When Petit & Keet opened their doors close to a year and a half ago in the location now known as West Village, the first thing that struck me was the menu approach. It was a very small menu for the size of the restaurant, focusing on making every dish very good within a narrow range rather than making a wide range of dishes that would accommodate a variety of folks.
In many ways, it was the opposite side of the pendulum from the big menu places. Initially, they wanted to do a strong seasonal rotation, but for a menu that demands perfection in each dish that is easier said than done. Now 17 months later, their first real menu change shows their commitment to patients in development is the way to go in menu updates.
It is a significant menu design that has been carefully worked, refined, and adjusted over time to keep with the small and perfected approach. Well over half the menu is new or updated, but it still feels much like nothing dramatically new. There is a good reason for it.
“We have taken the approach of working new menu items through as specials, gathering constant feedback and refining along the way,” executive chef Steve Binotti says. “It gives us the ability to perfect a dish that once on the menu people are going to instantly love, and one that fits into the spirit of who we are at Petit & Keet.”
A great example is the new Juniper Glazed Duck Confit. This is a wing and thigh cut matched with a juniper glaze on top of a bed of wild rice and sweet potatoes. Over the past year I’ve watched them rotate several duck specials through using different preparation styles and cuts until finally, they landed on the wing and thigh, then they worked that multiple ways until they found the right combo. It is the level of refinement and feedback that is hard to find in many restaurants.
They also did not stray far from past success. The hot chicken sandwich was a crowd favorite, and from the very first time in, it was a favorite of all of our staff here. Even though that sandwich is now a thing of the past, the replacement is as good or better all around. The Korean Fried Chicken still brings the heat, and along with the kimchi slaw, makes a nice well-rounded sandwich. If you love the old, you will love the new, and the refinement of flavors goes up a notch in the process.
Even though they do not try to please everyone, there are a few dishes that are wildly flexible on the menu. The veggie risotto, for instance, is a nice dish that the vegetarian crowd is going to likely love. But if that is not your thing, you can quickly make it carnivore friendly by throwing meat on top, in fact, they encourage it if meat is your thing. Try some blacked shrimp from the Shrimp Avacado Tango or better some of the oxtail from the mac and cheese that we will talk about in a minute. The dish is good on its own, but an even better base for your own creation.
That Oxtail Mac and Cheese just mentioned, however, is the show stopper of the new menu. Maybe I am just a sucker for mac and cheese (I am), but it is going to be my go-to dish. This is no side dish mac and cheese, it is a full meal. It starts with cavatappi pasta, aged cheddar cheese, and roasted poblanos. They then throw house made adobo oxtail on top and pickled red onion. The end result is very likely the best mac and cheese in Little Rock.
Such a big overhaul it is interesting to see that the spirit of the menu doesn’t change at all. If you loved it before, you are going to love it now, you are just going to have all new things to fall in love with. Knowing their approach it also makes it even more fun to watch the specials over time and how they change and develop into new dishes. It helps a small menu stay fresh and interesting, even less adventurous eaters can be more confident to explore every item when you know each is thoughtfully refined and created.