by Jennifer Crain for OLY ARTS
In a little house on Olympia’s west side, Justin Wells creates cassoulet, chateaubriand and morel tarts while Zoe Wells welcomes diners looking to celebrate an anniversary or enjoy a solo meal over a glass of Beaujolais. La Petite Maison, which the couple started six years ago, has received praise around the region for its elegant French cuisine, warm atmosphere and extensive wine collection.
“French food and wine has always been the king to me. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about,” says Justin, the restaurant’s sole chef. Olympia patrons have embraced his approach. Some regulars come back for standing items on the menu, such as duck confit and crispy pork belly. But many opt for the restaurant’s five-course, prix fixe seasonal tasting menu, which shifts daily and is offered on its own or with optional wine pairings. “Food and wine pairing is really at the forefront,” Justin says. “People are excited about it.”
Justin’s dedication to French cuisine is rooted in his love of French wines. After more than 15 years of tasting and study, he’s developed a refined palate and a solid reputation. Last fall, he attended the World Wine Symposium in Milan, an invitation-only gathering of industry experts from around the world. “Our entire wine list is collected and curated by Justin,” Zoe says. “We have a three-page wine list and huge cellar. Our wine list rotates just as often as our food menu.”
The Wellses are as discriminating about ambience as they are about their food and wine. Before opening the restaurant — and reviving both the French theme and the name of the original 1977 space — they restored much of the house’s 1903 charm to create a luxurious, leisurely experience for guests. “If you’re in the restaurant,” Justin says, “you’re in our home.” Guests are also walking into the couple’s personal history. Portofino, the previous restaurant, was the site of the couple’s first date as well as their wedding. Perhaps that’s why every detail, every dish, feels so personal.
Guests can learn more about wines and connect with Justin and Zoe every third Saturday at their retail wine tastings.
What: La Petite Maison
Where: 101 Division St. NW, Olympia
When: 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesdays – Saturdays;
wine tasting 2-4 p.m. third Saturdays;
How much: hors d’oeuvres $8-$21, sides $8-$24, entrees $27-$115;
wine tasting $20
Learn more: 360-754-9623 | La Petite Maison