Just because it's a modest storefront doesn't mean it's a hole in the wall. Au contraire, mes amis. Two new spots in Belltown--both French--forgo pomp in favor of hospitality.
At Entre Nous, it's the sprigs of thyme in a pitcher on the counter and Brigitte Bardot on the sound system. At Le Petit Café (no website), it's a slice of lemon in the water glass, seedless grapes on the plate. Little things that enliven lunch.
Behind the counter at Entre Nous is Stéphane Obayon, born on the French Riviera, a veteran of Seattle's fine-dining scene. "You take what the earth gives you," he says. "Not fancy, not fussy, not snobby." House white (a chardonnay labelled Le Petit Bistro, of all things, bottled by Burgundy négociant Labouré-Roi) is poured into a stemless tasting glass. Salade Niçoise fills a large, undecorated bowl with albacore, vegetables and hard-boiled egg. At every table, a helpful text, "Decoding French Dining," that Stephane wrote because "There is nothing worse...than trying to squirm your way through a fancy smancy French dinner." How to dress in France (no jogging outfits), salad after your main course (because lettuce is considered "digestive"), and so on. Then, having set up a code for Paris, he lets you off the hook in Seattle: "Here at Entre Nous, we welcome you as you are - wear what you want, eat how you want, pour yourself another glass of wine and be merry!!" Happy hour from 4:30 to 6, and an evening menu of affordable tapas and fondue.
'Neath the monorail on Belltown's eastern fringe, meanwhile, it's Abdul Smoum (last seen at Il Forno pizza on Capitol Hill) who brings the menu and the organic eats, prepared by his wife, Fatima. A tiny kitchen and three or four tables, Le Petit Café is adjacent to Seattle Glassblowing Studio and formerly housed Café Amore (which Sean Langan has since moved into the space occupied by Spice, half a block north). The Crêpe Florentine is filled with organic scrambled eggs, organic baby spinach, mushrooms and gruyère: everything's organic, from sweet or savory crêpes to salads and panini. But no alcohol.