It's no surprise that James Beard award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon didn't give his second restaurant a French name after the way that people massacre (another French word, by the way) the name of his first one. Not that they do it intentionally, mind you, but most Americans have no idea how to pronounce anything in French much beyond "Ooh la la."
"Little Bird" en Français.
I mean, croissants have been a popular pastry since the seventies and people still struggle over how to pronounce it. And what is it about French words that throws people off, anyway? I once had an agency account executive on the local Franz Bread account nix the brilliant name "Pain de Franz" for the company's new line of French breads for the reason that "people don't want to have pain in their mouths."
But I digress.
Admittedly, the words "Petit Oiseau" are inscribed on the door of the new downtown restaurant that serves some of the best French food I've had since my last trip to Le Pichet in Seattle, but it is universally referred to in print and on a small, unlit sign high over the street as Little Bird. Like Le Pichet, it's decked out in very French style, with a little lacy curtain in the front window, a teeny and very quaint bar in the back, dark wood tongue and groove-backed booths and small tables along a banquette on a side wall.
Two friends and I took a third friend there to celebrate her birthday. We were seated on the wood-railinged mezzanine up a narrow flight of stairs but, unlike many off-the-main-room areas, the service was as spot-on as if we were sitting in the main dining room and perhaps a little quieter as well. (Imagine the cardio workout the staff gets!)
'09 Boedecker Willamette Valley Barrel Select Pinot Noir. Idéal!
The whole experience feels a bit provincial and that tone spills over onto the menu, with the requisite foie gras torchon (top photo), a specialty of Le Pigeon as well, duck confit, mussels, frites, roast chicken…you get the picture. I'm not going to go into excruciating detail about each dish we ordered (there were many) or the wine list. We did have a totally off-the-hook bottle of '09 Boedecker Willamette Valley Barrel Select Pinot Noir that went with everything…well, after the bottle of Crémant du Bourgogne Brut that we ordered with our starters, that is. It was a birthday celebration, after all, right?
Anyway, everything we ordered was exceptionally well-prepared, nothing seemed amiss and we had a marvelous time, stepping out of our regular lives for a few hours to share a meal and laugh together. And that's worth a lot no matter what language you speak.
Details: Little Bird, 219 SW 6th Ave. 503-688-5952.