Step Out of the Big City Into Petite Crevette
Before expanding into the flower shop next door, Tres Petite Crevette would have been a better-suited name for the dinghy-size restaurant on Union Street in Carroll Gardens. The original room is but a handful of tables. The fish-centric menu and brick walls, clustered with photos and sea relics, make Petite Crevette the sort of place you'd expect to stumble into off a boardwalk—no shirt, no shoes, no problem.
If you choose to dine in the former flower shop, you'll want to inhale and/or duck on your way over, as the naval theme extends to the cramped quarters. Petite Crevette dropped anchor in 2005, but it feels like the restaurant has been there forever.
The menu is of the chalk-and-blackboard variety, hanging in multiple places throughout the restaurant. It is not aggressively seasonal, as you'll always find a tomato and mozzarella salad on the menu, and come late summer, I'll try it out. Corn Crab Chowder ($8) is another story. Summer corn might take the dish to new heights, but my early spring bowl was enough to send me straight to balmy days. The chowder was sweet and light, not overworked with cream, and had a subtle richness from lump crab.
There's a Haricot Vert Salad ($8), done simply with mesclun and a handful of beans, blanched quickly so as to heighten their stark green and not diminish the sharp snap. More simplicity followed with a plate of Fried Oysters ($12). They come six to an order, the crispy, briny bivalves softened under a spritz of lemon. You have the option of going the rich route, dipping the oysters in a splash of creamy aioli, or bringing more excitement to the palate with a smear of tangy whole grain mustard. The oysters are bite-size, but you'll want to nibble to make them last longer.
Google Petite Crevette and you'll learn about flying lobster. Not just the bar owner Neil Ganic opened on the corner three years ago of the same name, but the incident that inspired it. As the story goes, a table complained about the condition of their lobster in a bowl of Cioppino ($25). Twice. Mr. Ganic came out from the kitchen with a live lobster and enthusiastically ensured the guests of the crustacean's freshness. Then he banned them from the restaurant.
The outbursts may have subsided, but the freshness hasn't. Half a lobster crowns a bowl overflowing with mussels, shrimp, and scallops—all of it steeped in a clean, savory tomato sauce fortified with white wine and butter. The shrimp seemed slightly overcooked, but I wasn't about to say anything.
New York would be a better city if every neighborhood had a Petite Crevette. The menu caters to each and all. It's BYOB too, with a mere $5 corkage fee. And what better time than now to transition from robust, wintry reds to lighter whites and crisp rosés. Go coastal when you go to Petite Crevette. Take a briny Ligurian Pigato, Albarino from northwest Spain, or look further north in Europe to Provence for rosé. It'll help you feel removed from the bustle of the city. Uncork, unwind, and pretend the whir of traffic coming from the nearby BQE is the sound of waves crashing.