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January, 2010, Page 148
Photos by David Moore
Chef James Porter rebounds from Tapino with a cute, classic country French restaurant that’s sure to please even picky Parisians.
Chef James Porter made his mark on the Valley’s culinary map with the eclectic and expansive Tapino Kitchen & Wine Bar, which closed in May 2009 after five years of serving up surprises.
Talk about a change: In August, he and his investors opened the intimate, country French Petite Maison.
The interior is tiny, with 33 seats inside (including the bar) and 50 on the patio, which features a romantic fireplace. When it’s busy, diners inside are tucked into their tables with few inches to spare. But the décor is simple and sweet, with thoughtful touches like mini-chandeliers and brocade fabric. The wine list isn’t lengthy, but it offers everything you need at sane prices, including an all-French, by-the-glass list.
The ever-evolving menu is concise, too, covering the bistro basics without being boring. And with entrée prices in the mid- to high-teens, this place radiates value, even with some slip-ups.
Hors d’oeuvres standouts include excellent escargots ($6) with buttery puff pastry; zesty steak tartare ($8) topped with fried egg yolk and paired with homemade potato chips; and moules saffran ($7), tiny, tender mussels in a fantastic saffron-white wine sauce (but watch out for shell chips). If you try one soup à l’oignon (French onion soup) this year, make it this lusty broth with real Gruyere cheese on top ($6).
Poulet roti (roasted chicken) with soup à l’oignon (French onion soup)
For entrées, I’d gladly go back for poisson entier pour deux (whole grilled fish for two, $38). On this night, an impressive two-pound-plus striped bass was grilled to create a lip-smacking crispy skin, finished in the oven to keep the flaky fish moist inside, and filleted at the table. I also applaud the steak frites ($17), a tender pan-seared flat iron steak with smoked paprika-dusted fries and mustard aioli; and poulet roti ($15), a melt-in-your-mouth roasted chicken breast.
On the down side, seared foie gras ($10) was just “eh,” and a lackluster vichyssoise ($6) needed more leeks and less (if any) smoked salmon in the center, which overpowered the delicate potato flavor. The salmon entrée also was underwhelming.
Desserts were decent but didn’t wow. Soufflé au Grand Marnier ($7) was fluffy and full of vanilla but had no discernible Grand Marnier flavor. Crème brûlée au chocolat ($6) was a bit mild.
Service was leisurely during my visits, which I don’t mind, but our waiter both times wasn’t especially attentive or friendly. Still, this place is off to a good start, thanks to a combination of upscale ambience and ingredients, expert preparation and unpretentious prices.
: 7216 E. Shoeman Lane, Scottsdale
: 480-991-6887 •
: Dinner, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily; lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; brunch, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
: Soup à l’oignon (French onion soup, $6); steak tartare ($8); escargots en croute (snails in puff pastry, $6); moules saffran (mussels in saffron, $7); poisson entire pour deux (whole grilled fish for two, $38); steak frites (steak and fries, $17); poulet roti (roast chicken, $15)
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