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Posts from the ‘shmancy cocktails’ Category

Lure Fishbar: A Seafood Lover’s Heaven, But Boy What a Scene

Lure Fishbar is an anomaly of sorts. It has been impossibly trendy for years, with a never-ending stream of supremely fashionable young ladies, tanned and slick older men, and cougars draped in fur; and yet, despite the at times overwhelming scene, it still turns out top-notch cocktails, flavorful food, and beautifully-executed sushi, all with warm and competent service.

Designed by the eponymous Serge Becker, the basement-level Lure Fishbar is gorgeous. The theme is nautical, but not in the cutesy New England marina with a lobster shack vein; instead, Lure Fishbar is designed like a mega-yacht with sparkling portholes for windows, gleaming wooden walls with circular golden lights, white lacquer accents, polished boat-deck flooring, and just a hint of the requisite blue and white. Circular booths coated in white leather face inward, allowing diners to gaze upon the bustling and glittering dining room. Up a half-level from the dining room is the darker bar area, with navy-and-white striped upholstered booths and a long bar, inevitably packed with groups of over-dressed women in their mid-30s and banker types.

Fittingly, seafood is the specialty at Lure Fishbar. The menu offers almost every imaginable type of mainstream seafood, from oysters on ice to raw bar specialties like littleneck clams and caviar to a full sushi menu with high-end products to tartares, ceviches and carpaccio, clam chowder, grilled octopus, salmon, and whole daurade, and a lovely lobster role. It is indisputable that the kitchen at Lure Fishbar is very good at preparing seafood. The sushi is marvelous – subtly flavored, perfectly wrapped and made with the freshest product, it is worth every penny. For tuna lovers, the spicy big eye tuna roll is luscious. With six or seven varieties of oysters on the menu any given night, there is a type of anyone – briny, sweet, bitter. With any choice, the sweet taste of the ocean floods in, cool and refreshing. From the appetizers, the crab cakes are delicious – lightly breaded, stuffed with sweet crab meat, and not too bulky. Other options are the famous fried blue point oysters with a classic caper tarter sauce, a twist on bagels & lox with a crispy grilled flatbread topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion and dill, and beer-battered soft shell crab with creamy avocado.

From the entrees, stick with seafood – why eat meat when the seafood options are so good? The lobster roll is amazingly tasty with a hot buttery brioche roll, heaps of sweet tender lobster meat, lightly tossed in mayo, and served with a side of crispy salt and vinegar potato chips. Also wonderful is the Asian-inspired seared tuna, cooked to a beautiful medium rare, on a bed of soba noodles coated in a slightly spicy and rich peanut sauce. The menu has enticing diversity with everything from steamed snapper in red curry to juicy roasted scallops with chorizo and thick bucatini pasta to roasted shrimp with spicy short ribs, radish and mint. For the more adventurous eaters, an impressive grilled whole daurade comes plated with dill gnocchi and tomatoes. In the seafood entree section alone, there is something for every palate.

If you’re not prepared for the scene, Lure Fishbar can be immediately overwhelming. The music is loud, the chatter of tipsy fashionistas reverberates through the long space, the scent of men’s cologne wavers near the bar, and everyone is just so damn good-looking. But, if you know what you’re getting yourself into, Lure Fishbar is just plain fun. It’s a chic party where both the food and the drinks live up to the hype. And the best part? The table service is immensely friendly and efficient – not an ounce of pretension from anyone except the frazzled hostesses. All in all, Lure Fishbar is a great place to celebrate, to give visitors a taste of what’s it’s like to ‘go out on the town’ in New York City, and to enjoy the wonders of well-executed seafood.

Perfect For: stylish young things, seafood lovers, big blowout dinners, late night bar snacks, cocktails and oysters

Lure Fishbar on Urbanspoon


Monument Lane: Where English Colonialism is Good

Maybe it was my personal elation from securing employment or maybe it was the wonderful crew of friends who showed up to help me celebrate or maybe it was just Monument Lane’s infectious warmth, but whatever it was, I freaking adore this place. Monument Lane, a West Village newcomer on the same stretch of Greenwich Avenue as Bennie’s Burritos, Tea & Sympathy, and Lyon, is a marvelous addition to a neighborhood seemingly saturated by cozy ‘neighborhood-y’ establishments. Sure, it’s not a brilliant new idea, a bastion of nouveau gourmet techniques, or a foodie’s fantasyland, but does that really matter when the Anglo-American comfort food is executed well, the cocktails are classic and strong, and the general mood seems to fluctuate between pleasantly satiated and truly convivial?

