March 8, 2011 > Restaurant Review: Frodo Joe's Le Petit Cafe - A Fremont Family Business
Restaurant Review: Frodo Joe's Le Petit Cafe - A Fremont Family Business
By Denny Stein
Admit it. We're lucky to live in California and we're doubly blessed to live in the Tri-City Area, e.g. Fremont. The folks here are diverse and friendly, and the weather is as close to perfect as you can get. The cafes, bistros and restaurants reflect these attributes. If you haven't tried it yet, check out Le Petit Cafe in the Raley's Shopping Center. The owner, a young woman named JayJay Samran, opened the cafe three years ago. Perhaps because the outside is unassuming, I had never gone in. Now, there are attractive rattan chairs and tables outside, and besides, the Frodo Joe's logo in the window intrigued me. Margo Hood, my Coldwell Banker realtor, and I met there for lunch. The tables were full but seating was available and we even ran into a fellow Niles Rotary member.
Le Petit Cafe specializes in savory and sweet crepes and Thai food though the menu includes a variety of sandwiches and salads. A full espresso menu is actually the birthright of this Fremont sweet spot; in an earlier incarnation, JayJay and her husband had a coffee shop in San Lorenzo... Frodo Joe's. They loved their pug-adorned logo and transferred him to Le Petit Cafe when they moved to Fremont. The crepes menu was added to distinguish them from Starbucks, and the bill of fare has now outdistanced the coffee shop.
Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday - Friday, and 7a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends, Le Petit Cafe serves breakfast and morning food, lunch and dinner. It also serves afternoon High Tea. It is an easy place to be, and by that I mean comfortable, attractive and clean, an oasis in the midst of a busy shopping center.
Table seating is a mixture of banquette and chairs, and in the front window area there are comfy couches and seats, low to the ground. The sound system plays a medley of jazz and indie pop, which I found soothing or interesting, depending on the song of the moment. The decor is airy, modern, artistic, and hip. The walls are variegated slate bricks in an assortment of grays and earth tones. Non-descript at first glance until you see iridescent glass mosaic designs that swirl and climb here and there along the flat surfaces. After I noticed one wave of glass, I looked around to find others leaping and gliding around me, as though I was in a cave of firefly contrails.
Forced to de-mesmerize myself, I concentrated on the menu while enjoying water laced with cucumber, orange, lemon and mint. Margo and I ordered a Mango Zing Smoothie, a Hawaiian Crepe (ham, mozzarella, and pineapple), and a House Special Crepe (avocado, spinach, tomato). The fillings were fresh, and the crepes themselves tasted exactly as they should - slightly sweet, wheaty, and French. If you're breakfasting, the Super Crepe with scrambled eggs, ham, tomato and mozzarella sounds really good. Whatever you're craving, there's probably a crepe waiting to wrap it at the Cafe.
At other tables, two young men were about to dive into very generous sandwiches, a Baby Boomer couple were finishing their meal with French Press coffee, and a chocolate banana dessert crepe was being split between our friend the Rotarian and her high school protege. Most entrees came with a small serving of fresh fruit, melon and strawberry.
We decided on a simple crepes dessert. I have to admit that I'm partial to classic, plain crepes with just lemon and a little sugar, so we tried the Crepes with Sauce. In this case we chose Chocolate and Orange Sauce. I find that many crepe bistros are fixated on Nutella, not my favorite chocolate flavor. The orange sauce also tasted a bit commercial. These crepes deserve homemade sauces and I hope that JayJay's sister, the chef Ja Samran, will find time to develop some. The scoop of ice cream alongside, though, was yummy.
Frodo Joe's Petit Cafe seems to get good marks from its patrons. The Baby Boomers said they had come in from Livermore and this was a "pleasant find" and would come back. Our table neighbor said she had been in several times and it was always good. Our final crepes came with a glass of dessert wine for each of us, and even this teetotaler sipped all of it.
The Cafe' carries several wines including Yn California wines, and a Campus Oak Zinfandel. It seems that it's okay to eat French and Thai while sipping California. My advice is to go several times, different times of the day, and relax with lunch, dinner or just a cup of coffee and a crepe. You'll be glad you did.
Frodo Joe's Le Petit Cafe
Raley's Shopping Center
38286 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont