There is a bittersweet feeling when you find something wonderful that has been available to you for a very long time. After all, think of the years you weren’t taking advantage of the treasure. I had this experience last Friday night. After a week out of town on business, I wanted to go out for dinner. I did not want a big production and I did not want to spend a bunch of money. I decided to try Petite Auberge, a classical French restaurant that has been a staple on the Atlanta scene for more than thirty years. I had eyed the menu online before and was impressed by the options and the prices. The fact that it is less than twenty minutes from my house sealed the deal.
We arrived promptly at nine for our reservation and were cheerfully led to our table. I had a small amount of trepidation as I glanced around the room and discovered that we were about twenty years distant from any other patron in the restaurant. That is in both directions. The only people less than retirement age were the grandchildren of one of the couples. There was a piano player pumping out standards.
Our waiter, Sammy, stopped by promptly to greet us. Sammy blended perfectly with the somewhat dated environment and the older patrons. In fact, Sammy has been a fixture at Petite Aurberge since its inception more than 32 years ago.
The wine list was impressive in a regular haunt kind of way; lots of affordable options rounded out by some more impressive ( and expensive) selections. We chose a white Bordeaux for $25.
Our appetizers started out with a vichyssoise for me and a crab and shrimp cake for my date. The vichyssoise was an ample portion served in a glass nested in a silver container of ice. It was both rich and delicately flavored. The crab cake was nicely executed as well. It was made with very little binding and served on mixed greens and some rémoulade on the side.
As we dined, we observed other tables having their desserts prepared table side, à la 1973. Baked Alaska and Crepes were the choices of the grandchildren at the nearby table.
Sammy came by to clear our appetizer dishes and my wine glass was magically refilled. My date’s pork chop with peppercorn gravy and black and tan pasta with tomato concassé arrived as a cart rolled up next to our table carrying my bouillabaisse. The server plated up my seafood stew and served it with toasted French bread and rouille.
In short, everything was nicely prepared. The bouillabaisse contained lobster, shrimp, mussels, salmon, and whitefish. Each individual ingredient was perfectly cooked, which is not always the case. Julienne strips of carrots and fennel provided color, texture and a sweet flavor to the dish.
Our meal was topped off with crepes served with hazelnut crème and chocolate sauce. A glass of Frangelico perfectly complemented our dessert.
The sad fact that I have lived in Atlanta since 1994 and have not been eating here regularly is overshadowed by my excitement with my discovery. Items such as Bavarian pork roast with a beer and caraway sauce, Bavarian meat platter, mustard crusted lamb chops, and classic escargots, all beckon my return. The menu is also chock full of the expected classics such as beef wellington and chicken cordon bleu.
Petite Auberge proves that some things are classic for a reason.