New Orleans, Louisiana – La Petite Grocery Restaurant & Bar

Restaurant: La Petite Grocery
Cuisine: French/Southern/Soul/American
Last visited: May 23, 2012
Location: New Orleans, LA (Uptown)
Address: 4238 Magazine Street
Transit: Dumaine Station
Where I stayed: Le Richelieu Hotel (Taxi recommended)
Price Range: 
$30-50+ (Mains $15-25)

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 5.5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5.5
Additional comments:

  • Since 2004
  • Executive Chef Justin Devillier
  • 2012 Best Chef in the South Nominee (James Beard)
  • Restaurant & Bar
  • Casual fine dining
  • Refined Southern bistro
  • Sophisticated
  • Local ingredients
  • Award winning
  • Local neighbourhood favourite
  • Wine/Cocktails/Unique Beers
  • Sunday brunch: 10:30am – 2:30pm
  • Lunch: Tues. – Sat. 11:30am – 2:30pm
  • Dinner: Tues. – Sat. 5:30 – til’

**Recommendations: Braised Beef Short Rib, Baked Blue Crab, Local Shrimp & Grits, Handmade Ice Creams, Butterscotch Pudding and the LPG Cheeseburger is supposed to be excellent, but I didn’t try the burger. Cocktails: Mojito.

This is one of the restaurants that I was most excited to write about and it was one of my top 3 restaurants out of the 12 I tried in Follow Me Foodie to New Orleans… part 1. I don’t know when part 2 will happen, but I’m hoping sooner than later. I never really rub my hands together with excitement before I write a post, but I did before this one. The chef was also nominated for this year’s Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation Awards.

La Petite Grocery Restaurant & Bar is a quaint neighbourhood restaurant that I went in feeling good about and left feeling great about. It wasn’t necessarily the food that lured me, but it was the delivery that kept me engaged. Many of the dishes sounded quite typical, but the end result exceeded their menu descriptions. The flavours were familiar, but slightly reinvented and the presentation stylized. It showed me the refined side of Southern inspired French bistro food in a very current New Orleans way.

It has an upscale feel and is considered casual fine dining, but wearing sunglasses inside the restaurant wasn’t really surprising either. It’s a local favourite 10 minutes outside of the main touristy area of New Orleans, but it was totally worth visiting if you’re a food, wine, beer, cocktail or dessert enthusiast. It caters well to all those categories individually. I was invited to try the restaurant and if I didn’t have a packed foodie itinerary I would have squeezed in another visit on my own. There were still so many things I wanted to try and I left on a high note.

It was a classy French bistro with white table cloth service and it was a place where you come to enjoy a meal without being rushed. I can’t speak for the dinner time service, as I tried only their lunch, but I observed it as a nice catch up spot and good for small groups.

When it comes to Southern cuisine, funky, hearty, Cajun influenced and homestyle places like Cochon work for me, but La Petite Grocery was much more refined and also French/Creole inspired. It was more my style and it wasn’t necessarily better, but just more precise and elegantly presented. They were both sophisticated on different levels and not comparable, but they do bring new life to old fashioned Southern food.

I had started my morning with a traditional New Orleans breakfast feast at Brennan’s, so this was a nice contrast. Brennan’s was more old world Creole cuisine and La Petite Grocery was current with seasonally inspired menus and daily features. None of these restaurants are comparable, but it helps to give a frame of reference with my journey exploring Southern New Orleans food.

La Petite Grocery had an inspiring menu that was regional and creative and the flavour profiles were very catered to my tastes. While it reflected the stereotypical “gourmet comfort food with a twist”, I found the food to be much more sophisticated than that and not cliché. It was really more of a French bistro with Southern charm, and about a third of the dishes were unique to New Orleans, Louisiana and Creole cuisine.

I could imagine picking it up (which I wanted to do) and bringing it to the West Coast (where I’m from) and having it still be well recevied and equally as appreciated and celebrated. Again, it wasn’t really that I haven’t come across variations of these dishes before, but it was the execution and attention to fine details that really made La Petite Grocery a memorable experience and one that I couldn’t wait to share.

