Champagne goes with everything. At Petite Chou in Broad Ripple they serve Mumm Cuvee by the flute ($7) and, while there are other wines on offer here, the Mumm's crystalline effervescence, not to mention the way it catches golden hour sunlight, makes it a topnotch complement for this popular café's new dinner menu.
One of the keys to the ever-growing Patachou family tree of restaurants' success is their attention to detail. Menus are focused on doing a few things really well. Until recently, this has meant hitting the ball out of the park at breakfast and lunch. But, given Petite Chou's prime location across from the canal, it was probably only a matter of time before the temptation to take a swing at the Broad Ripple dinner scene proved irresistible.
Petite Chou has approached this challenge with characteristic flair. In addition to the regular lineup of crepes and French-inspired sandwiches and salads, there is also a selection of dinner-oriented dishes, including Indiana-raised pan seared steak ($24), a fresh catch of the day (market price), and Chicken Paillard ($15), a seared chicken breast with lemon-scented pan sauce.
We started with a cup of tomato artichoke soup ($3.50) and a Farmstand Side Salad ($5.95), a fresh amalgamation of baby beets, argula and oranges sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese and bits of candied pecans.
The soup was rich, creamy and slightly sweet, plentifully topped with Parmesan cheese and served with a thin slice of crusty bread spread with herbs. The salad was artfully blended; the Gorgonzola didn't overwhelm the greens, but, rather, provided an accent that played nicely with the bits of orange and sugared pecans.
For the main course, we ordered Sustainable Wild Salmon ($19) and Patachou Crab Cakes ($15.95). I asked our server what, in the case of the salmon, "sustainable" meant and was told the fish was caught wild in a way that tried to be environmentally sound. This had me imagining a corps of bears specially trained to supply the restaurant trade. In any event, the salmon, served with a small decanter of buerre blanc, a buttery sauce, was delicious, featuring bright orange meat that was dense and virtually free of fatty flesh.
The crab cakes, two seared discs as large as the face on an old-fashioned alarm clock, were seasoned with herbs and lightly drizzled with a Dijon cream sauce. They were buttery and loaded with crabmeat.
Both dishes came with lightly dressed field greens, a fine summer alternative to the usual carbs.
We finished by splitting a chocolate cupcake ($3), a small but potent mix of moist devil's food, topped with a swirl of cocoa frosting and a dark chocolate lozenge.
And, of course, we drank champagne. Petite Chou offers a variety of champagne cocktails ($6.50 each) that mix sparking wine with different concoctions of fruit and juice. We tried one that combined the bubbly with house-made blackberry puree. It was nice to look at and tasted fine. But on this summer evening, with sunlight falling through the leaves, brightening the faces of children passing on the sidewalk with their parents in tow, champagne, unadorned, was, as usual, the champ.