Serious Eats: New York
Date Night: Bistro Petit
You'd be forgiven for walking by Bistro Petit and thinking it's a coffee shop. Specials are written on a chalkboard above the counter, where you order. The counter-person or Chef Sung Park may serve you, or you might have to jump up and grab the plates yourself. Ten metal stools line the perimeter of the Franco-Korean restaurant, with another three tables outside. There's no bathroom and no tap water. This Franco-Korean restaurant takes David Chang's practically patented "ambitious food in an informal setting" model even further.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Bistro Petit offers a seven-course tasting menu for $90 from 3 to 7 pm. The rest of the time, you can order off a menu that blends European and Asian flavors: kimchi bouillabaisse, duck confit with pomegranate vinaigrette, handmade pasta with broccolini and fennel pepper sauce.
We began with a watermelon salad ($10), a medley of icy freshness. Cubes of watermelon sat in a pool of spicy watermelon reduction, dotted with pickled watermelon rind and grilled halloumi cheese that squeaked with each bite. If we had one complaint (and really it's just a quibble), it was that the piled up cubes didn't allow for equal seasoning of pepper and mint.
Our second appetizer was a bowl of pommes frites ($5), sprinkled with sea salt and Spanish smoked paprika. Clearly these wedges had recently been whole, clearly they had been lovingly dunked and fried. We used up every drop of the licking-the-pot-worthy hickory smoked ketchup.
Next came the Kobe burger ($13) topped with kimchi (an extra $1.50), a fist of protein on a soft bun. You can also add foie gras ($9) or a fried egg ($1), avocado ($1) or bacon ($1.5). But we digress: this burger is commendable on its own, juicy and beefy. The size and shape make it a bit awkward to eat, but also generate legitimate reasons to pull the old you-have-a-little-something-right-here move on your date.
If you fear that choosing a dainty little foodie haven named Bistro Petit makes you look more precious than you'd like, order the lamb shank ($17). There's nothing quite like gnawing on a giant bone hanging out of a cast iron pot to demonstrate your lack of inhibition. A dollop of basil mint pistou lends freshness and coolness to the dish, and so tender is the meat that a hard stare will cut it loose.
Bistro Petit has two "inspiration" Tumblrs: one for gents and one for gals. The former offers little books labeled "field notes" and denim shirts, while the latter shows shots of Parisian gardens and women hugging flowers or shaggy dogs. Luckily the food doesn't discriminate in quite so obvious a way. Drawing a straight line to what's French and what's Korean makes for a boring evening. Better to hunch on your stool and gobble up what you've ordered. With its excellent, creative offerings and surprising, in-the-know setting, Bistro Petit is best for: a date you'd like to wow.
About the authors: Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler have been eating out together since 2002 and writing We Heart New York since 2006.