Knork and Fork sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Okay, without making you all too nauseous, Knork and Fork wanted to do something special for their anniversary, but Knork wanted to stay close to home and Fork wanted an adventure. The perfect solution was Le Petit Oven. Located just off Third Avenue on 69th Street in Bay Ridge, this restaurant is truly a hidden gem that Fork is so happy to have FINALLY discovered!
We had passed this lovely 11 table restaurant many, many times, always looking in the window and drooling over the wonderful menu in the window. Had we ever gone in? Nope. Must have been tarnish clouding the senses.
Sitting and watching Chopped one night before our big event, we were delighted and surprised to see Kat Ploszaj, the chef and co-owner of Le Petit Oven, as one of the contestants (she didn’t win, but she should have!). This was a sign. It had to be. This would be the place.
We didn’t have a reservation, and now after Chopped, you really should make one, but we were early enough to be able to get a table. Kat’s partner and co-owner Nicole Guarino is so friendly and welcoming that you instantly feel like family. As we sat and looked at the menu, we watched other diners stroll in. They were almost all greeted by name. We chatted amongst the tables while looking at the menu. They have a great selection of beer and a wonderful wine list. Nicole is very knowledgable about wines and can help with any pairing. AS we overheard her say, she won’t serve any wine she wouldn’t be happy to drink herself.
The menu changes constantly, depending on what motivates Kat when she goes to the markets. It is amazing to watch her in the kitchen – alone – cooking and smiling. You can see the passion on her face and you can certainly taste it in her food.
There is a three course tasting menu available for $35 (a serious bargain) or you can order a la carte. Either way, you are in for a true treat.
For starters, Knork order Duck Spring Rolls. What arrived were four small spring rolls. Golden brown on the outside, crispy crunchy in texture. Knork eyed them suspiciously, thinking ‘they are so small’ – no, this was not said aloud, but after all these years I can see the squirrels running on the treadmill and know what is going on in that head. But just one bite and that look disappeared. They were out of this world. Filled with tender duck, deep fried to absolute perfection. A sweet chili sauce was served on the side to dip the spring rolls into. They may have been small in size but they really packed a lot of flavor.
Before taking our order, Nicole told us about some changes and substitutions on the menu. One of the things substituted was the soup – which is okay, Fork doesn’t like soup. What was offered in its place was Patata Con Chorizo. It sounded too intriguing to pass up. And we were right. What arrived was a stew-like bowlful of warm and spicy and flavorful. In the thick and tomato-y base were chunks of potatoes, onions, and spicy chorizo. It was so simple and so complex at the same time. There was a lovely smokiness to the dish, but still had a bright freshness to it. Minced chives were sprinkled on top. Fork wanted to grab the bowl and a loaf of bread and sit alone greedily sopping up what was left in the bowl. You will be happy to know, Fork refrained.
Truth be told, at this point both Knork and Fork wanted the same entrée. Does Knork not understand the concept of ordering different things so as many dishes as possible can be tried? More level tines prevailed and two entrees were ordered.
Knork ordered the Skirt Steak. What arrived were perfectly cooked, thin slices of skirt steak. The seasoning was slightly Oriental and really good. The steak was served over white asparagus and a tiny dice of carrots. To make this even more perfect was the soy glaze on the plate. It was – well, umami is the word that comes to mind, so does delicious and more please. The down side of this dish was the crispy potato pancake. It was SO salty it was inedible. The potatoes were great. The crispiness was great. The flavor itself was great. But the salt content – oh, my, my, my.
Must say, though, everything else was so wonderful that they get a total pass for the potato pancake. What’s a little salt between friends?
Fork ordered the Pork Belly. This was the dish that Fork spied each time Le Petit Oven was passed, each time the menu was looked at online. Before even walking in Fork knew this was a dish that had to be ordered. And there was absolutely no disappointment about this dish. Everything at Le Petit Oven is beautifully plated. A lot of attention to detail goes into each dish and how the food looks on the plate. This dish was no exception. There were layers of flavor and goodness, each different and excellent on their own, that all worked deliciously together. At the bottom was a layer of mashed potatoes; creamy, buttery, rich, perfect. On top of the potatoes was an Asian flavored slaw. Light, refreshing, and cutting through the richness of the potatoes and pork belly. And, let’s not forget the star of this dish, the pork belly. This was a very generous slab of pork belly, very tender in the center, not too ridiculously fatty like a lesser quality of pork belly would be, all leading up to a wonderfully crispy top. This was a little slab-o-heaven.
As always, there has to be room for dessert. There were two desserts that night. Didn’t that make selection fairly simple? I let Knork go first – although Fork already knew what Knork would order – so that two different desserts would land on our table.
Fork ordered the Panna Cotta. The panna cotta was thyme infused and seriously silky. The thyme was just a background note, but it added so much to this simple, elegant dish. The panna cotta was served on top of a mixed berry compote. Not too sweet, fresh and fruity, simple and a perfect accompaniment for the panna cotta. And just when you think your mouth is as happy as it can be, your spoon scoops up a bit of mango puree and you suddenly have an extra layer of flavor from a burst of tart sunshine. The mango absolutely shot this dessert over the moon. So simple, so fabulous.
Knork ordered Bread Pudding. A lovely square of bread pudding arrived. Fork wanted to dive into the bowl (more restraint). Not soggy at all, as many bread puddings can be. The bread pudding sat in a luscious pool of caramel. Just the right amount of burnished, sweet buttery caramel to play with the rich denseness of the bread pudding. Sprinkle toasted chopped pecans on top and a dollop of freshly whipped cream and you are in dessert heaven.
This was without a doubt the best one of the best meals Fork has eaten while out to dinner in Bay Ridge in a long time – heck, while out to dinner in Brooklyn in a long time!
The food is delicious. The service warm and inviting. The music is great. If it weren’t for that pesky check at the end you would have thought you were sitting and sharing a meal with friends. We all chatted between courses, talking about the neighborhood and the restaurant. We all craned our necks as beautiful dishes came out of the kitchen to see what each ordered, and much time describing dished to each other so we were all able to share in each other’s experience.
Le Petit Oven is open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Do yourself a favor, try this restaurant, your taste buds will thank you. Maybe we’ll see you there – we’ll be the ones ooh-ing and aah-ing in the corner!