By Mary Ellen Psaltis
It was the site of their first date. Later it served as their wedding location. Now it’s their business. Justin and Zoe Wells own and operate La Petite Maison, a restaurant with a long and positive history in Olympia. Like a great recipe that evolves and refines over time, La Petite Maison has been brought to new heights of dining delights with the dedication of its new owners.
Two years ago the Wells purchased the business along with the building, which was built in 1903. Previous owners had done limited reconstruction and refurbishing. This time significant work was completed on the walls, ceilings, foundation and flooring. The seating areas are intimate and homey. One alteration led to another, but finally it was finished. Then it was time to work on the menu.
With long hours of thought and on-going experimentation, a single page menu and a single page wine list were created to allow diners limited but varied choices, so that inordinate time was not spent reading. Wells believes his guests ought to be using their time enjoying the company of their friends rather than agonizing over wine and meal choices. The menu may not be long but it offers variety and great possibilities. There is also a prix fixe menu – an offering of five courses that varies with the season. Four wine pairing are available to add to this special menu.
The Chef’s Menu the evening I was there included mussels, scallops, soup, pork and dessert. Adjectives such as creative, exciting, wildly tender, and gorgeous are a few that come to mind as I recall my leisurely meal. For Chef Wells, there are no off nights or off courses – every plate, every table and every guest is special. His goal is to exceed your expectations – a lofty aim, but eminently do-able. If you are looking for even more, you can work with Chef Wells to plan a 9 to 14 course dinner party.
His motto is “please come here and let us wine and dine you.” As a person who believes in the joy of tasting wonderful food and relishing each bite of exquisitely prepared plates, this is my kind of experience. This is about quality more than quantity, although my hungers were more than sated.
When I first moved to Thurston County over thirty years ago, the area’s offerings for food, plays, cultural activities, restaurants and such were limited. There was the idea (and often reality) that to get something really good, it was necessary to drive somewhere out of town. I am proud to say that now there is LOTS to be found right here at home. There is no need to face the I-5 drive to find a great meal or a fantastic show.
La Petite Maison is part of that success. That Justin and Zoe graduated from area high schools (Olympia and Capital respectively) makes the local flavor all the better. He has taught at the Bayview School of Cooking and continues to teach private and semi-private sessions by request.
The next time you are considering celebrating an occasion – be it a birthday or being glad to be alive – give Justin a call to make a reservation. His joy comes from cooking for you. He said to me, “I love food.” He keeps things interesting by changing the menu, continuing to refine recipes and showing up to provide you with not just a memorable meal but a memorable evening.
Thanks to Jeff Hobson for the photographs.
101 Division St NW
Olympia, WA 98502
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Additional Note about Sous-Vide
La Petite Maison employs a method of cooking called sous-vide. Simply put, food that is sealed in bags is cooked in a bath of temperature-controlled water. This means that those food items are not over cooked (this happens when cooking temperatures exceed the desired internal cooking temperature.) Food cooked this way retains more moisture and still maintain much of its original texture. Made popular by cooking shows, sous-vide can be accomplished at home, but most people do not have this kind of equipment available to them.