On the table:

**Elderflower Mojito5/6 (Excellent)

  • St. Germain Liqueur, Fresh Mint, Lime & Soda $11
  • I know. It’s just a mojito and it’s likely you’ve had many before, but this one was amazing! It’s a house favourite.
  • It was a very memorable mojito and one of my top 5 cocktails I had during my time in New Orleans.
  • It was a perfect drink to cool down with on a hot summer’s day.
  • It was refreshing, crisp and light with a good balance of sweet and citrus without being sour.
  • It tasted like Sprite with fresh lime juice and it had fruity undertones that extended beyond lime.
  • The St. Germain Liqueur (an elderflower sweet liqueur) really did it and it seemed more fruity than floral and it wasn’t bitter.
  • The liqueur was almost undetectable because it was so well balanced, not because they didn’t use much or mask it with sweetness.
  • To top things off there was a natural sweetness from the good quality mint leaves muddled into the cocktail.
  • It was mild and simple but more complex than a regular mojito and I’m not surprised that people usually order 2.

The Bee’s Hive4/6 (Very good)

  • Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Lavender Blossom, Clover Honey & Lemon $10
  • This was the cocktail that caught my eye originally, but I went for the mojito based on recommendation and I actually enjoyed the mojito more.
  • I found this one quite strong especially after the mojito.
  • With the listed ingredients I thought it would be sweeter and it wasn’t really.
  • It was a bit tart and bitter and noticeably floral and the lemon was strong, but not sour.
  • It wasn’t sweet enough to be a lemonade-like cocktail either.
  • I could taste the lavender initially, and then an intense earthiness from the Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, followed by what tasted like the bitter pith of lemon.
  • I like gin, but I think the Hayman’s Old Tom Gin was a bit too aggressive and herbal for me.
  • I still appreciated the concept and it was another popular cocktail here.

Complimentary Bread & Butter 

  • Complimentary bread is standard in New Orleans and quite often it was French bread, but here it was a dinner roll.
  • The warm dinner roll had a thin and crisp crust and the inside was soft, fluffy and a bit stretchy. It tasted better than it looked!
  • The butter was also good quality unsalted butter.

Amuse Bouche

  • Sweet corn and ricotta ravioli with country ham and cherry tomatoes ($12 a la carte appetizer)
  • This was the daily appetizer and I got a piece as my amuse bouche.
  • It was a ravioli that was fit for the summer.
  • It was very fresh and the herbs, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes were grown in their garden.

  • It was a very delicate hand made ravioli with tender skins that still had a bite and they weren’t soft and overcooked.
  • The filling was separating a bit and the ricotta and corn combination made for a semi-crumbly texture rather than a creamy one.
  • There was a natural sweetness from the corn juice and nice crunch of whole corn kernels and minced shallots inside the ravioli.
  • There was a brown butter sauce and lemon juice and it really let the flavour of the corn shine, but I wish the corn kernel was charred for some intensity.
  • There were little cubes of salty cured ham with the tomatoes and I would have loved that to be crispy pancetta, but the ham did give it the Southern twist.
  • The dish was a bit reminiscent to Jean-Georges Charred Corn Ravioli with Cherry Tomato Salad and Basil Fondue.

Blue Crab Beignets - 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Old Bay Aioli $11
  • This was a side dish and it came with 3 mini beignets. They were a bit pricey even considering the crab, but they were very good!
  • It seemed a bit of a waste to wrap beautiful blue crab in dough and deep fry it, but being in New Orleans it was forgiveable and suitable to their food culture.
  • I’ve never had “Blue Crab Beignets”, but it was almost like the seafood version of a corn dog or a Southern style “crab cake”.
  • The were heavily battered compared to a crab cake/croquette, but the batter was soft and light.
  • The shape of the beignets looked a bit less refined than what the restaurant demonstrated in all the other dishes I tried, but the flavour delivered.
  • They were served hot and fresh from the fryer and they weren’t too greasy for being deep fried.
  • They were sprinkled with fleur de sel, but I wish it stuck onto the beignets because it really made a difference in bringing out the flavour.
  • I think the name of the dish ended up being more exciting than the end result, and I probably enjoyed them more in the moment.

