We were at our wits end in trying to find a location for our Holiday Party this year. Every year we say we will book something in the early part of the year and then before you know it is October and we are stuck with boring old hotel rooms with no windows and floral carpets or something so far out of our price range its ridiculous. Racking my brain to think of something a bit more unique a light bulb went off and I remembered a fantastic party we did at least 10 years ago at a place called Dakota’s in Downtown Crossing, where we did a Casablanca theme and turned this awesome restaurant space into the old movie and renamed it Rick’s Café. Anyone remember Dakota’s? Well, if you don’t it became Vinalia and then a few years ago became Petit Robert Central. It was time to go back and see if everything I remembered about this space was as good as my memory of it.
As a side note, I have actually been to this Petit Robert location a couple of times for after work drinks and a few terrible terrible singles events, which is what I think made me forget about it :).
We made an appointment to view this space but first we thought we would dine and take our time in checking out the restaurant and hopefully enjoying the cuisine.
Petit Robert Central, located right in the heart of Downtown Crossing opposite Macy’s claims to be a “neighborhood bistro” but it is so much more than that. It is a huge French-inspired decorated space offering many different seating options from a large curved bar lounge area with high top seating and a more casual after work crowd environment to two dining rooms with a quieter ambiance and two more private rooms. It’s fun, warm and welcoming and even though it has many different rooms, you have a view to each one so it doesn’t feel closed off.
Now to the food featuring dishes by the award winning Chef Jacky Robert. The appetizer menu offers French classics of French Onion Soup, a raved about dish to Mussels and Escargot as well as salads and charcuterie boards. We decided to share a couple of appetizers starting with the Romaine and Roquefort Salad, which combined freshly crisp lettuce with sharp biting Roquefort and just the right amount of vinaigrette to not overpower the already powerful salad. This is just simply good.
Our other shared appetizer was the Tuna Tartar, which has finely chopped tuna with light soy and ginger spice topped onto scallion cream cheese and a side of crispy, lightly salted potato chips. The combination of delicate tuna and cream cheese loaded onto a potato chip is just sublime.
The entreé menu offers a host of desirable dishes many of which I wanted. Grilled Shrimp Piperade, Magret de Canard, Lemon Sole Meuniere, Coq au Vin, Grilled Scallops and Beef Bourguignon. My brain, as always migrates towards duck, but I went against the grain and opted for Coq Au Vin. This dish is good, however, not as wow as I would have liked. A half chicken rests on top of a slightly overly wine rich sauce with buttery papparadelle, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
My dining companions both ordered the Lemon Sole Meuniere and reveled in the subtle and creamy fish with crispy thin asparagus and a light wine sauce. Both plates were completely clean by the end of our dinner. I had a little bit of dish envy.
While we were all quite satisfied I had a dessert request for us. The last time I was at Petit Robert (the one in the South End) I ordered a dessert with a chocolate Eiffel Tower. To my sadness, they didn’t have any Eiffel Tower’s left. I was distraught so our waiter went over to the front doorway and brought over the 3ft Eiffel Tower and brought it to my table. You couldn’t eat it but it was a very funny gesture. This time I got the edible Eiffel Tower. The Opera Gateau is an insane dessert, worthy of high praise. Not too sweet with tiers of flavors from coffee buttercream to chocolate ganache layered between almond sponge cake topped with praline. Accompanied by French Press coffee I was really happy.
During the week Petit Robert Central gets a very busy business crowd of young professionals, which filters out around 7pm leaving diners to a quieter restaurant. Weekends can be very quiet, however that is quite normal for a downtown, financial district restaurant. It is a bit of gem, with friendly warm service, a good very reasonable priced menu and now a fantastic location for our 2014 holiday party.
Very much looking forward to going back.