Sunday. March 12, 1972


Mixing Cuisine with Informality
By Elmer Dills
Restaurant Critic

       Tucked away in my wallet is a list I consult when deciding where to go when dining strictly for pleasure.

     Included is the Au Petit Café, one of the top six or seven French restaurants in Los Angeles.
It’s not a French spot in the sleek style of The Tower of L’Escoffier.

     Instead, an air of relaxation and informality pervades—so much so that some find it disconcerting, or mistakenly equate this casualness with indifference.

     What I’m saying is that if you like formality and a full complement of tuxedo clad maitre d’s and captains, the Au Petit Café may well not be the place for you.

     But if you appreciate outstanding French cuisine prepared with skill and dedication, you’ll probably find it to your liking.

     I recently had a rack of lamb that was close to perfect. A mignon of veal Forestaire was not far behind. Anything with lamb or veal is worth ordering here.

     Chicken is another house specialty and the chicken tarragon is recommended.

     Appetizers such as the house duck pate or the fresh mushroom salad are particularly well done, and I wouldn’t overlook the onion soup either.
     The menu changes daily. What’s listed on the blackboard depends on what’s available that day at the market and looks good. Presumably the selection also depends on what chefs Henri and Jean Jacques feel like cooking.

     I’ve yet to dine there without finding at least two and usually three dishes that appeal to me. The real problem is making a selection.

     This is not an inexpensive restaurant. It’s on a price par with Le St. Germain (owned by former Au Petit Café staffers) or The Tower. However you get full measure for your money, and consider how few places this can be said for today.

     Most entrees are between $5.50 and 6.50. Order an appetizer, entrée, salad and dessert, and that will nicely take care of a $10 bill. For wine and tips add another $6 or 7.

     The wine list is interesting and prices surprisingly reasonable. There seems to be a definite policy of under pricing. There are no domestic labels though, and this is utter nonsense.

     Ask for Jean Charles Mercier, a competent waiter who knows food and wines.

     AU PETIT CAFÉ, 1230 North Vine Street. Open Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday