Lunch at Petit Trois

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Is it possible to go to Paris with your friend Diana, eat yourself silly, then come back from Paris to L.A. only to have a French meal just as good as, if not better than, anything you ate 6,000 miles away? The answer is yes and it happened at Petit Trois where Diana and I went for lunch last week. This place is a marvel, one of the best restaurants I’ve been to anywhere in a long time. Don’t believe me? Prepare to be wowed.

When I first heard about Petit Trois, I was excited but also nervous. Excited because it’s the sister restaurant to Trois Mec, one of the hardest reservations in L.A. (and also one of the most lauded new restaurants in the country), helmed by Ludo Lefebvre (of LudoBites) and Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Animal and Son of a Gun (who I cooked with for my cookbook). Nervous because if Petit Trois was even a little bit as popular as Trois Mec, there’d be no way I’d ever get through the door.

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Turns out, though, my fears were for naught. (At least for now.) On Friday at around 12 o’clock, the place was crowded but not jammed. As you can see above, Petit Trois and Trois Mec are housed in an old Thai restaurant and a Raffetto’s pizza, respectively. As you get closer, you see what’s really going on:

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Through the door, I spotted something that’s almost like seeing the Lochness monster these days: the actual chef behind the counter. There was Ludo cooking away!

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He waved hello and said, “How come I not see you since I was at your apartment? That was five year ago!”

More like three years ago, but it’s true: Ludo and his wife Krissy once came to my New York apartment to promote their Sundance show. And now, three years later, I am a bit ashamed that I haven’t been to Trois Mec yet, but here I was at Petit Trois and very excited to eat.

Things got off to a rockin’ start with a baguette presented with Normandy butter:

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Ludo enthused: “I found a woman who make this baguette at home. I think it is the best in L.A.!”

Oh man, he wasn’t kidding. The baguette had insane, deep flavor. Sweet, nutty, chewy, and impossible to stop eating with that Normandy butter.

Then came our first course: a green bean salad pepped up with horseradish and plums.

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What a stunner this was; clean-tasting and bright, transitional from summer to fall. Easy enough to do at home, but executed so well you’d never make it as good.

However, the real stuff hadn’t really arrived yet. That came next via Ludo:

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Oh yes, escargot drowning in garlicky butter, served with their own special utensils:

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(No, we weren’t at the gynecologist. Sorry, was that joke too blue? Do people still call jokes “blue”? Why am I an old timey person?)

Here’s how the utensils work: you use one to hold the snail shell, the other to scoop out the meat.

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Voila! But the best part was dipping that incredible baguette through the garlicky butter. Oh man. That’s last meal level stuff.

We’re just beginning, though. Next came out a beef tartare that was creamy and vibrant and decadently topped with fried shallots:

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As good as that was, what came next was so stunning, I went a bit crazy trying to figure out how he pulled it off. It’s a simple omelette filled with Boursin cheese (yes, the kind you get at the grocery store):

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This omelette was so ethereal, so light and other-worldly, I’ll let a better food writer than me explain it. Here’s Besha Rodell: “With this omelette, the egg itself is presented as pure texture, a lightly frothy yellow solid, with absolutely no visual or tactile clue that it has ever touched a pan. The filling, of Boursin cheese and herbs, is practically the same light, creamy consistency as its egg wrapping. Outrageously rich yet with an ethereal quality of weightlessness, it is, quite simply, the best omelette I have ever had.” Boom, there you go.

Here, the chef gifted us with a confit-ed chicken leg in a sauce made from brioche crumbs sautéed in more butter:

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I have to confess, at this point, I was so bowled over by everything else, I couldn’t really enjoy it. But that sauce was really something else.

Somehow, though, I found room for the two desserts they sent out. The first, a chocolate cake with lots of whipped cream, was impressive enough:

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But the thing that almost knocked me off my stool, was the Napoleon:

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I mean, can you believe that? Let’s look at it from another angle:

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Diana and I had eaten something very similar at the boutique pastry shop Jacques Genin in Paris (see here) and this was every bit as good, if not better. From the way the pastry broke apart under my fork, to the flecks of real vanilla bean inside, it almost made me want to cry, it was such an achievement.

We left Petit Trois with little birds chirping around our heads, like someone in a cartoon who has a safe drop on them from a cliff. Who needs drugs when you can have an experience like this? Only I hope nobody reads this post so I can go back again and again. For a Francophile in L.A., it’s even better than the real thing.

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