Petite Jacqueline – Food Cooked in the Langue du l’Amour

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When I was last at Petite Jacqueline, there was no snow on the ground and the temperature was in the 70’s. If I remember correctly, that was before I had a driver’s license or facial hair. The James Beard nominated restaurant has long been a popular place in Portland with it’s French cuisine and relaxed atmosphere. We had reservations for four as friends were visiting and liked the look of the menu. Based on a very good meal last time I was there, I was excited to return and hoped to get an encore of their prior performance.

Because it was restaurant week, there was a prix fixe menu on the table along with a bunch of other menus including the one with standard fare, a cocktail and beer menu, a wine menu, and a charcuterie and fromage menu. When the waitress visited our table to ask if we wanted bottled or tap water, I suspected she might help us sort it all out, but she mostly just indicated that the prix fixe menu was an option if we were interested. After quickly looking at that, we decided to order à la carte.

Drink menus were passed around so we could search for the happy juice that would give us the joie de vivre. With some careful thought we decided on a selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. I chose the Ginger Pear Marguarita – an obvious choice at a French restaurant – after being warned that the first drink I chose came warm. The warning came more as a foreign language refresher as the French word for “hot” – chaud – was in the name of the drink. As the waitress left après order, we went on the hunt for our perfect food selections.

Petite Jacqueline’s menu was rife with appetizing options. By the time the waitress returned with drinks and a baguette, we had selected our food for the evening. I focused my beady, little eyes upon the Soupe A L’Oignon – onion soup with gruyere cheese. I suspected some beef would be a good compliment to the soup and ordered the “French Attitude” Burger with gruyere, caramelized onions, house aioli, and fries. Selections of Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Poisson Meuniere, and Gnocchi Parisienne rounded out the orders at the table. We also ordered a last-second Frites to share.

Drinks seemed to go down smoothly for everyone. I tried my margarita which was served in a Mason jar. The pear in the drink tasted fresh and was pronounced. The ginger was the same, but for my tastes a bit too strong. This was just a personal preference as I think most would have found it fine. Nonetheless, I was pleased with the concoction on the whole. Thinking the baguette would be a good addition to my marg, I took it out of it’s serving bag and placed it on the table to cut. My wife quickly reminded me of my faux pas, suggesting that it should be left in the bag and simply pulled apart as required. It was a good reminder and I quickly pulled off a piece that was much larger than my share. I sucked it down with some butter and before long, all the soups and fries came out.

The onion soup came in a crock with a layer of cheese on top. Before trying that, I procured a few fries. They were served with both ketchup and aioli. They were pretty good, but I couldn’t stop eyeing the soup. I dug in by plowing through the cheese in order to taste only the broth. That was the official method of judging the soup. Cheese will make anything great, but how was it without the cheese? I sipped the broth from my spoon. It was outstanding! The next bite included some onions. Outstanding! Then I spooned a piece of crouton, which still had plenty of crunch. Outstanding! Finally, I gathered some cheese. There was a virtual wall of the crusty, baked goodness covering the crock. I took a piece with some broth and put it between my lips. Out. Standing. Absolutely the best onion soup I ever had. It was salty with plenty of onion sweetness and the cheese was spectacularly baked and browned. The soups seemed to go over well with the entire table. It was a great start. Entrees were next.

Our main courses came shortly after we took our last slurp of soup. My burger looked a little small, but it was thick. Cheese was oozing off of it as were onions and aioli. I had fries from my plate first. Like the fries we shared, they were crispy and fresh. The aioli took them to another level. Then I opened wide for the beautiful burger. I shoved it into my mouth and bit down just hard enough to get my teeth through it without causing a dental emergency. For some reason, the majority of the toppings escaped the first bite so I hurried to take another. Whamo! The flavor of the burger was so delicious that it created a level 5 shield of protection from mind-eating zombies around me. It pretty much felt like I was eating another order of onion soup, but this time on a burger. That definitely wasn’t a bad thing. I chomped the pickle on my plate. That was hella good too.

We all finished our meals and then our drinks. Everyone seemed quite pleased with their choices. Our food – just for my wife and I – came to about 100 GW’s after tip. That included two drinks, two soups, two entrees, and a share of the fries. We were quite pleased with the overall results of our time spent there. Everything was très bon. Petite Jacqueline is popular for a good reason. The French bistro serves up food with a little slice of je ne sais quoi and leaves you asking “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

Stay hungry.

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