Toulouse Petit, the new Big Easy-inspired brasserie on Lower Queen Anne offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is definitely worth a visit. Through January 31 a 9 to 11 a.m. promotion offers every item on the breakfast menu for $5 Monday-Friday.
New Orleans is an over-the-top town. Likewise Toulouse Petit, the new Big Easy-inspired brasserie on Lower Queen Anne tilts toward excess. It’s a voodoo they do so well (to borrow from Cole Porter); if only they could do it more consistently.
Toulouse debuted in early November, a frillier, French Quarter version of its next-door-neighbor, Peso’s Kitchen & Lounge. Brian Hutmacher, owner of both, assembled a team of wood carvers, iron workers, glass blowers and other artisans to conjure the crumbling glamour of a centuries-old Bourbon Street bar.
They stippled the walls with 5,000 pounds of plaster, set 125,000 ceramic and glass mosaic tiles and created gorgeous wood inlays for the tabletops and bar. No wonder the place was more than a year in the making.
Proximity to Seattle Center means dressed-up theatergoers sometimes occupy the spacious velvet booths; more often it’s a dungarees-and-T-shirt-wearing crowd that shows up for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour daily. While the menus have some overlap, each offers an overwhelming array of choices.
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For breakfast you’ll find seven different types of eggs Benedict along with about a dozen other egg dishes, plus “sweet stuff” like pancakes, beignets and pain perdu. At lunch po’boys and other sandwiches augment a roster that includes many of the soups, salads, charcuterie, meats and seafood served at dinner when prime steaks are also featured.
Executive chef Eric Donnelly, late of the Oceanaire Seafood Room, should be up to the challenge, yet the kitchen’s zigzagging performance suggests he hasn’t got this ship on an even keel just yet.
Some dishes are simply wonderful. The “lagniappe rib eye” is no small gift, as the name implies. The sprawling steak is impressively marbled and at $24 for a 12-ounce cut at dinner, it’s priced and sized just right. Starch is included (choose the excellent pommes frites) but sauces are extra. A salty Creole Marchand de vin, thick with bits of tasso ham and mushrooms, proved a little too much for this beauty.
Veal-shallot pan sauce would have been just the thing. I made its acquaintance at breakfast, where it embellishes superb Eggs Hussarde, one of the Benedict variations. The rich brown sauce plays yin to the yang of lemony hollandaise draping perfectly poached eggs and supple Snake River Farms ham.
Other a.m. sensations include dainty beignets served with a pot of chicory anglaise and luxurious caramel-kissed pain perdu drizzled with pecan syrup.
Sausages, terrines and rillettes are among the house-made charcuterie. An impressive boudin blanc, a pale, livery, pork and rice sausage, is served spilling from its delicate casing to be spread like pate on slices of toasted baguette.
Andouille was less notable, turning up dry and blackened in the red-bean cassoulet and the seafood gumbo, which was acrid and muddy-tasting, though densely packed with crawfish, redfish and shrimp.
Breaded and fried alligator was delightful; fried oyster po’boy less so. That two-fisted sandwich had everything going for it — including bacon, a melt of provolone and Mama Lil’s peppers — but the oysters were off-tasting.
Whole Gulf shrimp over grits and Louisiana blue crab over fried-green tomatoes were both knockouts. The shrimp’s garlicky cayenne and paprika-spiked “barbecue” sauce had as much nuance as the crab’s quieter ravigote, a tangy white sauce flecked with tarragon, chervil and chive.
Alas, such subtlety eluded a warm egg-topped salad of duck confit, endive and radicchio. It was overdressed with sharp sherry vinaigrette, the duck was dry (as it was in the cassoulet), and the egg, so impeccably runny at breakfast, was overcooked.
And yet I find Toulouse irresistible — like the boyfriend you know is trouble but you keep dating anyway because he’s sexy and fun.
While Hutmacher and his experienced management team are working on getting the voodoo right, the capable wait staff does its best to keep up with the frantic pace of a frequently packed house, even on weekday mornings. From 9-11 a.m. Monday to Friday almost every breakfast item is just $5 ($6 after Feb. 1.) Before you start your New Year’s diet, check it out.
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