The LA strip mall, like the city itself, has become a blank canvas for reinvention. Chef-owner Ludo Lefebvre’s recent transformation of a Thai takeout joint into a classic French bistro leaves us saying merci beaucoup
You can credit the existence of Petit Trois, Ludo Lefebvre’s new French restaurant in Hollywood, to Don Draper as much as to St-Germain-des-Prés’ Brasserie Lipp. “When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1996, I saw that Americans liked to drink cocktails all through dinner,” says French-born Lefebvre. “Watching Mad Men, I realised they always dined that way.”
Cocktails and the hearty dishes Lefebvre grew up with are the foundation of this restaurant. The location in a nondescript strip mall is pure LA. The interior has been transformed into a textbook version of a Parisian neighbourhood bistro, complete with checkerboard floor, marble counters and copper pots hanging over a tiny open kitchen (Trois Mec, which Lefebvre co-owns with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, is next door). Here you can sip a bracing and aromatic Mauresque cocktail made with a pastis and pear spirit, while choosing from one of five rustic but perfectly executed dishes – each reinterpreted just enough to delight even the most jaded Francophile.
Chicken legs are cooked in duck fat, fried and then sauced with butter in which brioche dough has been caramelised. Salty french fries crisped in beef fat are hand-cut – as Lefebvre says, “the way my mama and grandma did it”. A tender omelette reveals a center of melting Boursin, and after 10pm you can order a late-night croque-monsieur.
It’s food with a backbone, designed to stand up to strong drinks. Lefebvre calls his concept a “bar à la carte” and has stencilled the phrase in gold on the window. Consider it a new formula for Franco-Angeleno dining – one that works gloriously.