They've come to this quiet stretch of sidewalk along Second Avenue from the bustle of Grenoble, in the French Alps--Laurent Baldini and his wife, Danielle Chheng--with the innocence of aliens from outer space; their sole ambition is to replicate on their new terrestrial colony the benevolent institutions of their home planet.
If they succeed where four previous tenants have failed, and we sure hope they do, it will be thanks to their experience as restaurateurs and their enthusiasm as new immigrants.
Le P'tit Bistro is squarely in the cultural tradition of a French neighborhood cafe: it's not a gastronomic restaurant, not a bar, not a lounge, not "casual dining," not fast food, not take-out, but a neighborhood place where you go to eat almost by default. Never mind, for the moment, that Belltown might not be that kind of neighborhood. Laurent and Danielle did virtually no market research before picking this spot; they're here basically because he didn't like Los Angeles, his sister lives in Issaquah, and this property--most recently called U Wa Kitchen--was on the market.
They're offering dinner six nights a week, weekday lunches and weekend brunches. The fare is straightforward: salads, quiches, sandwiches, crepes, desserts (even madeleines!), and a handful of generous dinner items like steak, salmon and lamb chops. Expensive by Belltown standards, although, let's face it, we've been spoiled by happy hours, promotional menus and daily specials.
But if Le P'tit Bistro's relatively high prices are the bad news, the good news is twofold. First, Laurent's a decent cook. He's used to turning out hundreds of plates a day by himself, without complaining. His food tastes good. "C'est simple," he allows modestly. Uncomplicated, unfussy. French home cooking.
The second is that Le P'tit Bistro is already turning into a neat spot, with folks from the adjacent highrise condos dropping in to try it out and running into their neighbors, or people they've seen on the elevator and in the parking garage, or recognize from walking the dog. (Dogs are welcome at the sidewalk tables, by the way.)
"This is the first time I've felt comfortable in this space since I moved here nearly ten years ago," a Seattle Heights resident said, finishing up her dessert crepe at the end of Le P'tit Bistro's first week. Indeed, by providing the community with a new focus, those unlikely French space aliens Laurent and Danielle may have given this stretch of Belltown a soul. Bienvenue! Welcome!
Le P'tit Bistro: 2616 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121 206-728-4141