Changing demographics around Herald Square is paving the way for more dining choices. The influx of residential development is leveling things out in an area that has been traditionally geared toward a male clientele with its plethora of sports bars and Irish bars.
Among the new dining options is Petit Poulet, a French bistro and wine bar that opened last fall. This little establishment, located in the Radisson Martinique hotel and accessible both via 32nd and 33rd street entrances, brings distinct change and some class to the area. Stavros Aktipis, one of the partners behind Petit Poulet, wanted to create a restaurant friendlier to women than what exists on the block (sports bars, a strip club).
And of course, where women go, men will follow.
The vibe is indeed warm and inviting, and the French bistro-type details are lifted right out of France—mosaic tile floor, tin ceiling, mirrors, brass, and caramel-colored mahogany wood. It’s not high end, fine French dining, and it’s not meant to be. Like the bistros in France, it’s a place where everyone is welcome to sit down to flavorful everyday fare, and at prices that won’t break the bank. The seating options are varied, consisting of some booths, tables, and bar seats.
America’s Favorite Flavor
In French, petit poulet means “little chicken.” Indeed, chicken is a specialty here—and it is downright delicious. Brined for 48 hours using aromatic herbs, sherry, organic honey, and kosher salt, it’s then rubbed with a fine herbs rub (parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon) before going into the rotisserie. It’s served with roasted potatoes on a silver platter that makes the experience quite royal. The potatoes are savory and have a crispy exterior, a perfect accompaniment. ($17.95 for half a chicken, $34.95 for a whole chicken; includes potatoes and green beans).
Chef Dave Garb likes to say chicken is America’s favorite flavor, and this version is tender, moist, and seasoned wonderfully. Aktipis hopes it will be a draw to Koreans who frequent the 32nd Street Koreatown hub. Korean crispy fried chicken is also famous in its own right.
The Petit Poulet Salad is a nice, light entrée, which lets you still have the chicken, with salad greens and cherry tomatoes, dressed with a sherry vinaigrette. The best part of the salad is probably the wedges of St. André, a triple cream cheese from Normandy.
The Atlantic salmon ($24.95) is served en papillote, a technique Garb said is not used much anymore. However, he likes to offer the guest the interactive experience of opening the paper pouch themselves. “It’s almost like opening a present,” he said. The accompanying jasmine rice pilaf is superb. Little cubes of roasted vegetables impart a lovely, rich flavor.
Both the chicken and salmon are perennial favorites, as are the daily specials, classic dishes from different parts of France. Garb said the Cassoulet ($19.95) on Tuesday, for example, always draws fans, even in the middle of summer. The dish consists of duck confit (made in-house), navy beans, garlic sausage, and applewood bacon. The Hachis Parmentier ($15.95), France’s answer to shepherd’s pie, is also popular.
For vegetarians, the Vegetable Pasta Fiore ($18.95) is a good option, with fresh saffron pasta and melted Cantal and roasted vegetables.
While these dishes best lend themselves to a leisurely meal, sandwiches and tartines are also on the menu. The wait staff is happy to let you linger as long as you like or get you in and out quickly, whatever your timeframe is.
The kitchen is open here, so you can give in to your curiosity and see what’s cooking. At the same time, Garb, mindful of the entire guest experience, keeps an eye on guests to make sure they’re well taken care of.
The wine list is helpfully broken down into flavor categories rather than varietals. You can glance down and find your pleasure: will it be fruit forward and bold? If so, maybe a Pied de Perdrix Malbec. Or something aromatic and floral? Then try a Rosé d’Anjou. The wine list is almost exclusively French, and at the table, you can order by the bottle or for some, by the glass.
Beer and champagne are also available.
It’s worth saving room for Garb’s Crème Brulée Trio ($10.95), which comes in chocolate, classic, and espresso flavors. They are delicate and rich all at once. Or if you feel like chocolate, try the Valrhona Chocolate Tarte ($7.95) with raspberry coulis and hazelnut gelato. It’s just the right amount of rich chocolate flavor with a flavor combination that’s phenomenal. If you want to end the traditional French way, have a fruit and cheese plate ($15.95), with an excellent selection of cheeses.
One thing is sure about Petit Poulet. It’s best to arrive hungry.
52 West 33rd St.
Monday through Sunday: 6:30 a.m.–11 p.m.