Martha Hoover knows when to leave a good thing alone—two words: cinnamon toast—and when to make a good thing even better. So when the Broad Ripple location of Petite Chou (823 Westfield Blvd., 317-259-0765) closed for repairs after (have your Facebook page open, please) this awfulness happened, she took the opportunity to improve the restaurant’s flow and give the place a romantic makeover.
For the record, we saw nothing wrong with the original design, that cheery room with chartreuse walls and a black-and-white checkered floor. Its gamine spirit is still alive, but now it’s more grown up. First, the entry no longer shares space with tables—not exactly. Tables are now contained to the right of the door, leaving the space in front of the door and to the left for reception, streamlining what used to be a traffic-jammed reception into a more elegant arrangement. A new wall just inside the entry means the place doesn’t open up straight back to a counter anymore. Instead, a full-size hostess desk is in place, and all traffic flows to the right. The L-shaped layout still contains one long main room, but there, the banquet along the interior wall is gone and a bar with counter seats takes up some of that space. However, fans of the long upholstered booth-back can take heart: A smaller but more dramatic banquette—this one rising high with a fancier profile—covers the rear wall. Soft blue-gray paint, antique Louis-the-something armchairs covered in cream linen, and dark floors take things in a more sophisticated direction. The neutral approach recalls Petite Chou’s Carmel location, but the midtown bistro’s side-street setting—and a certain je ne sais quoi; perhaps it’s the twinkle lights in the large front windows—preserve its intimate charm.
Thankfully, the understated menu didn’t get any sort of overhaul. Everything still seems one teaspoon of heavy cream away from too rich without actually going over the cliff of fussy decadence.
The duck-fat fries are back (did the spicy aioli always have this much bite?), though the warmed mushroom duxelles makes a more flavorful appetizer. The creamy starter is studded with small chunks of mild-flavored mushrooms, to be spooned onto crusty bread. The goat cheese salad is lightly dressed in blackberry-pear vinaigrette so as not to upstage the main attraction: baguette slices with warm, cloud-like croutes of cheese atop the greens.
Nightly specials are solid choices—our salmon in a lemony beurre blanc was perfectly cooked, with a tasty, crunchy skin. The signature chicken palliard is delicate and moist in your choice of a lemon pan sauce or a traditional mustard sauce and garnished with no shortage of greens. If you want to try one of the menu’s French classics, skip the croques (our Monsieur’s bread was too thick for the amount of bechamel, leaving the sandwich a tad dry) and save room for the crepes. If you must choose only one to share, make it the brown sugar (our server’s favorite). The variety of textures triggered a chorus of moans around our table. The massive square pocket contains gooey brown-sugar filling spiked with a liqueur, velvety banana slices, crispy almond slivers, and sugar that crystallizes as you eat it, forming little chewy nubs. Hoover should put this dessert on the untouchable list, right by the cinnamon toast.