By Clifford Hart
Photo: Jennifer Dalu
It’s far too seldom that a restaurant is able to serve up truly everything we are looking for. We may adore the menu of one but find the atmosphere a bit cold. We may enjoy the cozy ambience of another but find the service impersonal. In short, pleasing everyone all of the time is a close-to-impossible task in the world of fine dining.
Having said that, if there was ever a restaurant in the Hudson Valley that succeeded in providing an all-around superior dining experience, it would have to be Le Petit Bistro in the Village of Rhinebeck.
Tucked into the historic streetscape just off the main intersection with Route 9, the storefront at 8 East Market Street is simple and unpretentious, and yet it is also somehow inviting—suggesting to the visitor that whatever is happening inside merits closer inspection.
Indeed it does. Stepping into the wood-paneled, candlelit dining area is a little like stepping back in time fifty years or more. Not that Le Petit Bistro has purposefully adopted a “country French chic” décor, or that it’s striving for an early-Americana look as do so many other restaurants in the Northeast. No, the magic of Le Petit Bistro is that it doesn’t appear to be “striving” to do anything—it’s accomplishing it all as if it were second nature.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason the restaurant has continued to attract fans from all over the region and beyond for thirty years and counting. Head chef Joseph Dalu, who has been running the restaurant for more than half that time with his wife Jennifer, is another huge reason of course, and both are proud to say that the restaurant is now expanding and will soon be occupying the property next door to allow even more people to discover the restaurant’s magic.
“We’re really excited this is happening,” Dalu said of the upcoming expansion, which will happily make Le Petit Bistro somewhat less “petit.” “It’s allowing us to expand not only our dining area but also our kitchen, so both the front and back of the house will really see a transformation.”
Indeed, that plan is in keeping with Joe’s philosophy of giving as much attention to atmosphere and service as he does to the menu. On any given evening, you will likely be presented with a simple chalkboard display of what the kitchen is serving, a clear indication that the items on the board are as fresh as they are freshly conceived.
On a recent evening, our table was treated to a sensational medley of delicacies—from a crispy grilled eggplant with yogurt appetizer to a delicious morel-crusted lamb with figs to the more traditional but no less sumptuous steak frites. And no visit to Le Petit Bistro would be complete without a sampling of shellfish—the hallmark of Dalu’s menu being the Asian crispy-fried oyster served with tabiko mayonnaise and fresh cucumber salad.
Cap the dining experience off with excellent and knowledgeable service and you have a recipe for success that, once you discover it, you’ll certainly want to experience again and again.
Le Petit Bistro is open at 5:00 p.m. Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). For reservations, which are recommended, call 845.876.7400. See their website at lepetitbistro.com for further information. ★★★★★