  • Some of the crab was more heavily battered than the others, but one of them was almost all crab.
  • The beignets didn’t have the same texture as the traditional beignets from Café Du Monde, and these ones seemed more like American doughnuts than light and puffy French beignets.
  • The doughnut batter wasn’t dense, but just denser than Café Du Monde beignets.
  • These crab beignets were still soft and doughy (not mushy) and slightly crispy on the outside. It was unsweetened and a bit savoury, but not salty.
  • I think the batter would be great with some corn meal and I actually wouldn’t have minded a bit of sugar for that sweet and savoury contrast.
  • They were really moist and the inside was filled with well seasoned juicy and flaky blue crab meat, chives, and a creamy mascarpone cheese to bind it all together.
  • They were rich, but not filling and the roasted garlic Old Bay Aioli was the perfect dip and made it seem like having crab cakes.
  • I probably prefer crab cakes, but for what they were, they were fantastic savoury doughnuts and it didn’t make me miss the sweet ones I still enjoy.
  • I also came across Crawfish Beignets – New Orleans style with Remoulade sauce ($11) at Montelone Hotel in the French Quarter, so I think this dish is quite typical in NOLA.
  • If the crab beignets here were stuffed in the Café Du Monde beignet batter and presented in squares, I think that would have made for an epic dish. That would be more “LPG” style too and although it requires more time, I bet they could do it and master it.

**Braised Beef Short Rib - 5/6 (Excellent)

  • House pickle salad and root beer glaze $13
  • If braised beef or duck confit is on the menu I almost always have to order it.
  • This tasted as good as the picture looks… and I think I took a pretty delicious picture!
  • I’ve tried Dr. Pepper and Root Beer glazed BBQ meats before, but this was something else! It was probably my favourite version of it thus far.
  • The short rib came across as burnt ends which are the best part of the brisket. Even though they weren’t burnt ends, they were still amazing!
  • The glaze was candied and caramelized with perhaps molasses and it was all crispy on the outside which made it seem like the charred bark on a burnt end. It was like meat candy!
  • The short ribs weren’t actually falling apart tender and they weren’t as fatty as expected, but they were still very tender and moist, but just not as juicy.
  • The fat was well marbleized, but the fat content didn’t seem high.
  • I’m not sure if they have an in house smoker, but they didn’t taste smoky, however the sauce was fantastic.
  • The short ribs were rich and intensely glazed and coated with a syrupy root beer based BBQ sauce that was creamy and thick with a buttery and glossy finish.
  • I could actually taste the root beer, but it wasn’t grossly sweet or masking the beef flavour.
  • The pickled salad was the perfect complement and it gave the dish a sweet and savoury contrast.
  • Alone the meat would be too sweet, but with the crunch of pickled cauliflower, slices of cucumber and red onions, it was perfect.
  • The pickled salad was almost like a deconstructed version of a sophisticated cole slaw, but more precisely it was basically Italian Giardiniera.
  • It wasn’t spicy and I wouldn’t have minded a bit of heat, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the dish and cleaned the plate.

**Baked Blue Crab6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Brie and chives served “au gratin” $12
  • It was what it was and it was delicious!
  • I think I tried ordering and eating as much crab as possible in New Orleans. I can get crab at home (Vancouver), but it doesn’t show up as often as it does in NOLA.
  • This… now this was rich! This was decadent, rich and served as a side which should be shared, but I ended up eating the whole thing.
  • If you like mac and cheese and scalloped potatoes, you will forget about both after this. I know it’s apples and oranges, but give me the crab.
  • It had a perfectly crispy golden brown crust with more parmesan cheese than bread crumbs so it was all salty, cheesy and nutty.
  • The shallow casserole dish was a perfect choice too and it allowed for a crispy bite of topping in each bite of creamy crab.

