La Petite Maison, or LPM is it is fondly known, opened in Dubai a couple of years ago with a bang. It was the restaurant that everyone was talking about – Nicoise Cuisine at its finest. A little bit of St. Tropez in Dubai. Here we are – March, 2014 – it remains the best meal in town – hand’s down – without a doubt in my head. Getting a table on the weekends is close to impossible, but if you do manage to get a reservation, you can be assured that what you will be served will consistently be excellent.
So, the AB’s, ZA’s and the Clan M met up at the Jamil Naqsh exhibition on Saturday night for a quick look see on what was cooking in the world of Islamic caligraphy. Underwhelmed, I was glad that the stunning Mrs. M had a lovely dinner lined up for us at a place I was looking forward to trying. While we were wrapping up at the art exhibition, Mrs. AB got a brilliant idea – why don’t we all go to LPM. Great – let’s do it – but wouldn’t it be impossible to get a table, for 3 couples, at the last-minute? Mrs. AB whips out her phone, dials a few numbers and, BOOM – water into wine. A table for 6 was made available – and not at some random time – 8.30 pm, sir – prime time, baby. Alternate plans were quickly put aside and we made our way over to the restaurant, which was virtually next door to the Naqsh exhibition. We were led to the back of the restaurant – The Chairman’s Table, suitable for at least 10 was waiting our arrival.
So we settle in, a bottle of still and a bottle of sparkling makes its way over – some other bevvies are ordered. The menu is, and has been, pretty standard. Everyone has their standard go to items, but i love trying something that I would have never tried on my own at LPM – just to see how the chef interprets these simple (simple does not equate to less than prime, in terms of quality) ingredients and elevates them through the stratosphere. Food is served family style – for the table to share – so everyone gets to try everything. Usually, I’m not the sharing sort – but I was guilted into it (actually, I wasn’t planning on sharing, but then I saw the lamb chops and the duck on the table, and decided to get guilted into it)!
For the starters and main courses we ordered:
Salad de Haricots Verts au Foie Gras
Salade de Lentilles Vertes
Ratatouille avec Féta
Burrata et Tomates
Carpacio de Boeuf
Crevettes Ti’des – l’Huile d’Olive
Risotto aux Champignons
Rigatoni aux Cépes
Canard a l’orange
Pommes de Terre Gratinées
Every single item was sublime. The ingredients were simple, as I mentioned before, but fresh, bright, and uncomplicated. The dishes are not complicated in their presentation – each ingredient can be tasted and appreciated. It truly is elevated cuisine. Something as simple as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and feta – I had never ordered this before – it was amazing.
The pics and the breakdown:
Each table is set up with some tomatoes and lemon (Alexander McQueen clutch not included). Just a little something to tide you over until the food starts being rolled out. Get in there – sliced up the tomatoes, drizzled a little olive oil and lemon over them, cracked on a little pepper and some salt – delicious. Then, out came the apps:
Betteraves Marinées – Marinated Beetroot. This is a perfect example of LPM’s genius. Who would have ever thunk to order this? Not me. Mrs. AB’s choice – a favourite, she declares. You have never tried this before???? *GASP* Me: I am not a fan of beetroot. Shut up she says – try it. WOW. There are like 6 pieces of beetroot shown, right. They were marinated/pickled/brined so delicately – you got the sweet of the beetroot, you got some vinegary tartness which balanced the natural sweetness perfectly – never too overbearing. This was amazing. Soft without being mushy – wonderful flavour. It’s really hard to describe the complex layers of flavour, because they don’t exist. Simple food, simple ingredients – just elevated. Definitely adding this on my list of go to items.
Salad de Haricots Verts au Foie Gras – Green Bean Salad with Foie Gras. One of my favourite starters. A green bean salad, lightly dressed, with some small chunks of foie gras tossed in. Love the smooth texture of the foie while feeling the snap of the beans – the soft sweetness of the dressing marries everything together.
