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Les Petites Canailles: Sophisticated French cuisine with a casual vibe

Steak tartare and steamed mussels Steak tartare and steamed mussels

In recent years, the historic western town of Paso Robles has moved up on the list of hot wine-tasting destinations, what with all the well-regarded wineries and unpretentious tasting rooms sprinkled in and around town. To accompany all that wine, some excellent restaurants have sprouted up, including Les Petites Canailles, which offers sophisticated French cuisine with a casual, friendly vibe.

Chef Julien Asseo, who you’ll see in the open kitchen, owns the bistro with his wife, Courtney. He grew up in Libourne, France, moved to the U.S. when he was 11, and headed back to France for culinary school, later working with the likes of renowned chefs Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas. Now he combines his top-notch skills with the Paso area’s bounty, sourcing most ingredients from nearby farms and ranches and changing the menu with the season.

Mediterranean Branzino

Mediterranean branzino with fried capers and charred lemon.

A rotating selection of butcher cuts might include a dry-aged prime New York strip or a Kurobuta pork tomahawk. Pair them with one of the perfectly balanced sauces, such as the LPC spicy condiment—made with Thai chiles and onion, it goes with just about everything. And don’t skip the side dishes. Silky-smooth and buttery “Joël Robuchon” pomme puree is irresistible, as are the fries with béarnaise sauce for dipping.

Leaning toward French and California vintages, the wine list has earned the restaurant a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence each of the 2 years it’s been open. Central Coast wines include selections from L’Aventure Winery in Paso Robles, owned by Julien’s parents. Say oui to house-made desserts like chocolate mousse made with Valrhona dark chocolate.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate mousse

Best dishes: Steak tartare, moules frites Hortense, whole grilled Mediterranean branzino, Kurobuta pork tomahawk, chocolate mousse.

Dinner prices: Starters, $8–$25; entrées, $29–$51; desserts, $12–$14.

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