Olympia’s La Petite Mason: A French Celebration

La Petite MasonBy: Rick Nelsen and Stephanie Hemphill

When I entered the oak doors of the quaint La Petite Mason I was instantly greeted with a smile and genuine appreciation of my family and my arrival.  The first thing I noticed about La Petite Mason was its cleanliness.  There is a crisp and clean sense throughout the whole restaurant while still maintaining an elegant and warm décor.

This is not your typical family restaurant but my son, who has grown up in the restaurant environment and often asks for a fillet or tiramisu, can usually handle any dining experience we throw his way.  Our hostess and waitress, whom we later found out was the chef’s wife, was great with my son and made sure that the dining experience was just as exciting for him as it was for my wife and me.  She went as far as to make him a tableside, fresh squeezed lemonade and the chef created a three-year-old friendly pasta dish for his dinner.

As soon as I opened the menu, it made me feel like celebrating and I could not resist ordering a bottle of Prosecco to start off our evening.  It is very easy to see that the owner and chef, Justin, puts a lot of time and effort into his menu.  It is not your run of the mill burger menu but a carefully thought out culinary creation.  My wife and I each ordered the Chef’s Three Course dinner.  Our first course was pork belly served with a compressed watermelon.  What instantly caught my eye about the pork belly was that it was cooked using a sous vide method.  Sous vide is translated to “under vacuum” and is a cooking method in which the food is placed in an air tight pouch and cooked in a water bath for an extended period of time.  This creates a cooking environment in which all sides of the ingredient reach the same temperature at the same time.  Instead of cooking on a pan, which cooks in layers, the sous vide is cooking every part consistently.  Chef Justin’s pork belly and watermelon are both cooked via sous vide and the pork belly alone is a 24 hour cooking process.  The time put into this dish is absolutely understood as soon as you take your first bite.  Your pallet cannot compare it to anything because it’s something that you have never tasted before.  I am very appreciative of other chefs who are putting the care and investment into their food like this and it is a rare find in our area.  Another rare find is the wine selection, it is out of this world and if you are looking for a pairing suggestion with your meal, there is no one better to trust than Justin.  He is a highly educated sommelier who has handpicked every wine in the restaurant.

The next two courses were just as carefully created as our first.  My wife’s entre was a French pastry filled with lobster and vegetables, what I like to call a lobster pot pie, and my entre was a lamb dish.  Our evening ended with a caramelized pineapple served with and hazelnut ice cream dessert.  All three courses were delicious and unique.

This French inspired restaurant is one that cannot be missed when planning a special evening out or when you want to break the cycle of an everyday style meal.  Your evening at La Petite Mason is not just going out for dinner among the hustle and bustle and in-and-out service of most restaurants but an intimate and friendly culinary experience.

About The Author

Rick Nelsen, better known as Chef Ricardo in the restaurant community, is a native to the Thurston County area and comes from a lineage of fellow restaurateurs.  Together with his wife and family, Rick owns and operates Ricardo’s Restaurant, which opened in 2003, and recently ventured into the mobile food service industry with Ricardo’s Woodfired Express.  His menus are best known for having a selection of dry aged beef, organic meats and handmade pastas.  Being a chef is second nature for Rick and he has a passion for creating great food for the people of this community.


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