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Big flavor in a ‘petit’ package

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Great things come in small packages.

Petit Oven in Bay Ridge is cozy, to say the least. A tight cluster of two- and four-top tables barely seats 30, with minimal wiggle room. A refined menu of classic French dishes is brief — it needs to be, considering there’s usually only one person working all the burners.

That would be chef/owner Katarzyna “Kat” Ploszaj, whose shock of white-blonde hair is easily identifiable from the dining area as she navigates her (petite) kitchen — alternately shucking oysters, rolling fresh pasta, reducing buerre blanc, slow baking salmon, searing free-range chicken, and dishing up wedges of her famous bread pudding with salted caramel.

It’s a game-changer for Bay Ridge’s Restaurant Row, which, despite being a long-time contender in Italian, Middle Eastern, and classic American cuisine was a bit behind on local and seasonal when Petit Oven opened four and a half years ago.

“I’ve lived in Bay Ridge for over 14 years, so I knew, when I finally opened my own restaurant, I wanted it to be here,” Ploszaj said.

“I was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute, I grew up on a farm in Poland, knowing where my food came from — I remember my grandfather butchering a whole pig to make kielbasa,” she continued.

“Although no one was doing this kind of food at the time in Bay Ridge — local, seasonal, changing the menu every day, I trusted that people in this neighborhood cared about where their food was coming from too.”

At Petit Oven, customers can count on DeBragga and D’artagnan meats, Amish chickens, Finger Lakes Farms dairy, and greenmarket vegetables — Ploszaj even has Swiss Chard and other goodies grown for her at the Narrows Botanical Gardens on Shore Road.

And although it’s difficult to predict what permutations those ingredients might take on Petit Oven’s ever-evolving menu (flash-smoked duck breast, roasted marrow bones and sweet potato gnocchi one week might become billi bi, coq au vin, and fettuccini with forest mushrooms the next), a growing number of regulars lie in wait for particular dishes — placing calls to Ploszaj for a hint of when they might again make the menu.

“I have a very big pork belly following,” laughs Ploszaj. “I have people contacting me about it from Staten Island. Especially our play on pork and beans — slow braised pork belly brined for 48 hours, Asian-influenced bean cassoulet, and some nice local sautéed kale.”

Not that you should revert to a can of Heinz if that pork belly is a Petit Oven no-show — this recipe is easy enough to make in your own little kitchen at home.

Pork belly and beans

Courtesy of Chef Kat Ploszaj

For the Pork belly:

Pork belly

1 cup sugar

1 cup salt

2 tblsp. whole peppercorns

Score the fat side of the pork belly. Rub in the sugar, salt, and peppercorns, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Rinse the pork belly and pat dry. Season with a little salt, sugar and ground black pepper.

Put in a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.

Bake at 300 degrees for three hours, or until the meat pulls away easily with a fork. Add more water if necessary.

Raise the temperature to 375, and bake until the pork belly is a deep golden brown.

For the Bean Cassoulet

1 bag dried white beans (soak overnight In water)

1 carrot

1 small onion

2 celery ribs

1 can of whole tomatoes

3 bay leaves

Salt/pepper

Cook the beans and vegetables in water until tender. Do not salt until the end.

1 stalk of celery, finely diced

1 shallot, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced

1 tsp. sesame oil

2 tblsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. Nam Pla (fish sauce)

Combine with the beans right before serving.

Petit Oven [276 Bay Ridge Ave. at Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, (718) 833-3443].

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Reader Feedback

Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
Wow! Food sounds great! Never noticed this place; will def check it out.
March 9, 2012, 9:19 am
86er from The Ridge says:
I've tried this place a few times and I give them kudos for definitely doing something different in the area.

The problem is that the service is awful. Long waits for food and snobby service. I'd expect this from a Manhattan restaurant, which this place clearly is aiming for. However, it's all for naught if the food is so mediocre by Manhattan standards.

Also, prices are on par with Manhattan restaurants - but the tastes just aren't there.

On my last venture to Le Petit Oven I asked to have my meat cooked medium-well and I was REFUSED!

Haven't been back since.
March 14, 2012, 11:32 am
Kara from New York says:
This place is absolutely amazing. Have yet to try anything that wasn't delicious. Never sent back anything I had and never saw anyone either.

Service is fantastic! Not overbearing. Attentive. Friendly. Great suggestions.

The chef won't cook her duck breast above medium, and I'm glad she won't! She stands by her convictions about the food! If you ask, she'll explain that the duck breast becomes tough and changes color if you cook it over medium. So if you don't want a chef who gives a crap about how your food tastes and appears, go somewhere else where they'll ruin it for you.

And by the way, the duck breast is absolutely delicious. I order it almost every time I go in to eat. I can't help it.

The menu changes weekly, sometimes daily. It's seasonal and the ingredients are always fresh. You can tell there's love and thought put into every bite at Petit Oven.

They also have a great wine list. Really fantastic. It changes a lot too.

You can't beat the $35 3 course tasting menu. It's a steal with the quality of the food you're being served.

Also, since there's only 1 chef in the kitchen, the wait between courses can be a little longer, but it's soo worth it.

I love this place. It is one of my favorite spots! I'll be a loyal customer for as long as they're there!
Jan. 30, 2013, 5:38 pm

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