  • I was basically eating spoonfuls (changed to a spoon after the photo) of flaky crab meat mixed with a creamy, buttery and smooth cheese sauce.
  • It was so creamy I didn’t even need to chew it and it was a lot of crab, so it was honest to the name of the dish.
  • It was likely made with mascarpone cheese, brie, and heavy cream and it was a cheesy bechamel sauce that never masked the crab.
  • There were some chives and perhaps a hint of dill, but the ingredients and flavours didn’t seem too complex.
  • I could still taste and see the distinct texture of crab meat and it wasn’t a pile of mush or too finely shredded.
  • I have a feeling it was the same stuffing used for the Blue Crab Beignets. If so, I would rather have this.
  • It was almost like a cheese fondue, but with even more crab than cheese which I liked and it wasn’t too salty.
  • It was a bit oily as it would be from the cheese, but it wasn’t overly so and the recipe was really spot on.
  • If anything I would have loved some lemon zest or a bit of lemon juice for some acidity, but honestly it was an excellent baked blue crab gratin.

**Local Shrimp & Grits5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Shiitake mushrooms, smoked bacon and thyme $17
  • Oh dear gosh! I would order this again. It was a Southern dream. It was exactly what I wanted it to be and so much more.
  • This was the definition of gourmet influenced Southern New Orleans food.
  • Shrimp & Grits is a popular Louisiana dish, but not like this.
  • It was quite small as a main, but it was quite rich. Although in the context of Southern food, it could have been a lot more indulgent. Traditionally it would be sausage instead of mushrooms and there might be cheese melted into the grits.
  • It came with 6 fresh and large shrimps that were savoury and sauteed in butter.
  • They were tender, not mushy, moist and meaty and still had a nice firm crunch and they were almost like lobster tails.
  • As long as shrimps are fresh, well cleaned, cooked and seasoned they’re almost always delicious though.
  • It was topped with buttery and juicy Shiitake mushrooms sauteed in thin shavings of garlic cloves, smoky bacon and thyme.
  • The mushrooms were a modern twist and it was a lighter alternative to the typical sausage it would normally be served with.
  • I liked the balance the Shiitakes had with the shrimps, and it seemed like a vegetarian way of imitating “land and sea”.

  • The grits were ultra creamy and topped with a gravy which I think was Tasso gravy. It is the gravy often served with shrimp and grits.
  • Tasso gravy is a typical Southern Louisiana sauce and it’s made from Tasso ham which is a rich and cured fatty ham made from pork butt or shoulder.
  • The tasso ham is just used to build the flavour in the gravy, but it’s not really eaten alone or served with the dish.
  • It was made with good quality chicken stock and of course Tasso ham so it had an intense umami flavour and it wasn’t too salty.
  • It was a buttery flour based blond roux sauce, but it didn’t seem too reliant on flour to thicken it.
  • It was still thick, but not gluey or starchy.
  • I’m not huge on roux based sauces, but they are typical of Creole cuisine so I learned to embrace them here.
  • It was almost a bit soupy and very bacon forward in flavour with perhaps some lemon juice or white wine for a bit of acidity.
  • The Tasso gravy just swirled right into the creamy grits creating a silky smooth texture reminiscent of mashed potatoes and gravy.
  • The sautéed ingredients seemed simple, but it was the gravy and overall combination of all the components that made it excellent!
  • I was just imagining this dish at home with our local BC Spot Prawns and deep fried shrimp heads served along side… but that’s the Vancouver/Asian part of me talking.

Dessert

Do not miss dessert here. You will regret it if you do. It delivered on par with the savoury dishes and it’s a place I would even come back to just for the desserts. The Pastry Chef Bronwen Wyatt seems incredibly talented and I’m kicking myself for only trying 3 of her desserts. I don’t think I tried enough to give her desserts justice, but her and chef must have great communication because the theme, menu and flavours were really singing the same tune.

