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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.
 

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  • 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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