Big Honor for Branford's Le Petit Café

Since 1997, chef-owner Roy Ip has been earning rave reviews for the exceptional food he prepares for diners at his charming, French-style restaurant, Le Petit Café. The Branford restaurant's food has just earned Zagat's rating as one of the top 30 restaurants in America.
Since 1997, chef-owner Roy Ip has been earning rave reviews for the exceptional food he prepares for diners at his charming, French-style restaurant, Le Petit Café. The Branford restaurant's food has just earned Zagat's rating as one of the top 30 restaurants in America.

Zagat has spoken and Le Petit Café is on its tongue-and taste buds.

On Oct. 25, the nation's premier restaurant guidebook publisher distinguished Le Petit Café as one of the top 30 restaurants in America. The elite fraternity of top eateries each scored a near-perfect 29 out of 30 for food on the annual Zagat Survey. The score of 29 also makes this little Branford bistro with the big reputation Connecticut's top restaurant for food, as rated by Zagat.

Considering most restaurants on the national top 30 list are situated in savvy cities (New York, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles), chef-owner Roy Ip is delighted to help shine a national spotlight on Branford with this latest honor for Le Petit Café.

"We are thrilled. It's a very amazing, very good thing being recognized and good for the town, too. In this business, there are a couple of publications that are kind of critical, like The New York Times and especially Zagat. It's like the Bible of this business," said Ip.

A cornerstone restaurant on the Branford Green that Ip has maintained since 1997, Le Petit Café has been no stranger to praise from New York Times restaurant reviewers or the many dedicated foodies populating the annual Zagat Survey. The charming, 50-seat French-style restaurant on Montowese Street has long earned rave reviews for its amazing weekly menu selections for a four-course, prix fixe dinner prepared by Ip.

"Consistency is very important-it's the key to success," says Ip, who uses all-natural and organic ingredients prepared expertly yet simply, to the delight of appreciative patrons.

Ip may work subtle changes into his weekly menus, but the choices are always extraordinary. One recent appetizer offered (among six choices on the menu) a warm duck leg confit with Ip's fresh fruit jam, golden delicious apple and radish, while a main course selection (also among six) offered roasted, all-natural premium Australian rack of lamb "Provençal style" with parsnip-apple gratinee, sautéed sugar snap peas, and rosemary-Bordelaise sauce. Whatever the choice, rest assured the finest ingredients go into a meal well worth its reasonable prix fixe.

"Everything is natural, organic, homemade, since 1997," said Ip. "To run a restaurant could be easy, but to run a restaurant at a certain standard and to keep the consistency is an everyday challenge. You have to keep it up, do it good, and do it better. We do the best to create simple but sophisticated presentations."

"We" is Ip's "team," as he calls his staff, including a synergistic kitchen staff that's been cooking with him for more than eight years. Ip also credits the many contributions of his wife and Le Petit Café co-owner Winnie Lui.

"My wife is the brain of the restaurant," Ip says. "She helps to manage everything and also to give me ideas."

The couple's 15 year-old son, Kevan Lui-Ip, is a Choate sophomore who's learning to cook from his dad (Ip trained at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan) and who also created Le Petit Café's website, www.lepetitcafe.net.

As for Ip's personal touch, beyond the extraordinary, top-rated food he creates, it can be found in just about every nuance at Le Petit Café. Ip often personally answers the phone (that's likely him taking your reservation) and enjoys overseeing dinner services and weekend seatings; often stopping by his bistro's cozy tables to ensure diners are enjoying an exceptional experience. Dinner, served by waitstaff tableside, is not rushed and always provided in generous portions.

"When people return, it's a good sign. And when they return, it's because they want the same experience, if not better," said Ip.

Le Petit Café is located at 225 Montowese Street, Branford. Reservations are recommended for dinner, Wednesday through Sunday. Seatings are on weekends only (6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday). For reservations, call 203-483-9791. To read reviews, peruse this week's menu, and more, visit
www.lepetitcafe.net.

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