Le Petit Soufflé Serves Upbeat French-Japanese Food with Loads of CharacterMay 11, 2015
From a leafy ceiling, an armory of rolling pins descends. It’s an installation that validates the fresh and quirky philosophy that is Le Petit Soufflé. There are potted bonsai that decorate the restaurant. A red brick wall stands as a friendly boundary into the open kitchen a little ways to the left of the entrance.
It feels like a bistro beside a park. French music and customers’ chitchat leave no room for silence. Chefs Kristine Lotilla and Miko Aspiras sit at a long and heavy wooden table. The atmosphere is calm, friendly. The strawberry and celery iced tea tastes like a childhood candy.
“It’s our first venture into savory [food],” says Chef Miko. He and Chef Kristine have also partnered up for Scout’s Honor. Overheard is the sizzle from something sautéed. A bell rings for an order ready to be bused out. Out comes one of their best sellers: the squid ink rice plated in a pottery bowl. A bed of rice blackened by squid ink is blanketed by a thin free-range omelette. From underneath the egg, shimeji mushrooms pop up. There are bits of scallop, squid, and shrimp as well as fish roe for a balance of color.
Yet Le Petit Soufflé prides itself on its fusion of both French and Japanese culture. That and the quirks of its chefs-slash-owners. Out comes their rendition of the Croque Madame Inside it is a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg, black forest ham, an emmental and gruyere raclette, and béchamel sauce. Instead of regular bread, however, these are sandwiched between a halved croissant. The crisp flaky bread flown highlights the gooey melted cheese. Chef Miko talks about how they fly in the croissants from France. Everything needs to be as fresh as possible. “When you think of French food, you always think of the quality. When you think of French food, it’s high class and fine dining,” Chef Kristine tells us as we munch on their dish. Warm, natural light illuminates our faces. “But we wanted it to be as casual.” Then, enter: ramen chicken. Upon a gray clay plate is a dream come true that isn’t yet out on the menu. Again, that’s a juicy, boneless chicken fillet breaded in crunchy ramen noodles. They’re aiming to spoil their guests. The chicken is topped with thin strips of nori. It comes with two different sauces. For the daring: a wasabi tonkotsu sauce. For the super courageous: a Sriracha-butter-mirin sauce whose strong chili smell might scare away a spice hater. We just about go crazy with this and it’s demolished within minutes.
For dessert, we are given two variations of the classic French dish from which the restaurant gets its namesake. With their signature dishes, Chefs Miko and Kristine have pushed themselves and the quality of their food. It’s rare to see pure Valrhona chocolate in a dessert, and here we are presented with a soufflé made just of. It’s rich, extremely hot, and melts in our mouths with a generous serving of crème Anglaise. Next, we have a pistachio and cherry soufflé glace—en anglais, a frozen soufflé.
Most people don’t recognize this classic French technique of letting a soufflé rise on its own even through cooling. To soufflé, says Chef Miko, is to aerate. The whipped cream and egg whites rise and set. This meticulous process is what Le Petit Soufflé hopes to bring to the table together with a revolutionization of ingredients. Case-in-point: the next sweet treat that lands on the table.
Two sticks of Pepero emerge from a parfait. At the bottom is an almond dacquoise. The following layer is, believe it or not, a salted egg custard. It’s these alternating together with a thick dark caramel and sheets of peanut brittle. To top it off goes a generous serving of soft serve vanilla custard ice cream. The savory and sweet tandem is glorified by the thick, creamy, and crunchy texture of all the parfait’s layers. “This is our playground,” Chef Miko simply says with a smile.