Salade de Lentilles Vertes – Green Lentil Salad. The secret to this beauty is apples. Lentils, scallions, red onion, celery (i think), marinated in an apple juice linked marinade, with some crunchy chunks of apple tossed into the mix. The lentils are the definite star here, and the apples add a sparkle.
Ratatouille avec Féta – Ratatoille with Feta. So, here was the surprise contended. 4 ingredients. Eggplant, Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers and Feta. Some olive oil. Thats it. Lightly cooked together to bring this masterpiece to light. Unreal – the eggplant was meaty, without being tough. The peppers were sweet. The tomatoes still had some firmness, and didn’t melt into the rest, making a salaan of sorts. The feta – wow. Normally, I find feta to be overly salty. It’s a crumbly cheese, particularly the Greek variety – the Middle Eastern types, less so. This feta was smooth – velvety – a texture sort of like fresh cottage cheese, but without the “I don’t taste much like anything other than milk” vibe to it. It was salty, of course, but not like the store-bought feta I have had. Really very very good.
Burrata et Tomates – Burrata cheese with Tomatoes. LPM must go through 90% of Dubai Burrata imports. This is the KING of all LPM apps, and is usually a fixture on most tables. A piece of burrata cheese, some sweet mini tomatoes, some basil and olive oil. If you like burrata, this is some of the best I’ve had, anywhere. If you haven’t tried burrata, and are a cheese lover, particularly if you like fresh mozzarella, you HAVE to try this. Burrata is basically a pouch of fresh mozzarella, filled with pieces of mozzarella and cream. Its unbelievable. The creaminess of the cheese paired with the brightness/sweetness of the tomato is divine.
Carpacio de Boeuf – Beef Capriccio. Raw beef, pounded paper thin and served with Olive Oil. Whats not to love.
Crevettes Ti’des – l’Huile d’Olive – Prawn in warm olive oil. If the burrata is the King, then, this appetizer is most definitely the Queen. 4 jumbo pieces of prawns, sliced in half, and served very very lightly poached in a warm, lemony, olive oil. You think this would be greasy, soggy, and heavy – think again. The prawns are sweet and keep their unique texture. The olive oil is wonderful, and with the lemon, you not only want to keep dipping the prawn in it while eating it, you want to mop it up with the fresh bread that is served. 5 stars.
On to the main courses:
Risotto aux Champignons – Mushroom Risotto. Not one that I order, but something that the boss, a.k.a. Mrs. M, loves. Very smooth and creamy, the risotto. Great earthy flavour of the mushrooms. A warning – if you are someone who likes their risotto rice cooked through until its soft, this is not one for you. The rice is served quite al dente – I am partial to this, but some on the table were not. Delicious, but just a heads up.
Rigatoni aux Cépes – Rigatoni Pasta with Mushrooms. Again, a favourite of Mrs. M. She and Mrs. ZA ordered this and the risotto to share between themselves. Didn’t really taste this, but it smelled good. The ladies liked it.
Entrecôte Grillée – Grilled Ribeye Steak. La Piece de Resistance. In a city with numerous (not all great) steakhouses, its ironic that the best steak in town can actually be found at a restaurant that does not bill itself as a steakhouse. Now, don’t get me wrong. You can get a fantastic meal at Ruths Chris, the Rib Room, Center Cut or Seafire (and some even swear by the old school joints on the other side of the bridge) – but trust this die-hard carnivore and beef enthusiast when he tells you – this is THE best steak in town. A succulent piece of tender beef, stunningly laced with ribbons of fat that melt through the muscle and give every morsel that enters your mouth a tender explosion of beefy, salty goodness. A nice, easily removable, fat cap, which I personally love to eat rests around the steak. Not marinated – just seasoned with salt. Served with a mustard sauce, of sorts. This is living, ladies and gentlemen. I like my beef medium rare – perfectly cooked – nicely seared on the outside, while keeping the centre a mouth-watering red. I love this, and my fellow beef enthusiast from Karachi, the Prince of Chiniot, AA, will agree with everything written above!
