A Bistro Named Sue

01/20/2010 5:30 AM |

Sue Perette
270 Smith St.,w 718- 643-2861

Price Range: $26-$38 Rating: 4 out of 5 L’s

On a street crawling with cutesy bistros, in a borough where yammering about the origin and upbringing of each lardon and Brussel sprout is de rigueur, Sue Perette‘s unpretentious atmosphere, no-nonsense service, and hearty French fare is a welcome surprise. At last, there’s an upscale restaurant on Smith that’ll charm the dudes who’d rather be at Wing Bar across the street.

The restaurant’s name is play on “superette,” a French countryside market offering local produce and homemade charcuterie. It also pays homage to the owner’s grandmothers, both of whom were named Susanne. The stick-to-your-ribs cooking here would make any French grand-mere proud: crusty bread is served with tubs of both butter and pork lard, and the richly sweet preserved tomatoes are brought to the table in a small mason jar. Thick polenta fries are paired with a bright parsley aioli, and the mille feuille, which translates to “a thousand leaves,” is a savory Napoleon: buttery puff pastry leaves layered with creamy goat cheese and crisp-tender asparagus.

While the food is comforting and grandmotherly, the space is unfussy. Slim Sue Perette is widened by a mirrored wall, which may have been left behind by the previous occupant, the clubby Cafe Dore. The exposed brick on the opposite wall is strewn with a mishmash of amateur art. A couple of tall bar tables keep things very casual, and a group seating area in the back seems perfect for slightly rowdy grown-up birthday parties. The prices are on par with spendy neighborhood favorites like Chesnut, Saul, and the Grocery, but hoodies are welcome here.

The spry and likable server works the room in a tight tee over a button-down shirt, cracking jokes as he pours three glasses of wine at a four-top… and getting distracted by another table before filling the fourth. Tell him you’re having trouble choosing between the pork shank on the regular menu and the rack of lamb special, and without hesitation, he calls out “Lamb!” and scribbles it down like he’s acing a pop quiz. Instead of waxing poetic about the falling-off-the-bone mutton or its colorful side of mashed blue fingerling potatoes, he says matter-of-factly, “The lamb’s a special. You can come back for the pork.” You’ll thank him later for bossing you into this.

You’ll also be back for the solid selection of draft beers and the huge portion of perfectly rare strip steak, alongside decadently creamy, golden-crusted potato gratin, and the ever-changing daily fish specials, like butterflied brook trout with toasted almonds and lemony green beans. And next time, before retreating to Bar Great Harry for post-dinner brews, you’ll confidently order the house-made fromage blanc, a puff of fresh white cheese sweetened with berries, honey, and lemon zest—and you’ll eat it like a man.