FRENCH CONNECTION: Enjoy provincial French cuisine in downtown Seattle

The front window of Le Pichet beckons curious passerbys. | Courtesy of seattleweekly.com
The front window of Le Pichet beckons curious passerbys. Courtesy photograph | seattleweekly.com

The prospect of approaching a French restaurant, one might assume, requires the highest breed of elegance and class. It turns out that the act of reserving a table at Le Pichet demanded less bravado than expected. Still, as a skeptical connoisseur of style, I decided to visit the restaurant dressed to the nines.

I was an American in Paris, even if the trip lasted for only 90 minutes. Even though spending nearly $40 on one meal sounds outrageous to most college students, the $37 ticket was worthwhile. Le Pichet does not disappoint.

Le Pichet, translated literally as “The Pitcher,” is a French restaurant in downtown Seattle that specializes in bucolic dishes. It is run by Jim Drohman and Joanne Herron, the owners of Café Presse. Drohman was trained at FERRANDI, a French culinary school in Paris, after leaving his career as an aeronautical engineer. Herron has worked in the service industry for more than 20 years, 12 of them at The Ruins, a catering service headquartered near Seattle Center.

The moment I entered Le Pichet, I almost reached out into the air and called for Édith Piaf to sing. Imagine Paris during the 1940s when Europe was reconstructing itself after World War II. The white walls adorned with framed mirrors and decadent checkered tiles inspire a sort of rustic chic. The dimly lit space is an ideal spot for dates. Austere, cozy, and yet by no means overbearing, the atmosphere at Le Pichet can be home for anyone and everyone wishing to enjoy some comfort food.

The servers are dressed in a sophisticated manner. Faith, my server, was wearing a vintage sheer blouse with floral filigree and black velvet pants.

I had made reservations for le poulet roti (roasted chicken). The restaurant’s roasted chicken serves two, so the wait can last as long as 55 minutes. Prospective guests can either plan the order beforehand by calling, or wait an entire hour. Before tackling the entrée, Faith recommended their gratin lyonnais (onion soup) as an appetizer.

After enjoying 15 or 20 minutes of chewy baguette and jazz, Faith brought a dish that emanated a gentle waft of sweet onion and Gruyère cheese, sizzling on top a slice of broth-soaked bread.

The onion soup was surprisingly delicate, slightly tangy and peppery, but left a very pleasant aftertaste. The onion soup is $12.

Next, the chicken arrived: A golden masterpiece accompanied by diced ratatouille. One slice at the breast meat, and I could hear the faint crackling sound of its well-done charcoaled skin.

Upon lifting the small piece of white meat, steam escaped. I had to capture it with my watering mouth.

Le Pichet’s roasted chicken trumps all of the holiday turkeys. Those silly birds cannot compete with the perfectly seasoned chicken at Le Pichet.

Le poulet is one of the restaurant’s bigger items on the menu.

After finishing le poulet, I ordered roasted pistachio ice cream, a restaurant specialty.

The wait for this curious desert took less than 10 minutes to arrive. Two scoops of ice cream laid before me. In between the two perfectly arranged domes was a ginger cookie. The pistachio nuts were tucked inside the ice cream; they tasted like toffee chunks, melting with the creamy delight. The dessert costs $7. Le Pichet updates their dessert menu daily, so they do not serve the roasted pistachio ice cream every day.

When the time came to leave, Faith presented the check and one caramel taffy, a house specialty. While chewing, I gazed at the chalkboard menu that hung on the wall across from me. I realized there are countless recipes that I had not tasted yet. Returning to Le Pichet and basking in its charming countryside decor sounds like a wonderful idea, especially with a partner in crime. Purchasing food is an investment, an investment in one’s self. I kept the candy wrapper, but not the receipt.

This story was originally published by The Daily of the University of Washington.

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