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Petit Louis Bistro, Classic French in Roland Park from the Owners of Charleston - Columbia Location has Closed


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I eat here with some regularity and keep coming back because they do all the standards well, have an experienced and friendly staff, good parking, a very good wine list and reasonable prices. A good choice for a bustling neighborhood bistro. The table under the stairs is a nice, quiet private spot.

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I had lunch here a couple of Saturdays ago for the first time. I would love to go back soon. The decor just knocked me out. The wood trim had an intentionally weathered look, the floor was worn in places from heavy foot traffic and the corners of the marble/stone tables were worn down - the Designer is just brilliant. I believe she's the same woman who was the Decorator and Designer of Pazo's - I think she also works in the catering end of their business . The food was very good. The Server was unimpressive, but there was a young woman who cleared our table for us who was very helpful and friendly. Wild horses could not keep us from going back again. Come to think of it, I'd like to give Pazo's another try too (Pazo, Petit Louise and Charleston are all owned by the Charleston Group.) I want to go to Charleston, but It will take me a long time to save enough so that we can each get the Chef's tasting menu - I figure that meal will run $300 with tip.

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I took my mom to Petit Louis for Mother's day- oddly enough, this was my first visit as well, and I was very satisfied.

We shared the foie gras and escargot appetizers- both of which were made classically well.

For entrees, mom got seared scallops in buerre blanc with asparagus and a really nice asparagus flan. The last item reminded me of tofu.

I got the classic steak frites- which was great.

Here are pics.

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I actually spent a few nights working in the kitchen at Petit Loius, believe it or not! I wanted to expand my knowledge of French cuisine, but in three days I'd pretty much learned the entire menu. This is not a knock or self-aggrandizement, on the contrary it's a testament to the true "bistro" nature of menu, although I've always believed most places that bill themselves as bistros are priced too high to be accurately regarded as such. This includes Petit Louis. But, the quality of ingredients and skill of preparation is no joke. The kitchen staff there is without a doubt one of the best I've ever encountered. The dining room is very attractive and has great energy. One thing they need to improve on is their bar - I ordered a negroni and it was terrible. On the other hand, Pazo has arguably the best bartenders in Baltimore.

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Can I get htere without a car or a $40.00 cab ride ?
The problem is getting to Baltimore on a weekend without a car - unless you were planning on going on a weekday. If you can do that and get on the Light Rail, you can get to the Cold Spring station and take a very short cab ride from there to Petit Louis. But I think including however you got from DC to Baltimore, it's probably going to end up totaling near $40 anyway.
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The new Petit Louis on the lakefront in Columbia is certainly a sweet spot, and they're still working hard to hit the sweet spot in every aspect.

I can't talk enough about the desserts -- both in the restaurant and at its casual counter Le Comptoir.  We have eaten almost everything that they offer.  Probably a dozen trips in a single month -- mostly to carry out a box of cookies or pastries.

I think that I'm being even-keeled when I say that I have eaten 15 different cookies, eclairs and pastries and every one ranks among the best desserts around.  Just last month, I emphasized how many great sweets are available in Howard County.   But Petit Louis and Le Comptoir immediately leapt up to the absolute top tier, and you can't check it out fast enough.

Macarons with a changing run of imaginative flavors.  Eclairs and financiers that shame regular pastries.  Tiny fruit gels that are brilliant $1 bites.  Cookies that even taste exceptional.  My wife almost passed on the chocolate cookie after we walked around the lake. How special can a cookie be?  It turns out that they can be amazing with a crisp exterior and a soft inside, rich with chocolate and perfect with coffee (and with a second cookie like the rosemary-scented heart-shaped one).

And don't get me started about the macarons.  These trendy French pastries are basically sandwich cookies with merengues on the outside and a flavored filling.  We have been infatuated for several years.  I have carried macarons home from New York City.  But I have never had better ones that Le Comptoir.  The merengues are perfectly dry without cracking.  The flavors are fresh and intense, strong with banana, peanut butter, pistachio-grapefruit, etc.  They're the symbol of what I love about Petit Louis' sweets -- simple desserts that are so clearly not simple to create.

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Now, a friend told me that he thinks Petit Louis became Howard County's best restaurant as soon as it opened.  I'm excited if that is true.  It may have been a mistake for us to eat there on a Monday night, but we were celebrating that day.  Five occupied tables couldn't fill the room with any energy, and we got a waiter who was growing into the role.

