indianapolis. Besides, this is the IBJ, targeted at (supposedly) educated business professionals, NOT The Star. Needing to define Bechamel sauce, and then further offending by calling it "fancified"? How about just calling it a mother sauce? More accurate. Lastly, Travel & Leisure is wrong: Patachou (none of them) is not a French restaurant. It may be French-inspired, it may have a few French dishes on the menu (including French Toast), but it is most decidedly not French. This is good American Bistro food, do not be mistaken. Again, I offer this in the spirit of positive criticism. I know the publishing industry is suffering from cutting editors, I didn't know that the IBJ had followed the trend, though. Again, if we want to help develop a robust food scene in Indy (which we're well on the way towards), we also need to develop a robust food criticism scene. There are a number of insightful food bloggers in the city, but none carry the weight of those who appear in print (except for you Jolene). Again, hoping only to see things improve!
    • Mea culpa
      Point well taken. Thank you.
      • Lacking Credibility
        Any restaurant review that contains four first-person-singular pronoun in the first two paragraphs lacks credibility from the get-go. But, for a local "reviewer" to dare suggest that she will determine whether Travel and Leisure magazine's ranking is legitimately demonstrates even greater hubris. Although I agree with her conclusion about the restuarant, this review needs to skip the tales of her likes and dislikes. We don't care.

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        1. Why not take some time to do some research before traveling to that Indiana town or city, and find the ones that are no smoking either inside, or have a patio? People like yourself are just being selfish, and unnecessarily trying to take away all indoor venues that smokers can enjoy themselves at. Last time I checked, it is still a free country, and businesses do respond to market pressure and will ban smoking, if there's enough demand by customers for it(i.e. Linebacker Lounge in South Bend, and Rack and Helen's in New Haven, IN, outside of Fort Wayne). Indiana law already unnecessarily forced restaurants with a bar area to be no smoking, so why not support those restaurants that were forced to ban smoking against their will? Also, I'm always surprised at the number of bars that chose to ban smoking on their own, in non-ban parts of Indiana I'll sometimes travel into. Whiting, IN(just southeast of Chicago) has at least a few bars that went no smoking on their own accord, and despite no selfish government ban forcing those bars to make that move against their will! I'd much rather have a balance of both smoking and non-smoking bars, rather than a complete bar smoking ban that'll only force more bars to close their doors. And besides IMO, there are much worser things to worry about, than cigarette smoke inside a bar. If you feel a bar is too smoky, then simply walk out and take your business to a different bar!

        2. As other states are realizing the harm in jailing offenders of marijuana...Indiana steps backwards into the script of Reefer Madness. Well...you guys voted for your Gov...up to you to vote him out. Signed, Citizen of Florida...the next state to have medical marijuana.

        3. It's empowering for this niche community to know that they have an advocate on their side in case things go awry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrst9VXVKfE

        4. Apparently the settlement over Angie's List "bundling" charges hasn't stopped the practice! My membership is up for renewal, and I'm on my third email trying to get a "basic" membership rather than the "bundled" version they're trying to charge me for. Frustrating!!

        5. Well....as a vendor to both of these builders I guess I have the right to comment. Davis closed his doors with integrity.He paid me every penny he owed me. Estridge,STILL owes me thousands and thousands of dollars. The last few years of my life have been spent working 2 jobs, paying off the suppliers I used to work on Estridge jobs and just struggling to survive. Shame on you Paul...and shame on you IBJ! Maybe you should have contacted the hundreds of vendors that Paul stiffed. I'm sure your "rises from the ashes" spin on reporting would have contained true stories of real people who have struggled to find work and pay of their debts (something that Paul didn't even attempt to do).