June 7, 2011

Dine Out Maine: Petite Jacqueline adds a welcome dimension to dining choices


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Petite Jacqueline, a new bistro, has been open since early March.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Petite Jacqueline is located in the former Evangeline space at Longfellow Square.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


PETITE JACQUELINE, 190 State St., Portland. 553-7044; Bistropj.com


HOURS: Open daily for dinner only, 5 p.m. to close.

CREDIT CARDS: Visa, Mastercard and American Express

PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $4 to $13; main courses, $12 to $25; prix fixe of 3 courses, $30.



KIDS: Welcome


BAR: Full. The wine list is mostly French, with several choices of varietals and blends in the moderately priced range ($24 to $48). Reserves run to $170. Carafes and glasses (11 choices, $5 to $8) offered.


BOTTOM LINE: At Petite Jacqueline, tables are close, portions are reasonable, service is casual and attentive, and food is consistently excellent. The traditional French fare may be regular sustenance to those across the Atlantic, but in Maine, cassoulet, foie gras, coq au vin and steak tartare expertly prepared in-house and served in a lively bistro atmosphere has added another welcome dimension to the city's dining choices.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

* Unsatisfactory  

** Fair 

*** Good 

**** Excellent   

***** Extraordinary. 

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory.

Coming as a spooned mound of brown bordered by whipped cream on a large plate, the chocolate mousse ($7) tasted wonderful but needed a more stylish presentation. The creme brulee ($6) was served topped with a cherry/rhubarb compote. Some may prefer the classic dessert unadulterated with the burnt sugar predominant, but I enjoyed this addition.

At Petite Jacqueline, portions are blessedly reasonable. The French eat well, but they don't overeat. Moreover, the bistro's prices seem fair for handcrafted food of this caliber. Everything is made in-house. The menu changes with the season. Within this stable framework, several items -- soup, quiche, charcuterie and a main course -- change daily.

Each course departs the kitchen en masse, a small army of sous chefs bringing the dishes all at once to the table -- but without flourish, in keeping with the casual attitude chez PJ. Water carafes are placed on the table for self-service, and the servers keep a good eye out for other needs. Our server knew the menu well and much, but not all, of the wine list.

Petite Jacqueline belongs to Steve and Michelle Corry of 555, an upscale restaurant on Congress Street. Named for Michelle's grandmother, the new bistro is located in the former Evangeline space at Longfellow Square. When we left the premises, we could be heard exhaling contented sighs and uttering "mercis beaucoup" to all staff within earshot. 

Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer who lives near Portland. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications.


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