I get into the city around 8 p.m. and get dinner with my pal Dana. We choose between two small restaurants next to each other. It was an easy decision when I saw one with a sign that read "half off Belgian beer."
I love Belgian things. Have you ever been to Bruges? Go there.
My sense of nationalism is bold though--Petite Abeille ("the small bee") does America great justice in terms of culinary import. For a small, crowded, restaurant we were surprisingly seated immediately and our waitress was helpful, but not intrusive. This was a definite splurge: beer cream mussels, garlic and herb butter steak, and cheese croquettes (initially we had ordered crab cakes, but their stock was depleted). Light salads with mixed greens, tomato, and red onions and generous portions of fries seemed to accompany all dishes.
Ordering steak at a restaurant is a gamble. There's a lot that can go wrong with a steak: too much or too little seasoning, bad cut of meat, cooked too long or too little, etc. Petite Abeille showed the ability to balance and as I cut a sliver of the thick and juicy beef I nodded in aknowledgement of their success in steak equilibrium.
Although I must admit, the best steak is the one you cook for yourself. The nuances of a person's steak preferences tells of their character. Medium? A moderate who plays safe. Unabashedly rare? Extremist at heart. Well done? Stoic, stalwart, a reliable pillar in a world of turmoil. But enough of this, the steak here was good.
The mussels were small and the beer cream sauce wasn't overpowering. I enjoy a larger sized mussel--something I can sink my teeth into, but I hear that smaller sized mussels are more flavorful and of higher grade. I believe this is because the larger mussels are fed with grain which makes them so large and does not add much to the flavor of the mussels as a result. Suggestion: dip your bread or fries into the broth the mussels are served in.
I don't have much experience with cheese croquettes so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was expecting something made mostly of cheese obviously, but I feared something rich in dairy to the point that eating a fried piece of cheese would leave me feeling heavy in the stomach. Luckily, that was not the case. The croquettes were not of great weight and had a light crispy outer layer with a light, airy, filling that was firm enough to cut without having to pull massive cheese strings through the restaurant.
The peripherals were executed well. The fries were crisp and large and the salads were fresh and crisp with a generous amount of dressing. You should be willing to take out a good amount of cash at Petite Abeille. Steak $22, mussels $18, croquettes $8.50, and Hoegaardens were $3 each (at half off the regular price).
134 West Broadway between Duane and Thomas, New York 10013, 212 791 1360, www.petiteabeille.com