La Petite France; Lava 

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La Petite France

At La Petite France, Chef Paul Elbling has presided over the kitchen for 30 years. It's French and much is traditional, but much also fits our new way of eating.

The extensive regular menu has a fair number of classics, many updated, including its signature dish of sautéed Dover sole. And of course there is escargot, lobster bisque and onion soup, among a dozen other ways to start ($4.25 - $12.50).

The entrée selection ($17.50 - $29.50) is extensive — almost two dozen between the regular and special menus, from sole to lamb shank. The filet mignon of Virginia bison with shiitake mushrooms and a rich brown sauce was almost fork tender and quite delicious. A grilled tuna steak with traditional Provencal flavorings was also on the mark.

A dinner like this needs a soothing conclusion and there are many desserts ($7.95 - $12.95). The soufflés ($12.95) are a house specialty, but I was perfectly content with a house-made lemon sorbet with fresh blueberries.

The wine list is extensive and interesting, particularly with wines from Chef Paul's native Alsace. If you enjoy good food in splendid surroundings and have never been to La Petite France, go celebrate.


The promise of "fiery atmosphere, fiery food" at Lava fizzles almost as soon as you pass through the greasy-handprint-smudged glass doors. In the front you've got a bar/lounge/dance floor, in the back is the dining room — an enormous space dotted with 25 bare-topped tables and a handful of booths.

For starters, we tried two of the featured appetizers: fried calamari ($5.50), and bruschetta ($5). The main meal consisted of a pork chop ($12) that tasted like a hot dog. The chef plated it up on top of roasted red potatoes and green beans. Another choice was the meatloaf ($11) described on the menu as "certified Angus beef." They might think about adding "and twice as much filler" to that description. What else is on the menu? Seafood pasta ($13), grilled salmon ($13), filet mignon ($18), chicken pasta ($10) and crŠme br–lée ($6). At least it's not terribly expensive.

The food is average at best, and not worth the trip, the time or the dollars. Lava has a big, soulless dining room with a big kitchen, lots of freezer space, limited skill on the line and an emphasis on quantity over


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