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Petit Paree Under New Management ...kind of

Petit Paree is not so much a restaurant as it is a dining experience that takes your palate on a deliciously intoxicating journey while your mind and body are free to relax and enjoy the elegant surroundings and warm hospitality.

From the moment I stepped out of the car at Petit Paree, I was overtaken by the unmistakable aroma of perfectly seared and seasoned steak. I was instantly hypnotized and pulled through the doors like a sailor summoned by the sirens’ song. We were greeted by our bright and lovely hostess and co-owner, Leigh Tetrault, at the door and escorted to our seats.

I fell instantly in love with the place!

As we walked into the main dining room, I couldn’t help but notice the elegant, Victorian- influenced decor. Tasteful art adorned the walls. The stained glass lamp shades gave the place a classical glow. The decadent floral wallpaper and ornate crown molding on the ceiling took us back to a time of simple charm and sophisticated luxury.

I fell instantly in love with the place! My only hope was that the food was a match for the venue, but much to my surprise, it far surpassed my wildest expectations.

While we waited for our feast, we learned a little about what Petit Paree had to offer. For instance, there are happy hour specials from 4pm-6pm which include $3 off appetizers, $5 margaritas, and half off wine and discounted cocktails. I love wine, so of course the half off happy hour special got my attention. Noticing my interest, Leigh told me about Petit Paree’s wine club and the exciting benefits: a new wine each month, tastings, discounts on your choice bottle and meals… I felt like I had died and gone to heaven, but that feeling was nothing compared to the palatial Elysium that was yet to come.

First out was, of course, the appetizer— the Charcuterie board of homemade croutons served with coarse dijon mustard and an array of cheeses, meats, and produce from local farms. Leigh explained that the variety of toppings changes often to surprise and please the palate. Our board today included slices of savory spiced hard salami, pleasantly strong and creamy asiago cubes, some crumbly gouda wedges, pieces of beamster with a wonderful nutty flavor, and a beautiful mix of perfectly ripened grapes and blueberries.

The salads were next to arrive. I had heard of their famous in-house Mayfair dressing, but nothing could have prepared me for the creamy and flavorful bliss that I had the good fortune to experience. I now have a new favorite dressing.

As we walked into the main dining room, I couldn’t help but notice the elegant, Victorian- influenced decor ...The decadent floral wallpaper and ornate crown molding on the ceiling took us back to a time of simple charm and sophisticated luxury.

When our meals arrived, the fragrance alone was enough to make me hungry. The exquisite plating of such decadent meals had us all tasting each other’s dishes and sharing in the beautiful bounty.

The steaks were all cooked to a perfect medium rare. Savory, juicy, and spiced to perfection, they did not last long. The Filet Mignon, an 8 oz bacon wrapped masterpiece garnished with thyme, was my personal favorite. However, the 16 oz Ribeye, seared beautifully and garnished with a large sprig of rosemary, and the Petite Filet served atop a large crostini that slowly absorbed all of the rich juices from the savory meat, were extraordinary. Served with a velvety smooth, full-flavored Pinot Noir with just a hint of sweetness and a soft, creamy twice-baked potato topped with a generous helping of cheddar, it was an elegantly French-influenced twist on the classic American steak and potato meal.

But enough about the turf, on to the surf!

The Rainbow-Trout Almondine was a thing of pure beauty. Seared to perfection, almond crusted, and topped with lemon beurre blanc, it was wonderfully spiced with subtle hints of lemon and herbs that practically melted in my mouth. As delicious as it was, it was still no match for the South African Lobster Tail. Tender, fluffy, and drizzled with butter it was a seafood utopian dream. Served with a light, pleasantly flavorful Chardonnay and a perfectly cooked smooth, creamy risotto topped with parsley and portabella mushrooms, if I could only use one word to describe this meal it would be ‘beautiful.’

As delicious as the entrees were, it was a side dish that stole the show. The Honey Glazed Carrots were a favorite at our table. Sweet and delicious with a subtle hint of Cajun heat, they were an absolute hit!

We wrapped up our repas décadent with a dessert to match. The aptly named Coconut Sensation Pie, a smooth cream pie topped with coconut, caramel, and pecans, was nothing short of a miracle made for the mouth. If heaven had a taste, I believe this would be it. From the complex light yet rich sweetness to its silky yet fluffy texture, this appropriately elegant end to our meal was euphoric!

Bravo & une ovation debout to chefs Justin Duncan & Nikki Wisdom! Merci le repas était sublime!

Throughout our luxurious dining experience, we were graced with Leigh’s warm presence. A lovely and gracious hostess, we wanted for nothing throughout our meal and quite enjoyed her company.

“I love feeding people!” she said. She told us about her career in the hospitality and service industry and her passion for food. We learned a great deal about her family’s past and the history of Petit Paree and how their paths were destined to intertwine.

Established in 1960 by Andy and Maybell Backy, Petit Paree was family owned and operated for several years. It was passed on to Backy’s daughter, Carla, who was the owner when a wide-eyed nineteen-year-old Leigh applied there for a job as a server. Her first of many, Leigh went on to work as a waitress and bartender and made a name for herself in the service industry.

After fifty years of her family owning the French-influenced restaurant, Carla decided to sell the business but was hesitant with most of the people wanting to buy. She was extremely choosey with who would be fit to take over her beloved Petit Paree.

Enter the Tetraults…

Leigh’s father, Steve Tetrault, was always passionate about food. A talent in the kitchen himself, he always dreamed of having a restaurant. After living in New Orleans, he developed a deep love for French and Cajun food.

Luke, Leigh’s brother, inherited their father’s talent and served as a cook on a submarine during his time in the Navy. Between her father’s and brother’s incredible skills in the kitchen and Leigh’s background in hospitality and knowledge of fine wines, opening a restaurant seemed to be an obvious choice.

In 2010, the Tetrault family opened Taytros, a New Orleans style restaurant in Festus. The Cajun cuisine was a big hit, and by 2013 the Tetrault family was ready to expand their repertoire.

Petit Paree was established, elegant, and familiar. The Tetraults instantly fell in love with it, and apparently, the feeling was mutual. Not only did Carla agree to sell, but several works of elegant and classical art were also inherited through the deal. The Backy family legacy is safe, and the Tetrault’s family legacy has only just begun.

As we left Petit Paree, I couldn’t help but think of the words of William Shakespeare: “Parting is such sweet sorrow…” Feeling like Juliet with new and exciting romance, my sad goodbye was sweetened by the hope that I would see this place again soon.

Until then, be well, and bon appetit!

-Written by AJ Koehler


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