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A BRAVURA BISTRO LE PETIT RESTAURANT IN SHERMAN OAKS MAKES A GRAND IMPRESSION.

Byline: Larry Lipson Restaurant Critic

FRENCH BISTRO food in a Parisian-style cafe doesn't get much more pleasing than at Le Petit Restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Formerly it was Le Petit Bistro and for many years before that, Jean's Blue Room.

True, there are slight Moroccan and Italian influences left over from the previous owners. You find it in the spicy harissa sauce with Moroccan merguez lamb sausages (appetizer size $7.95, entree size with pommes frites $12.95) and in the amuse bouche of three dips/spreads of harissa, hummus and an olive mixture.

And couscous shows up in a homey, baked lamb shank recipe ($15.95) cooked with a red wine and vegetable sauce.

But remember, Morocco was once French Morocco.

However, we can't say the same for Italy, although historically there's a culinary connection between Italy and France.

Anyway, Italy also has its influence here.

Noticeably today, bistrolike cafes in France make pastas and/or pizzas, especially those in the Southern part of that country.

So we can excuse Le Petit Restaurant for its angel hair ($9.50), seafood linguine ($13.50) and wild mushroom ravioli ($10.50) plates.

What we really love to eat here are those classic bistro dishes like mussels frites and chicken frites. The menu basically describes them as black mussels poulette with pommes frites ($14.95) and roasted chicken with pommes frites ($11.50).

The former (also available as an appetizer without the fries, $9.50) arrives as a heaping pile of plump mussels encased in black shells floating in a white wine and shallot broth. Scrumptious!

The chicken, flavored with herbs de Provence, has slightly crisped skin and delicious moist flesh.

Then there are such good Gallic starters like the traditional, baked French onion soup ($6.50), here topped with gruyere cheese, or half a dozen escargots ($8.50) done in the true bourguignonne manner.

Kudos to the kitchen, which, by the way, cures its salmon ($8.25, with mustard-dill sauce as an appetizer) and makes a gem of a beginning plate with its eggplant tart ($7.95), a sizable, formed, layered creation using spinach, tomato, onion and basil.

And we cannot forget, of course, that the French always cook liver very well.

Here, calf's liver ($13.95) arrives in smooth, nonstringy slices paired with nicely prepared mashed potatoes, grilled onions and boosted with a touch of fresh garlic.

Other goodies worth trying include fair versions of entrecote (rib eye steak, $19.95), baby lamb chops ($18.50) and a ``goddess'' salad ($10.95) in a tarragon-flavored dressing, containing avocado, asparagus, shrimp and mixed greens.

I wasn't particularly impressed with this kitchen's gazpacho ($5.95). I happen to like mine more finely chopped or blendered.

But I did like Le Petit Restaurant's tarte tatin ($5.50) whether it was bistro-style, cafe-style, brasserie-style or restaurant-style. Who really cares, as long as it tastes good?

Larry Lipson, (818) 713-3668

larry.lipson(at)dailynews.com

LE PETIT RESTAURANT

Food: Three stars - Service: Three stars - Wine: Two stars

Where: 13360 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Phone: (818) 501-7999.

Meals/hours: Currently serving dinner only from 5 to 11 p.m. nightly.

Food type: French bistro-style.

Cost: $$. Starters from $3.50 to $11, pastas and entrees from $9.50 to $24, desserts from $6 to $7.

Credit cards: All major.

Patio dining: Yes.

Parking/valet: Valet only.

Full bar: Yes.

Wine/corkage: Fairly extensive wine list. Corkage: $10.

Music/entertainment: Recorded. Background only. No live performers.

Takeout/delivery: Takeout service available. No delivery.

Reservations: Taken, helpful.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2) At Le Petit Restaurant in Sherman Oaks, head chef Norberto Hernandez, left, and owner Tony Arefi have their hands full with dishes including the black mussels poulette, top.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Words:627
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