Petit & Keet was by far the biggest restaurant launch in Little Rock last year, and for good reason. It brought back a Little Rock legion in Louis Petit and paired him with a highly successful business owner in Jim Keet. This week (on the Friday the 18th to be exact) will be their first anniversary, so we wanted to take a look back to see how the restaurant has grown and evolved in their first year.
The first thing that struck me when previewing Petit & Keet was the overwhelming quality of their front of house staff. It was in a lot of ways a rock star group led by GM Brent Lenners filled with a number of familiar faces and industry vets.
Turn over in the restaurant world is always high, and it is especially hard to keep an opening staff. However a year later there are still a solid group from that opening team. It is still one of the best front of house teams around. I never put a lot of faith in Facebook reviews, mostly because people will always find something to complain about, but they sit at a whopping 4.9 rating. Better yet, almost every positive or neutral rating comments on the quality of service.
Their menu always benefited from being small and focused. It allowed them to execute every dish well. That has not changed at all in the year. They have had one minor menu change, swapping out six dishes (one salad, two apps, and three entrees). Instead they have focused more on weekly and daily specials to bring in seasonality. While it doesn’t always give people something to rush in the door to try, it focuses on consistency which is key for a new restaurant.
Steve Binotti taking over the head chef reigns halfway through the year seemed to be a solid move for consistency as well, especially in the overall quality of the specials. Several of the frequent specials, like the peking duck, have become my favorite here. The quality on the specials always seem to meet or exceed the core menu.
One of the areas that came as a bit of a shock is how the bar program evolved. Yes they started with a quality bar staff, however given a year to marinate together they have morphed from just a good bar staff to possibly the best overall bar program in Little Rock.
It is easily the most well rounded. The wines are very well selected with great suggestions from their on staff sommelier, the beer selection is a great representation of local and regional crafts, and the cocktails are well balanced with attention to flavor differences in brands of spirits.
Overall in the first year, Petit & Keet has shown a solid example of how to grow through consistency and strengths in the first year of a location. Now entering the second year the the trick will be to both keep the place exciting to frequently bring people back and evolve as the food scene changes. Thankfully there is solid growth in the surrounding area, something that should continue to develop that section of Rodney Parham as a destination food community.
Petit & Keet is running an anniversary celebration all week with a “special treat” for everyone who stops in.