Tucked away just off the intersection where Third Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue meet in Brooklyn is a small storefront one can easily walk by without noticing. The storefront’s awning blends into the surrounding environment making it less noticeable, but stepping through its doorway reveals a small, cozy restaurant with low lighting and an understated decor. It’s the neighborhood’s French cafe, called the Petit Oven. Still unknown to many in the area, Petit Oven is where local foodies are found enjoying a meal, a glass of wine and the company of other fellow foodies. I met two friends for dinner on Wednesday night, which happened to be when Petit Oven offers a tasting menu that includes an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. My friends enjoy red wine, so we started our meal off with a bottle of Chateau Pascaud, 2007, a medium-bodied red bordeaux.
The regular menu offers an a la carte selection which includes its signature dish, smoked duck and signature dessert, bread pudding with salty caramel and walnuts. The menu is seasonal and changes every few months, but since the duck is guaranteed to be on the menu, I opted for the tasting menu so I could try a dish that might not be offered when I make it back. My dinner selection included a winter green salad with heritage beets and goat cheese (goat cheese makes anything taste good), free range chicken with polenta, and for dessert I’d expected to try the bread pudding (the salty caramel sounded too good to turn down).
Now, a little background on the neighborhood. Bay Ridge is very diverse offering almost any cuisine you can think of. Italian restaurants, pizzerias, Chinese dine-in and take-out spots, and diners dominate the neighborhood, and mixed into the landscape are restaurants that include Vietnamese, Latin, Halal Chinese, Greek, Mexican and Japanese cuisine to name a few. Oh, let’s not forget the Indian, Spanish, Lebanese and Turkish cuisine to be found in the area as well. So there are options in this small section of Brooklyn but, in my opinion, about half of them bomb when it comes to food quality or service. There is one diner I will never order eggs in because they are always served rubbery and the french fries are always undercooked. How an established diner can consistently ruin eggs and french fries still baffles me, but maybe people out there really don’t mind as much. Disappointing, but like any dedicated foodie, I’ve identified the restaurants worth frequenting, so all is not lost in this little culinary haven. Of the remaining restaurants, not one has embodied the concept of a seasonal menu the way Petit Oven has. Finally, a restaurant a true foodie can find herself comfortable in! I was excited about the tasting menu because I would finally know if the Petit Oven was worth adding to my list of worthy restaurants.
Here’s how dinner went down:
The winter greens were a perfect starter and, being a reformed beet-hater, I found myself enjoying the heritage beets the most. They were light and sweet and added a delicate flavor to the greens, and every so often the goat cheese would add a creamy texture to the salad. The chicken and polenta were surprisingly light. I had expected the polenta to be heavy, creamy, and extremely fattening. “Less fattening” is how I described the polenta to my friend with a smile on my face as I realized this was one meal I would not have to feel guilty about enjoying. We both ordered the same dish and were pleasantly surprised by the fact that the polenta was not extra rich. On to dessert!
Now the tragic part of this post: the bread pudding with salty caramel had sold out! Yes, it’s so popular that the Petit Oven ran out for the night and I missed out on it. So, instead we opted for the banana crepes and eggnog brulee. The crepe was light, thin and topped with banana and chocolate. A perfect end to the meal if the eggnog brulee had not made its way to the table. Eggnog flavor is very tricky to incorporate into food and there have been a few times where I’ve tried an eggnog flavored product only to regret it, so I had my reservations about the eggnog brulee. How did the eggnog brulee hold up? It was very good! Just the right amount of eggnog flavor balanced the richness of the cream making it my favorite dessert of the night. If I couldn’t have the bread pudding, the brulee made up for it.
The verdict on the Petit Oven: yea…but ask them to reserve some bread pudding for you!