**Olive Oil Ice Cream5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • I just wanted to try a scoop, but usually this would be served with the Almond-Cornmeal Cake with roasted Alabama peaches ($9). How good does that sound? I really should have just ordered the whole dessert and I obviously wasn’t thinking, but I was getting quite full.
  • Ice cream is my favourite category of desserts, so naturally I’ll always think it’s good, but I’m picky with quality.
  • I love olive oil ice cream so I had to try it here. It’s not salty, so relax. Salty desserts are good anyway.
  • As an olive oil ice cream this was perfect and as an ice cream it was still perfect.
  • It was custard based ice cream and I could taste the freshness. I could just tell it was made in small batches.
  • It was few ingredients, but made with high quality ingredients and there were no short cuts.
  • It was rich and creamy and melted slowly and the quality of olive oil was high and fruity.
  • It was lightly sweetened and undeniable with robust olive oil flavour.
  • I was brought back to memories of this Olive Oil dessert with olive oil custard, olive oil cake and olive oil ice cream I had at Cioppino’s.

Daily Ice Cream Feature: Cayenne Pepper - 4/6 (Very good)

  • Cayenne Pepper with hot fudge (3 scoops for $7)
  • The chili in chocolate thing is an older dessert “trend”, but it’s still good and when it’s done well it’s done well.
  • The ice cream was again custard based ice cream made with few ingredients, but high quality ingredients.
  • It was very creamy and rich with no greasy feel or after taste and it was smooth in texture with a cayenne heat that kicked in at the end.
  • It was sweet at first and then the cayenne pepper sneaks up on you and kicks in and lingers. It was never spicy or hot though, it just had good strong heat.
  • The buttery hot fudge sauce was also high quality and made with good bittersweet dark chocolate. That also had some cayenne spice to it.
  • Both components had cayenne pepper so it was a bit redundant and I wouldn’t mind pink peppercorn or other spices or chilies being used for dynamics.
  • There was a nice sweet and spicy contrast and it was hot and cold in temperature as well as flavour, so it was almost playing tricks with your mouth.
  • Although very good it wasn’t as original as I had hoped.
  • It got a bit repetitive even with one scoop and ice cream naturally is repetitive, but I just wasn’t as addicted to this flavour.

**Butterscotch Pudding6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Warm Pecan Madeleines $8
  • Omg. adfklna;sldkfsd.lfkna!!! This almost made me kick the table.
  • I don’t really care for butterscotch pudding and I never really saw what the big deal was, but this butterscotch pudding changed my mind.
  • Butterscotch Pudding is the hot dessert “trend” happening in California and Southern parts of the States right now. It’s a butterscotch pudding craze!
  • When the server recommended “Butterscotch Pudding” I almost rolled my eyes because all the other desserts sounded way more creative and exciting.
  • It was when he described it as an “orgasm in your mouth” that I said “I’ll take one”. It made me roll my eyes in a whole new way.
  • Having an old fashioned Southern dessert served in a mason jar in New Orleans was indeed a foodie highlight.

  • The butterscotch pudding tasted like buttery melted down Werther’s Original candies in rich pudding form.
  • Just like the ice cream it was made with few ingredients that were high quality and I could taste that difference.
  • This was no grocery store butterscotch pudding thickened with corn syrups and cornstarch.
  • It wasn’t too thick, gloppy, or overly sweet or greasy and it was silky smooth and simply gorgeous.
  • If anything, I wish there were vanilla beans in the pudding. That always brings out more flavour.
  • However the perfectly whipped vanilla cream topping had real vanilla beans in it!
  • The airy light vanilla bean whipped cream was the “cherry” on top.
  • It wasn’t greasy and it just lightened up the butterscotch pudding and made it less sweet and more palatable.
  • I folded the vanilla scented clouds of whipped cream into the pudding and the texture was so smooth, buttery and light that I literally closed my eyes.
  • I topped my Pecan Madeleines with the pudding too which was delicious.
  • The Madeleines were moist and soft and well caramelized, but I couldn’t tell there were pecans in them.
  • I think it was pecan crumbs, but it was still a bit undetectable.
  • I would have loved if this pudding was topped with candied pecans or salted pecans for texture and to tie in with the Pecan Madeleines.
  • I can’t say I’ve had many homemade Butterscotch Puddings in my lifetime, but I was told that locals come here just for this dessert and I believed it. I’d be one of them if I lived there.
  • The locals have likely tried and made many since it’s a classic Southern dessert and apparently this one is “the best”.

I couldn’t help but to finish it all and I was hoping the spoon would turn into a spatula.

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