If you're among the gastronomic skeptics who consider the phrase fast food as an oxymoron that ranks up there with "military intelligence," Petite France might well change your mind.
Consider: Grilled chicken in a pithy lime caper sauce, served with a side of fresh steamed vegetables and a choice of pasta, rice or a roll, for $3.95. More in the mood for seafood? Check out the prawns sauteed with cilantro sauce for $4.95.
If you want to pull out all the stops, try the beef bourguignon in a red wine sauce for $4.25. Or if you're truly a big spender, sample the New York steak with herb or shallot sauce--that's a hefty $5.95.
In all, Petite France's menu offers four chicken entrees, three beef, one pork, three fish and two with prawns--all but the New York steak are under $5. There are also three modest salads available.
About the only giveaways that this store-front stand is a low-budget operation are the foam serving trays and plastic utensils. The quality of the food is light years beyond the nearest Happy Star.
The reason is that Petite France is run by a Vietnamese family that has paid 10 years of dues in a number of French restaurants, including Au Chambertin in Santa Monica.
The best dish I've had was a filet of trout in a champagne sauce, although the champagne sauce has been supplanted by a pink sauce with the trout on the recently revamped menu.
Located in a shopping center at Harbor and Newport Boulevards, Petite France has been open less than a year and already has gone through a name change as a result of a split in the business partnership. (Originally it was "Poulet de France," a name the other partner has taken to Newport Beach.)
The owners have applied for a beer-wine license to supplement their modest soft drink list and plan to expand the operation by opening a full-service restaurant in Santa Ana by the end of the year.
Petite France, 1835 Newport Blvd., Suite D-156, Costa Mesa. Open daily, except Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (714) 650-9363.