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At Petite 4, the team behind Bleubird bets big on its culinary game and strikes it rich

Interior of Petite 4 on the Bench, which is indeed a small space -- that’s full of great food.
Interior of Petite 4 on the Bench, which is indeed a small space -- that’s full of great food. Special to the Idaho Statesman

When Bleubird closed in January, Boise went into mourning. The sudden evaporation of the city’s finest sandwich shop felt like a nightmare.

But help was on the way for fans of its food.

In April, Sarah and David Kelly, the power couple behind Bleubird’s massive success, opened Petite 4. Named after its diminutive size and location at 4 N. Latah St., the new restaurant aimed to bring “French bistro-inspired dishes to the Boise Bench.”

Petite 4 has inherited much of its stylistic vision from Bleubird. A striking kitchen forms the heart of the restaurant, and every member of the staff looks dapper in a pinstriped apron.

The restaurant has also inherited Bluebird’s fervent fan base; the dining room was packed at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday in October. It’s no secret that reservations are highly recommended unless you plan on fighting for space at the bar.

And I understand why the Kellys decided to close Bleubird and open Petite 4. Bleubird was popular because it was the best possible version of a sandwich shop, but the type of food and the hours of operation created inherent limitations.

Petite 4 does not suffer from those limitations. It can grow and change endlessly in service of Sarah Kelly’s unique culinary vision. It can bask in the classy-yet-casual atmosphere that David Kelly seems to conjure by simply existing — his energy, charm and encyclopedic memory make you want to visit again and again.

The menu itself is pleasantly simple, with starters, vegetables, seafood and meat on one side, cheese and charcuterie on the other, and a separate card for daily specials.

Menus are updated seasonally and when inspiration strikes. Regular visitors will be excited to find a new fall menu, which retains popular items while introducing impressive new dishes.

Sampling the food

The restaurant may be petite, but the portions are not. The starters are generous and the meatier entrees are approximately the size of a family sedan. And when you consider the vastness of some of these meals, the prices are closer to a brewery than a steakhouse.

You’d be wise to start your meal with a cheese plate ($15), which features a rotating assortment and seasonal accompaniments.

The French onion soup ($12) is crowded with golden tendrils of onion and is so gloriously rich that I considered asking for a smoothie straw. The first few bites of melted gruyère were magic, but the quantity of cheese began to feel a bit overwhelming as I worked deeper into the bowl.

The root vegetable and potato latke ($9), topped with house-made applesauce, sour cream and chives, is outrageous. Adding cured salmon ($4) will take things from “outrageous” to “somebody hold me.”

Roasted baby beets ($12) with horseradish creme fraiche are lovely to look at, and the horseradish provides charming zip.

The halibut cheeks ($19) combine the meaty density of a scallop with the weightless flake of a halibut fillet. The cheeks are pan seared until crisp and served with slices of citrus and olives in a rosemary butter sauce. Seafood enthusiasts will delight in this inspired creation.

The Petite mousse ($5) is the appropriate chocolatey conclusion to a luxurious meal.

The dishes at Petite 4 are rich, sometimes spectacularly so. Ordering family style is the best way to maximize your eating experience and avoid a war of attrition against a lake of bordelaise.

Dave Kelly’s herbaceous sodas are drinkable artwork; sampling one — whether it’s his famous pomegranate sage or an inventive blast of turmeric, ginger and apple cider vinegar — is almost mandatory. A handsome wine list, draft beer and innovative cocktails should ensure every diner a quality libation.

Petite 4 is a restaurant with real personality. It echoes Boise’s offer to the outside world: big-city quality alongside small-town comfort. If our burgeoning city, and Petite 4’s crowded tables, are any indication, that is a most enticing combination.

Petite 4

Address: 4 N. Latah, Boise

Phone: 208-345-1055

Online: eatatpetite4.com

Hours: Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch once a month.

Reservations: highly recommended but not required; walk-in seating at bar

Menu price range: starters $7-$12; cheese and charcuterie $15; main courses $12-$20.

Opened: April 2018

Interesting note: Micro-bakery Sable Baking shares the kitchen and provides the bread for the restaurant.

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