As it was, we unintentionally ordered two fried dishes.  I asked if the beignet was like the doughy fritter that you'd see in New Orleans.  Now, I realize that the waiter's nod was probably based on politeness, not agreement.  I got shrimp and vegetable tempura.  Terrific tempura, but that wasn't what I had wanted.  Then we got surprised again when Mrs. HowChow's desire for fresh fish got her fried cod.  Again, real skill to fry that perfectly.  Just not what she was looking for.  I remember servers at other Foreman-Wolf restaurants, and I think they would have led us to dishes that we wanted.

Of course, the entire meal leads you to dessert, so you go out on a bang without any risk of translation.  We went with Gateau Aux Fruits Exotiques and Pot de Creme Au Chocolat.  They're intense flavors, rich but light enough that we walked out smiling and bubbly.  Honestly, the fruits aren't that exotic -- passion fruit, coconut and pineapple.  It's talent that intensifies the flavors in layers of cake and cream. 

As I'm sitting here trying to explain why we're au septieme ciel over Petit Louis' sweets, my best explanation is that they don't taste of butter and sugar.  You can always win over a table with dessert heavy with cream or sharp with sweetness.  Each Petit Louis dessert leads with a flavor -- a fruit, an herb, that chocolate.  They run from crunchy to creamy to gelled, but they each taste fresh and unique.

Seriously, you need to go check this out.  Petit Louis serves high end French dinners, and the Foreman-Wolf team have been spectacular to offer you smaller options -- maybe just dessert in the restaurant, definitely sandwiches, quiche, coffee and sweets as takeout or sit down at the casual Le Comptoir next door.

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Note that the Chef de Cuisine at the Columbia location is currently our very own @Antonio Burrell.

The following review should be taken with a grain (or shaker) of salt, because I am friends with Antonio.

Short review: GO NOW.

Longer review: Immediately vaults into one of the better French bistro meals I have had in the DC area. This is traditional bistro food, tweaked in places with modern presentations and seasonal ingredients. Anything fried was fried *perfectly*. Savory or sweet dishes that involved pastry were impeccably prepared. And classics like pork belly and chicken were spot on. There's a decent though predictable wine list, and a very good coffee and dessert program. Prices are quite reasonable for food of this quality - apps around $10, and most entrees under $20. Note: portions were HUGE, but I didn't look at other tables plates, so it's very possible there could have been "friend of the chef" portions in there. But the prices would still have been excellent if the portions were smaller.

There's not as much "Antonio" shining through as you might have seen at some of his previous spots, because this is a Cindy Wolf joint and the palette of French Bistro is the control. But it's clear that he's the driver and mechanic of a car firing on all cylinders, and that's reason enough to visit. 

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27 minutes ago, DanielK said:

Note that the Chef de Cuisine at the Columbia location is currently our very own @Antonio Burrell.

The following review should be taken with a grain (or shaker) of salt, because I am friends with Antonio.

Short review: GO NOW.

Longer review: Immediately vaults into one of the better French bistro meals I have had in the DC area. This is traditional bistro food, tweaked in places with modern presentations and seasonal ingredients. Anything fried was fried *perfectly*. Savory or sweet dishes that involved pastry were impeccably prepared. And classics like pork belly and chicken were spot on. There's a decent though predictable wine list, and a very good coffee and dessert program. Prices are quite reasonable for food of this quality - apps around $10, and most entrees under $20. Note: portions were HUGE, but I didn't look at other tables plates, so it's very possible there could have been "friend of the chef" portions in there. But the prices would still have been excellent if the portions were smaller.

There's not as much "Antonio" shining through as you might have seen at some of his previous spots, because this is a Cindy Wolf joint and the palette of French Bistro is the control. But it's clear that he's the driver and mechanic of a car firing on all cylinders, and that's reason enough to visit. 

Great to hear that Antonio is there now! I am a bit surprised about the wine list - granted it has been several years since I was at the Roland Park Petit Louis, but I remember the wine list there being strong...

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51 minutes ago, Keithstg said:

Great to hear that Antonio is there now! I am a bit surprised about the wine list - granted it has been several years since I was at the Roland Park Petit Louis, but I remember the wine list there being strong...

I'm far from an expert, and the list is on the website, so you can judge for yourself. I thought it was reasonably priced and had some decent selections, but it was a pretty short list.

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1 hour ago, DanielK said:

I'm far from an expert, and the list is on the website, so you can judge for yourself. I thought it was reasonably priced and had some decent selections, but it was a pretty short list.

Looks short, but well chosen. Some nice values, even at the higher price points.

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