We walked home from lunch in the Saturday sunshine, giddy and giggling, filled with wine and fresh fish and pie. I really felt like skipping, in spite of my full belly. There's really nothing is better than a great meal, a big multi-course meal, in a brand new restaurant. I love finding more places in the neighborhood that we can consider ours, even if we are behind the curve in "discovering" it. Again, no one ever said I was trendy.
La Petit Crevette is a darling nook of a restaurant with aqua walls and a handwritten menu on brown paper. The owner is the chef is the waiter is the single man who cooks your food in his tiny little kitchen for one, in plain view of the cozy 16-table main room. From the beginning of our visit, when we peeked through the blinds of the locked door and were finally let in by the above-mentioned everyman Neil Ganic (apparently famous in the Brooklyn food world from his former restaurant La Bouillabaisse), we felt like we were being welcomed into someone's private kitchen...and this Saturday afternoon at noon, we kind of were. As the restaurant's only customers (and, as always, customers with big and curious appetites), we got the VIP treatment.
As soon as we sat down at the window seat Neil asked us what we felt like eating that day, as if anything from the sea was ours to order. He ticked off a list of available fish: red snapper, cod, oysters, tuna, mussels... We started out with an order of fried oysters, small and super-hot with mustard and tartar sauce for dipping.
Next, enticed by the offer on the wall menu, we asked if he could make us grilled sardines. Why, no problem. When Neil placed the plate of three large bone-in fish in front of us, he was sure to let us know, "you know, people say it's better here than you can get in Portugal." While I have no idea if that's correct--and I would very much like to find out--these, spritzed with a little lemon, seemed perfect. Like when we ate the ginormous crispy whole fish with chiles at Sripriphai in Queens a few months ago, we had a ton of fun filleting the fish ourselves and picking the oily meat from around the tiny bones. Neil brought us two free glasses of white wine with this dish, because, "you must drink wine with fish." Well all right!
The entrees were large and filling without being a drag for the rest of the day--a tuna burger for Jeff, medium rare with a pile of decent fries, and a red snapper nicoise for me with a huge piece of flaky fish and a ton of crisp green beans.
The food was good because of its simplicity--fresh fish, nice veggies, good portions, and obvious love and care from the chef/owner/waiter/busboy. (I'm sure that he has a full staff at night. The restaurant was just voted "Best Small Fry Restaurant" in Time Out New York and Neil recently expanded his seating space into the former flower shop next door.)
And while a little research shows me that Mr. Ganic has a bit of a prickly reputation around these parts, but I'm judging by what we saw this time around... and we saw a man who loves his food. That's enough for me. This isn't the kind of meal that's fall-out-of-your-chair scrumptious, but it's the kind of meal that makes you feel warm and cared for after eating it.
Even moreso if you end with key lime pie with a crumbly crust and fresh whipped cream. Perfect.
I really preferred this feat to the typical omelette, mimosa, coffee toast brunch. Our meal didn't sit like lead in our stomachs for the rest of the day, and even better, was a lovely way to try a new place and beat the nighttime crowd. We will without a doubt be back. I already want to try the curried mussels and seared scallops next time....
La Petit Crevette
144 Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11231
(at Hicks St)