Date Night: Needham

Eiffel Tower - New Year's Eve I
Image by luvmonkey via Flickr

How does the sound of flavorful french food at a reasonable price, in the handy location of Needham center strike you?

And how does it sound if the restaurant is the next generation of a dining establishment once known in Boston for its superb french cooking, originally located in Boston’s old city hall?

You’d be sure to check it out, right?

Well, a group of us had originally made New Year’s Eve plans to check out Le Petit Robert Bistro in Needham on Chapel St., but due to the inclement weather cancelled and rescheduled for the following weekend.

The result?

Depends upon who you ask.

Though we had a rather late reservation at 8:30 pm for a party of 6 on a Saturday night, the place was packed when we arrived.  There was no host/hostess to be found and a pile of folks waited by the front door to check in.

It took over 5 minutes for an employee to make his way to the bar area which greets you immediately upon entering the french bistro, and when approached by a prospective diner with no reservations, he threw his hands up in the air and said there was no way they were getting in there tonight without reservations and in fact, people weren’t leaving their tables so good luck to everyone, the manager would have to take care of it.

When said manager did finally appear, we were immediately seated, coats in tow, having witnessed the debacle in the coats’ area where patrons’ coats were falling on the floor and departing folks couldn’t find their coats.

But when eating at this small, tightly packed and configured restaurant, there is no room for bulky winter coats.  In fact, there is not much room to maneuver, period.

Our party was squeezed into a corner banquette, up against another party of 4, and I mean squeezed.  So much so that members of our group immediately began complaining about restaurants that destroy the dining experience by jamming in tables and customers.

And it was hot.  The seating at the front of Le Petit Robert takes a hit of cold, gusty blasts of wind every time the front door opens so it seemed the heat was going full blast to counteract chilled digits up front.  But if you were seated in the back, it was a roaring blast furnace.

There’s a chalk board with a spotlight listing plats du jour.  If seated directly below the daily specials, you too are treated to sitting under the spotlight all evening while the rest of the table is in very dim light adding to menu woes.

The menus were hard to see, that is if you got a menu.  For some inexplicable reason our party of 6 was handed just 3 menus so we had to double up to peruse the menu.

We started out with lobster bisque and escargots.  Both dishes were perfectly fine, but nothing special.  The escargots were small and not in the shell with a very bland sauce purported to be bourguignon.

The bisque was heavy on the cream and light on the lobster.

Selected entrees included tilapia, skirt steak with pommes frites, sole, lamb shank, and lobster macaroni.  Pot-au-feu was also ordered.

The sole was terrific and the lobster mac was fine, but again not really tasty.  The cheese sauce was very bland with a few small bits of lobster.  The tilapia and skirt steak were mediocre.  The pot-au-feu was decidedly not a hit, but the lamb shank was tasty!

Lamb Shank and Merguez Sausage with Garlicky White Beans Hits the Spot!

Warm, crusty bread accompanied the meal.

The martinis are icy cold and filled to the brim, resulting in perfect renditions of your martini of choice.

Petit Robert Bistro

*photo courtesy Boston Magazine

The service…well we’d read the reviews on Open Table when making our reservation, and we were aware that Le Petit Robert Bistro is still working out the kinks in this regard, and I have to say they clearly have their work cut out for them.

Service is tenuous at best.  Not enough menus…  Our waiter simply threw out to the table, “What’ll you guys have?”

No charm…

It’s tough for the wait staff to serve at the cramped tables so for instance the water guy only managed to refill our glasses once after being signaled frequently.

Believe me, you’ll not choose this restaurant for the service, the dining atmosphere, or the gourmet food…at least for now.

But it is a bistro, and the food’s perfectly fine…just not the kind of meal you’ll rave about.

That having been said though, I will rave about the sole and lamb shanks…they are quite compelling dishes!

There are two Boston locations in addition to the Needham site and fans of Petit Robert Bistro swear by these hotspots.  With time and effort, Needham should soon join their illustrious brethren.

I will certainly be back.  This time around I didn’t try any of the desserts but the selections look tres yummy!

Citron Tart Brulee … Crepes Suzette … Crème Caramel … Colossal Profiterole

And the prices are great.  It’s a very reasonable bill of fare.  Owner Jacky Robert’s intent is to keep all entrees under $20!

And the martinis are worthy of James Bond.

And the location is terrific.  No long drive into downtown Boston with its exorbitant parking fees.

And the Eiffel Tower outside the restaurant is  really rather cute…

BostonKayakGuy awards Le Petit Maison Robert in Needham a 3 paddle rating!


Petit Robert Bistro, Needham:

45 Chapel St.
Needham, MA 02492

Phone: 781-559 0532 | Text listing to mobile

There are 2 other Petit Robert locations:

480 Columbus Ave.
Boston, MA 02215

Phone: 617-867-0600 | Text listing to mobile

468 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215

Phone: 617-375 0699 | Text listing to mobile



Top Real Estate Agent for more than 14 years, serving the real estate needs of Wellesley, South Natick, Weston, Needham, Wayland, Newton, Framingham and other MetWest communities.


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Century 21 Commonwealth


BostonKayakGuy…The MetWest Scene

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