Hotel Griffou: Setting the bar high for drinks
The cocktails at Hotel Griffou
are phenomenal. There’s one called the Trophy Wife. I wanted to dislike
it based on its name alone, but it’s excellent – a vibrant mix of
cachaca, Champagne and passionfruit puree. My favorite is the Tarbell,
a soothing combination of cucumber vodka, elderflower liqueur, cucumber
and mulled red grapes. It’s the kind of drink that’s a little too easy
to drink – as is the Mexican Rose, made with tequila, strawberries,
lime and a
fragrant dose of cilantro.
The Griffou isn’t a hotel. It’s a restaurant that recently opened on a quiet Greenwich Village block lined with brownstones. It’s named after a famous 1870s boardinghouse that once occupied the same space. Writers like Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe used to eat there. Now, people like Jennifer Lopez and Madonna do.
no sign out front, just a blue awning with the number 21 on it. The
owners are a pedigreed bunch – they’ve worked everywhere from La
Esquina to Waverly Inn – well-versed in the art of speakeasy-style
spots. There’s an elegant, wood barroom up-front, followed by a series
of charming dining nooks. You can request dinner in the salon, the
library, the palm terrace, the wine vault or the studio. The powder
blue salon feels like a ladies-who-lunch room, and the palm terrace
feels tropical. Or you can eat in the library, which is festooned with
a blizzard of knickknacks like stuffed birds, books, musical
instruments and teeny TVs playing oddball cartoons.
The only room
I didn’t like was the studio with its siren red walls, wood benches,
uncomfortable metal chairs and mismatched art. Most of the artwork was
donated by friends of the owners, who are paid back in dinners and
The menu is filled with French-inspired American classics, like sole meunière, duck à l’orange and baked alaska. The chef, Jason Giordano,
reworks traditional dishes, turning lobster thermidor into a rich
fondue with four kinds of cheese, caramelized onions, shallots and
heavy cream. I also liked the duck à l’orange, finely cooked and served
over baby beets, oranges and a golden beet and orange puree….
It’s a shame the rest of the menu isn’t very good. I ordered steak
tartare. What I got were dainty brioche rounds topped with a meek steak
tartare and a cold, quail egg. Either I have a bigger appetite than
most of their guests or the portions are way too tiny. How can the
kitchen consider three shrimp an “appetizer” – and what if I’m sharing?
Am I supposed to play rock, paper, scissors for the third shrimp?
half the fun of ordering steak Diane is the show – a beef tenderloin
doused in brandy and flamed tableside. None of that here, just a tough,
sliced tenderloin in a mustard veal jus alongside butter-drenched
potatoes. As for the market greens, I’d be embarrassed to serve it at a
backyard barbecue, never mind a hip restaurant. It was a miserable
salad with chalky goat cheese and fried shallots. And don’t get the
sole meunière. (It tasted curiously like soap on two separate
The desserts are good. There’s a velvety butterscotch
banana pudding with vanilla wafers and a teacup of bread croissant
pudding. Perhaps they should rebrand Hotel Griffou as a cocktail bar
with good desserts.