Canard a l’orange – Duck with an Orange Sauce. Usually, when you get served Duck a L’orange, you end up with a sickly sweet, goopy sauce onto of either a well cooked or crap cooked piece of duck. I like duck – some don’t, but I’m rather partial to it. But, i tend to stick to ordering a pan seared beast of Muscovy duck or something, and away from the goopy sauces. This was a choice of Mr. AB, who insisted that we try it. I’m impressed. The sauce did have a sweet undertone to it, but it was hardly overpowering. It actually suited the duck perfectly, because rather than the fatty breast meat, we had two lean leg pieces, and the slightly sweet orange sauce complimented the earthy dark meet very well. The duck was cooked perfectly – the outer bits were crispy, while the inside was moist, flavourful and tender. Very nice.
Grilled Lamb Chops – I think the picture speaks for itself. These were amazing, meaty, tender lamb chops, perfectly grilled. Delicious. No heavy spices – very simple. A little mint sauce on the side. Excellent.
A little Pommes de Terre Gratinées (potato gratin) on the side. Feasting.
Then, it was desert time!
French Toast – I love French Toast, you say. I remember my mother making it for me, while I was still in school. A couple of pieces of white bread, dipped in a sweet eggy milky batter then fried. Heaven on a plate right? ALMOST. The LPM French Toast, my friends, is truly heaven on a plate. Do you see the caramelization on the top of the brioche? Soft, moist, sweet (but not over sweet) – a little bit of bitter crispness on the outside, where the sugars did exactly what they were supposed to do. I didn’t eat the ice-cream, but usually its cinnamon flavoured. I know some people are thinking – French Toast? For desert? Fine dining? Listen – don’t even think about it – when you find yourself eating at this restaurant (and, I mean, why wouldn’t you – either you are already a fan, or you have seen the pictures/descriptions above and have handwritten it into your bucket list – right at the top) just get the French Toast.
Usually, its the French Toast for me, when at LPM. So, Mrs. M was in the mood for something chocolatey – and ordered the Mousse. My friends, this is no ordinary, gelatinous mousse. What arrived, as you can see above, is a mousse/soufflé hybrid. Oven baked, obviously, with a soufflé like crust on top. So, I’m thinking….this is mousse? I dip my spoon, crack the crust, and lurking underneath is the most luscious, velveteen dark chocolate mousse you have ever seen. The crust, in itself, is delicious, but the inside – like a fine piece of dark chocolate, not too sweet, melting over your tongue, minus the textural viscosity and denseness that comes with fine dark chocolate melting on your tongue. This was lighter – easier to eat bowls of. Excellent.
Finally – Mr. AB was insistent that we try the cheesecake. I love cheesecake, but after such a large meal, I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy desert. He insisted that we get a piece – Mrs. AB insisted that she would get her own, as sharing deserts was not an area where compromises were made. This beautifully symmetrical piece of cheesecake comes out with some strawberry compote on the side. Good looking – do you see the thickness of the crust – paper thing. I’m intrigued. But, how will the filling be? Will it have the usual thick, heavy texture (not that I don’t like the Cheesecake Factory style cheesecakes – I am just too full by this time)? The first bite was magical – again, not too sweet (this seems to be a theme through all the deserts at La Petite, and I like it). The inside was light, creamy, but LIGHT! A vanilla flavour – you can probably see the specks of vanilla bean in the filling above. Truly outstanding. Both the chocolate mousse and the cheesecake were new experiences for me – I’m still going to get the French Toast, but I will stop and think for a few minutes. Maybe I’ll get all three? Most definitely #firstworldproblems.
I concluded this a long time ago – but this conclusion was further supported by my going deeper into LPM’s menu on this visit. There is not a bad dish on the menu. You don’t like a particular ingredient? At LPM, you probably will. It’s unbelievable how the kitchen maintains the consistency it does, for as long as it has. I had heard that a number of the employees had left to join another restaurant in Dubai, that opened fairly recently – you honestly, wouldn’t know it. LPM hasn’t missed a beat, and the customer’s are still in love. You will find me eating here, as often as I can, for as long as the guys here continue to do what they do best. LPM, you’re still the one.
Till Next Time.