Finally a Bistro!
Roast chicken for $17? Classic boeuf bourguignon for $18 and Steak Frites for $20? This is part of the menu at the newly opened Petite Jacqueline on Longfellow Square in Portland, the only French bistro in the city. Just look out of the large plate-glass windows overlooking the square and after a glass or two of wine you might imagine you’re in a Left Bank arrondissement in Paris.
It all sounds pretty impressive, but is it too good to be true? I went last night, just dropping in on my way elsewhere and saddled up to the bar to order a bowl of soup for my trial tasting.
I’ll wait a few weeks until I experience the restaurant in earnest. One should always give a new eatery time to get into their groove, which in this case might have already happened. With no fanfare, no advertising and no reservations, the place at 7:00 pm was nearly packed.
Proprietors and chefs Michelle and Steve Corry of Five Fifty-Five fame have created a perfect bistro environment offering French style comfort food at a moderate price, a niche that has been sorely lacking in Portland. From the wooden topped pedestal tables to the frosted glass partitions, period sconces and a bevy of black-vested white t-shirted waiters working the room, the degree of “the look” was well achieved. The only design element I felt was slightly off was the chairs: gleaming metal seating when it might have been more authentic to use a rush Bentwood style. But this vintage room has good bones—high ceilings and wainscoting in an old-world patina.
How was my onion soup, a dish not easily changed to be anything else? It passed the test beautifully. The rich veal stock-based broth was like liquid caramel, topped with Gruyere over grilled bread. The bread that’s served alongside dishes is from Standard Baking and arrives in a brown paper bag in the Parisian manner (see photos) along with maitre d’ hotel butter. A glass of white Graves was all I needed to compliment this soup starter.