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and Finger Lakes wine.
The elevator pitch: Boy meets girl at Williamsburg's Ephronesque Bistro Petit. Boy loses girl. Boy reunites with girl at the bistro on Christmas eve as it starts to snow. Could be boy meets boy, too, or girl meets girl. No matter. But before we get to the closing credits, let's try to scare you off the place.
The restaurant isn't much bigger than a Dodge Caravan and it's far less comfortable— the chairs are metal stools, the tables are counters. You have to go through the kitchen to use the bathroom. You want water? You buy it, no tap water served. When the stools are all taken, there may be only 10 or so guests, but it's crowded.
What Bistro Petit has, though, is the talented and thoughtful chef Sung Park. Talented, thoughtful and protean. He'll greet you, discuss the menu, take your order, cook for you. And what he cooks will make you among the luckiest eaters in town that night.
Born in Seoul into the third generation of a restaurant family, Park staked out his own path, adding exciting and unexpected layers of flavor to French food with Asian ingredients. The thing to order if you only come here once is the bouillabaisse. Even if Marseilles does not cook with kimchi, its addition to the impeccably fresh seafood stew, along with rice gnocchi, kelp and tofu, creates a dish that would drive the French crazy—it's that good.
Expect more Gallic apoplexy with the Korean beef Bourguignon. Those are fighting words, surely ('How can it be Korean if it is Bourguignon?'), yet the cross-pollination seems perfectly comme il faut. Though Park's heirloom tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella and basil puree does add papadum to the mix, it's the quality of the star ingredients and perfect balance that makes the familiar memorable.
As a rule, we avoid ordering savory dishes with watermelon (same with pineapple) since those fruits normally don't play well with others. But Park makes good use of what is essentially crunchy water: to stacked cubes of the fruit he adds pickled watermelon rind, a spicy watermelon reduction, mint and grilled haloumi cheese. We would have bet against this working and we would have lost—it's just what you want when the thermometer is above 80. When it's below 80, the tender lamb shank atop a turnip puree (standing in for whipped potato) would like to be eaten with a Gigondas or perhaps a California Zin (wine is BYO).
The Kobe burger is a popular choice and you should absolutely have one order, at least, of the anchovy frites, which come with a citrus harissa-like dipping sauce. How pasta got into this French-Korean love affair is an open question; the smoky fettuccine, with braised ham hock, arugula and kimchi is definitive that the chef's skills cross all borders. What's next, seafood and scallion flammkuchen? (Actually, that sounds pretty good.)
There's only one choice for dessert, one in which fetching cinnamon beignets meet a dashing espresso gelato. They live happily ever after, of course.
Bistro Petit, 774 Driggs [S. 3rd] 718.782.2582
[Main image courtesy of Bistro petit; article images by Todd Barndollar]
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