The Cavalier Daily
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Bon appétit à Petit Pois

The charming restaurant brings a French bistro experience to Charlottesville

<p>The upscale experience and ample portion sizes make Petit Pois a great option for special occasions and date nights alike. &nbsp;</p>

The upscale experience and ample portion sizes make Petit Pois a great option for special occasions and date nights alike.  

For those in need of a getaway from Grounds, Petit Pois is a “très bien” French-inspired staycation. My two friends and I dined at the European bistro for the first time Thursday evening. With its foreign flair and rich flavors, Petit Pois immerses customers in an international dining experience right here in Charlottesville, making it the perfect taste of life “en France” for University students and locals alike. 

Petit Pois is located in the heart of the Downtown Mall, about a half-hour walk from Grounds. The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. They also serve dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations for the indoor dining room may be made through Resy, but they reserve the outdoor patio on the Mall for spontaneous visitors.

Known as “The Little Green Bistro,” the chefs at Petit Pois take pride in providing locally-sourced ingredients in their dishes. In an effort to combine French culinary style with Virginian flavor, the restaurant works with several partners from nearby communities, including farmers, fishmongers, vintners and brewers.

As my friends and I walked through the arched doorway of the restaurant, we heard the sweet melodies of classic French music and delighted in the charming candlelit atmosphere. Hanging lights and plants ornamented the windowsills, and a scenic drawing of the Eiffel Tower and Seine River livened up the chalkboard. As we settled into our seats, our server offered us sparkling water along with the usual still. The bistro’s European style seemed well-executed and unforced.

For the appetizer course, I ordered the french onion soup — a long-time favorite of mine that I seldom see on menus near Grounds. The dish came in a small clay pot — a portion just filling enough to kick off the meal without spoiling the entrée. Garnished with chives and a layer of swiss cheese, the soup’s warm, hearty broth and sweet onions merited the title of quintessential comfort food. 

In addition to my appetizer, my friends ordered the parmesan-topped brussels sprouts and let me sample a few. Although it’s not typically my vegetable of choice, the brussels sprouts were perfectly paired with caramelized onions and bacon marmalade and had a nice, crisp outer layer, making me rethink my past veggie preferences. The appetizer course was finished off with complimentary warm bread and butter, receiving nothing but positive reviews from our table.

For dinner, I settled on the coq au vin, which translates to “chicken with wine”. The chicken was so tender that it practically fell off the bone. The red wine demi-glace offered a rich flavor with a hint of sweetness that was well complimented by potato puree, baby onions, carrots and mushrooms. No one component of the dish overpowered any other, balancing the plate perfectly. The meal was also very aesthetically pleasing, with each ingredient carefully layered on top of those beneath it. As much as I try to offer areas for improvement in my reviews, I struggle to find anything I would change about my main dish.

The Petit Pois price tag was a tad on the expensive side, coming to a total of $121.85 before tip for our party of three. However, I was full after eating just half of my chicken, so customers can expect to have leftovers if they indulge in an appetizer course. The upscale experience and ample portion sizes make Petit Pois a great option for special occasions and date nights alike. 

Although we did not get a chance to sample the wine list, Petit Pois offers an extensive list of reds, whites and rosés along with beers and classic cocktails. Bottles range from $39-112, allowing patrons to choose from a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. 

Petit Pois truly brings French dining right to the University’s backyard. The charming ambiance and tasty traditional flavors elevate the Charlottesville restaurant scene, inviting friends, families and couples to a European culinary getaway.


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