La Petite Maison- Dubai

22 Feb


I went to La Petite Maison intimidated—by the French reputation for rudeness, by the possibility of being let down by yet another “just fine” meal in Dubai, where the food hardly ever justifies the price. I had read reviews, both good and bad: some praising the impeccable Nicoise cuisine, some complaining about the rude, rushed service. But when a restaurant gets as much buzz as La Petite Maison has, there will inevitably be a few negative remarks here and there.

Still, I went in fully expecting gruff service, knowing that French servers are not really inclined to chitchat. But I loved it. The service was actually wonderful—unobtrusive, polite, perfectly timed and in rhythm, whisking empty plates away before they began to get in the way. They were real sports when I tried out my French on them, giving me a little encouraging smile and a compliment as we paid the bill, Mais tu parles tres bien! And contrary to my fears, they made no snide comments when I whipped out my camera and began impulsively (though discreetly) clicking away.

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Oh and the food! The restaurant bills itself as French-Mediterranean, with the concept of shared dishes, placed in the middle of the table so everyone can take a nibble, somewhat like Spanish tapas. Though a little awkward for mains that are typically meant only for one (like my sea bass, or any of the proteins really), the concept is just my style—I can’t help but taste everyone’s dishes whenever I go out. Flavors were neither risky nor particularly surprising, but in every dish there was a little something that elevated it from good to…something more. With every dish, I’d chew carefully and try to figure out this flavor or that ingredient. It was compelling—I suppose that’s how you’d describe it. Stuffed as I was, I couldn’t leave a bite uneaten.

In my opinion, mains were the weakest part of the meal. To take my mother’s words, “Next time I’d just come for starters and dessert!” That’s not to say that they weren’t excellent in their own right—my sea bass was unbelievably tender, buttery, and flaky with subtle yet bright flavor that hinted at the sea it came from. My mother’s gnocchi was wonderfully fluffy. My father’s rigatoni with shaved black truffles was perfectly al dente, coated in a flavorful cream sauce with the slightest whisper of earthy truffles. But when there are so many good things, the marginally less-good things get pushed to the side when surrounded with so much other possible delicious foods competing to fill your belly.

Like the bread. It’s not often that I think the bread served at a restaurant is worth mentioning, but this bread deserves a mention—I would make a meal of it if I could! Crispy on the outside, with ever-so chewy innards and pockets of airy bubbles, the bread was artfully balanced on the edge of our plates from tongs reaching into a basket that circled all around the dining room, dropping yeasty, fresh-baked slices, like gifts from the oven-gods, on every plate.

Deceptively simple, the vegetarian starters of ratatouille with feta cheese and roasted red peppers were truly exceptional, possibly thanks to high-quality ingredients, or sheer skillful preparation. My salt-cod croquettes were crispy and not greasy in the slightest, keeping their slightly fishy flavor. What really made the dish was the red pepper relish that accompanied—I couldn’t help spooning it on every bite of cod. Still, by the fifth fried piece of fish, I was ready for something different, though I imagine if I had been sharing the dish with other meat-eaters, I would have had to fight for the last piece.

As I mentioned, mains were tasty in their own right, but didn’t make the same impression as the starters. The desserts though—I could try every one and still not have a favorite. Maybe just because I have a sweet tooth, but most likely also because the desserts are just gloriously comforting, rich, creamy…any and every other delicious-sounding adjective you can think of. As usual, when I looked over (aka read 32408942 times) the dessert menu, I was torn. The warm chocolate mousse with malted ice cream sounded like just my kind of dessert. For some reason whenever a dessert has some fancy-ish ice cream flavor, I just feel that it’s so much better—it’s more like a composed dessert. But I had one reservation. Warm? Doesn’t chocolate mousse lose its integrity when it’s warm, turning into a viscous puddle of chocolate-y cream? Thanks to a quick explanation from our server, I learned that it was more like a fondant. But not the tired, clichéd lava cake kind. It gave me the same guilty satisfaction as a chocolate lava cake, but it was mostly deep, dark “lava” with a lining of crunchy, caramelized chocolate cake, reminiscent of a crème brulee, or maybe the end pieces in a pan of brownies (my favorite part). Surprisingly, the serving size was about as big (if not bigger) than the mains—but I wasn’t complaining (I was too busy helping my parents finish their desserts!). My father ordered an actual crème brulee, and though it was my least favorite dessert (I’m more of a rich, decadent dessert kind of girl, not the subtle-sweet, delicate dessert kind) my father was convinced it was the best, with its admirably browned, thin sugar crust and pure vanilla-flavored body. My mother’s pain perdu was another of my favorites. Though I was afraid the “french toast” would be too dry (as French toast usually turns out when I make it), it had a surprisingly moist, borderline custardy inside with a bruleed crust (do I sense a common theme here?). Plus it came with a cube of spice ice cream, a refreshingly not over-used flavor that tasted quite unlike any ice cream I’ve had before. With the pain perdu, the dish tasted of Christmas, warm, spicy comfort that made me feel for a moment that if I looked outside, I would see swirls of snow and trees lined with icicles.

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3 Responses to “La Petite Maison- Dubai”

  1. Lyn March 30, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi, I’m taking my husband out to La Petite Maison and I was wondering what was your bill end of your evening? I just wanna be prepared.

    Btw, beautiful post!

    • mali2305 March 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      The bill for three (with drinks) came to around 1,150 dhs. Starters are around 60 dhs each, mains run from 100-200 dhs, and desserts around 50 dhs. Enjoy!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Zuma- Dubai « munchkitchen - June 20, 2011

    […] Dessert naturally followed; I’m never one to resist sweets. I opted for the light and refreshing yuzu custard, served atop rhubarb compote and garnished with some sort of crumble and lemon (or perhaps yuzu…) sorbet, a dessert that lended a sweet ending to the meal without making me feel overly full. Other desserts on the table were chawan mushi, a coconut foam-custard served over “exotic fruits,” providing a compelling play on different textures with a backdrop of tropical flavors. But my favorite was easily the green tea & banana cake. Served warm and surrounded by a pool of toffee sauce, a generous sprinkle of crumble, and a perfect sphere of coconut ice cream, it provided the classic and comforting combination of warm-cold, smooth-crunchy that I love in desserts, whether its in an ice cream sundae with hot fudge and peanuts or a warm chocolate fondant with a bruleed crust and malted ice cream. […]

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