“Superette?” one of my dining partners asked quizzically when I recited the name of the restaurant we were heading to in Carroll Gardens. “Super 8?” queried another.
Granted, Sue Perette is an unusual name for a restaurant—doubly so for a restaurant that serves French food. Then again an air of whimsy informs this two-year-old Smith Street bistro. Just inside the front door on your left is a second door—that leads nowhere. A few steps beyond that is a more functional objet, a solid wood church pew, that provides actual seating. The hanging light fixtures that softly brighten the space almost look as though they were a product of arts and crafts class on the day when the media were construction paper and scissors.
Sue Perette’s owner, Benoit Rouan, was raised in the south of France, where he was taught to cook by his mother and grandmother. Though his menu largely reflects his remembrance of things past, it betrays a secondary passion for American culinary tradition, especially that of the Deep South. Duck confit shows up in the company of a buttermilk biscuit. Andouille sausage appears in a supporting role in some of his edible creations, and chewy New Orleans-style beignets make an appearance at dessert some night. When in Rome.
The delicious beet napoleon listed among the starters has both feet firmly planted in French soil. (Its name, too: It is given as “beets napoleon.”) Picture a small mountain of intensely creamy goat cheese mousse, its crown capped by slivers of roasted beet, its foothills rimmed in toasted walnuts. Raclette, rarely seen in these parts, is also strictly sur le livre—a puddle of fragrant nutty melted cheese draped over tiny boiled potatoes, flanked by strips of excellent, salty country ham.
There is a very nice steak tartare served with good potato salad, but the accompanying “add-ins” are a misguided step away from orthodoxy. The role of the raw egg yolk is played by balsamic vinegar, the cornichons by olives, the minced red onion by nothing. It still makes for a rousing appetizer, especially if you mix a little of the strong mustard and capers into the minced raw filet—just not what the name connotes.
A single fish of the day on some days is snapper. An impeccably fresh section of the fish arrives under a hash of cauliflower and andouille, topped in turn by a thicket of deep-fried root vegetable curls. The plate is decorated with spatters of tangy beurre rouge.
The aforementioned confit is meltingly tender, its richness offset by a compote of stone fruits. It appears again as a featured player, along with a cube of pork belly and a length of sausage, in Sue Perette’s very good rendition of cassoulet.
You can cap your meal on some nights with a perfectly respectable chocolate and pistachio torte, and the profiteroles are not bad. But when it is offered, you’d be making a grave mistake if you passed up the deconstructed warm apple tarte—sheets of crispy phyllo and heavily cinnamoned stewed apples, ankle deep in a gentle custard. Those beignets work just fine, especially when partnered with the splendid chestnut ice cream the kitchen churns out.
The restaurant’s name? In part it’s a tribute to Benoit’s culinary muses, both of whom were named Suzanne. Also, France apparently does have superettes, though I betcha theirs don’t carry Fleer Dubble Bubble.
Sue Perette, 270 Smith Street, bet DeGraw and Sackett Sts, Brooklyn, 718-643-2861. Open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch. Price range at dinner: $6 to $18 for first courses, $15 to $28 for main courses, $5 to $7 for desserts. Major credit cards are accepted.
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