Taste September 25, 2018

French Twist

Petite 4 - a European bistro with a touch of whimsy

Last January, the beloved Bleubird closed, leaving downtown Boise’s lunch crowd in mourning. But owners Sarah and Dave Kelly had dinner in mind, barely taking a breath before opening Petite 4 in April.

The couple’s French-inspired bistro on the Depot Bench has the same hip, friendly vibe as Bleubird. But they’ve ratcheted up the swank with lush, emerald green walls, brass Sputnik light fixtures, geometric tiles and gold velvet tufted upholstery.

An heirloom tomato tartine

With 36 seats, the cozy Petite 4 has an open kitchen like Bleubird, where diners at the bar can watch Sarah work her magic. Dave, or DK, is front of the house, keeping the trains running, occasionally slipping behind the bar to mix a cocktail or pop a cork from their impressive wine list.

“We wanted to create the same feel as Bleubird, small, boutique-y and whimsical,” Sarah said, describing their love for the tight-knit feel of European bistros where tables are crowded together and an espresso machine hisses behind the bar.

The restaurant’s name is play off its compact size and kitchen, its location at 4 N. Latah St., and small French cakes (petit fours), since the translation means “small oven.”

Just don’t call it a French restaurant.

“People ask us that all the time. We’re not a classical French restaurant. We’re inspired by fresh vegetables, cheeses, seafood, butter and white wine.”

The accusation, however, is understandable, with dishes like cassoulet, croque-monsieur, crepes, and moules-frites. And what about those French subheadings on the menu?

True enough, she laughed, recalling how a woman came in wanting to speak French to someone, anyone.

When Petite 4 first opened, demand was so high reservations ran weeks out. But a meal can be had without them. You can usually snag a couple of seats at the bar or, if lucky, a table, especially on weeknights.

“We have 15 seats open for walk-in customers. We want people to walk in and grab a spot,” Sarah said.

Reservations are needed, though, for once-a-month brunches and Sunday dinner parties, when tables are moved together to seat six and food is served family style. Brunch might include cheeses, charcuterie, fruits and veggies, roasted carrots or beets, popovers, a potato dish and beignets.

“It’s fun and a lot of food,” she said.

Sunday dinner parties are seasonally themed, like summer’s fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits with chorizo gravy, watermelon salad and pimento cheese with pickled green tomatoes. There’s an optional wine pairing or

Roasted baby beets with candied pecans and shallot vinaigrette.

one of DK’s signature low-octane, aperitif-style cocktails that combine ingredients like Amontillado sherry, bitters, vermouth, sparkling wine, and ginger-infused syrup.

“The dinners aren’t super-fancy,” Sarah said. “It’s more like if you have your friends over to your house.”

The couple’s long Bleubird days paid off, allowing them to buy the building for Petite 4. Boise’s boom is attracting more young business owners to the Bench, like Ashley Chapman. She runs Sable Baking, using Petite 4’s kitchen in the morning to bake bread for the restaurant. She also bakes for customers who subscribe to a weekly bread share and sells bread and pastries at Petite 4 on Saturday mornings.

“Our goal is to draw a crowd from the Crescent Rim neighborhood and Depot Bench,” she said. “We want people to get out of their houses and walk or ride a bike here. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion. We want it to be affordable, whether you want a quick bite or a nice dinner.”

Suzanne and Brooklin Gore are regulars who live in the neighborhood and often join friends for dinner
or brunches.

“I feel Petite 4 is going to be a huge catalyst for growth up here,” said Brooklin Gore. “Business owners will see they can own a space instead of being at the mercy of a lease downtown and not have to worry about parking.”

“To have Petite 4 move into the neighborhood was great,” Suzanne Gore said. “We went to their second-ever brunch, and it was fabulous. It’s a whole renaissance on the Bench.”

Sarah grew up in Boise and after college worked at Richard’s Bakery, Richard’s Across the Street, Bittercreek Ale House, and The Dish. In 2003, she moved to Vail, Colo., to learn more about fine dining and met DK, who was bartending at the first place she worked. When they left nine years later to open Bleubird, she was the executive chef at the Cordillera Lodge and Spa, a hotel with four golf resorts. She was in charge of two restaurants, room service, banquets, and weddings. She created the menus, did the books, ordered all the food, and cooked every night.

They saved enough money to open Bleubird without a loan, worked- those long days for five years, and now have their dream realized with Petite 4.

“We pay attention to service and quality and want people to feel like they’re eating in our dining room,”
she said.

Mussels and pommes frites

This article appears in the Fall 2018 Issue of Territory Magazine.