The new tenant in a long-vacated spot on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village, Monument Lane has settled itself nicely into a misshapen and quirky corner space. The result of much interior design work is an angular room with more than a few nooks and crannies. At the entrance is a bar, crowded with people waiting for the rest of their parties to arrive before sitting down to dinner; it’s a transient bar crowd, not the sort that sits around for the sheer pleasure of it. This is probably for the best, considering the bartender seems to suffer from forgetfulness and an inability to prepare a cocktail in under 5 minutes.  Several lucky diners get to reap an unsung benefit of a corner restaurant – plenty of window tables. Pressed up against the plate glass windows, these hot seats are ideal for watching the world go by, with a loved one, good friends, or perhaps just on your own. Further into the interior of the restaurant are tables for bigger groups – on a Saturday night, Monument Lane could accommodate at least two parties of eight and with those, the place is rollicking. Tucked mostly out of sight, away from the bar and away from the windows, is the best seat in the house – a wood-paneled booth surrounded by walls on three sides, over which towers a vintage Union Jack.

The kitchen delivers Anglo-American comfort food, dressed up to suit the palates of discerning New Yorkers. To begin, it’s hard to turn down the siren song of soft whole wheat pretzel bites and cheese dip, of fresh ricotta dusted with lemon, of hot and tart buttered radishes, and of a classic fisherman’s fried basket filled with greasy but not too greasy bits of fried clam bellies and fried fluke fingers. Each starter was lovely in it’s own right, but the string of them together had my group of eight friends remarking on what a great meal this was sure to be. Later in the meal, a stunning rendition of classic American meatloaf includes not just gravy, but bacon gravy – an unforgettable touch that transforms a pedestrian dish often overcooked, undercooked and slapped together into a sinfully rich carnivore’s delight. The lobster roll, while not the best in the city, tries hard to impress with a hot buttered ciabatta bun, not too much mayo, and a plentiful helping of sweet succulent lobster meat – although it’s not a Maine lobster roll, it’s still pretty difficult not to enjoy it. A New York strip steak is cooked tender and bloody pink, if you let the kitchen have it’s way, and paired with the sweet bite of cipollini onions. For vegetarians, the fried green tomatoes are a wonderfully light option – crispy and breaded on the outside yet cut open to expose the thick juicy bright green tomato slice within. Each of the entrees had that satisfying heartiness that makes comfort food so beloved and had my friends moaning in pleasure over their plates.

Yes, it’s true – I loved almost every bite of my Monument Lane meal and not because it was exquisite in the way that Gramercy Tavern or Gotham Bar & Grill or Eleven Madison Park are exquisite. Instead, I loved Monument Lane because it was so pleasantly plebian, so warm and so delicious. It was the food you want to eat when it’s cold outside, when you’re having a rough week, when you’re tired of oily delivery and, perhaps, the limitations of your own cooking. Sure, Monument Lane has it’s quirks – including a particularly surly waitress, the tortoise-slow bartender, a no-reservations for parties under 6 people policy, and an unwillingness to seat incomplete parties – yet, if you relax and enjoy what’s coming to you, the experience can be quite pleasant.

Perfect For: West Village natives, groups of 6 to 8 friends looking to celebrate, Anglophiles, comfort food fanatics, first dates, girls night out, a casual dinner with mom and dad

Monument Lane on Urbanspoon

Peels: Down-South Americana with A Teaspoon of New York Glitz

Freeman’s, the beloved alleyway scenester spot just off Rivington, has a sexy little sister and her name is Peels. Situated on a hot strip of the Bowery, at the corner of Bond Street, Peels blends New York design sensibility with pure Southern American cooking dressed up a smidgeon to suit the Manhattan palette.

Though Peels has lost quite a bit of the je ne sais quoi that made Freeman’s so unusual and beloved by Manhattan’s trendiest, it still manages to charm in its simplicity. Where Freeman’s is stuffed to the gills with knick-knacks, photographs, and artfully-distressed kitsch, the bi-level space at Peels is stripped-down and spare. The first level looks like it operates sort of like a cafe – with a coffee bar, windowed counters populated with truly magnificent baked goods during the day, and small bistro tables awkwardly crowded together. In the back is a large and imposing communal table, wonderful for large groups, not so-wonderful for intimate dates. The second level looks more like a main dining room with white wooden booths, a long communal table down the center, and a small bar for people to mingle at. The whole look is squeaky clean and white-washed with white paneled walls, white wooden tables and chairs, and large bright white industrial light fixtures. In fact, it looks much like a simple Southern bakery all-spruced up for Manhattan’s scenesters.

The down-home American food served at Peels is generally good. It’s not mind-blowing, revolutionary, or particularly artful, but it tends to taste good in the way that well-executed comfort food always tastes good. Peels serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, unusual for a full-service non-hotel restaurant on the Bowery. Breakfast is traditional: buttermilk pancakes, eggs benedict, shrimp & grits, eggs on a biscuit with gravy, and so forth. The pastry basket is out of this world – stuffed with truly marvelous muffins and sticky buns and the like. Other than that, all is what you would expect a hearty breakfast to be – filling, flavorful, but not reinventing the wheel. Lunch or weekend brunch at Peels is a much more extensive dining experience. The kitchen offers everything from its signature Build-a-Biscuit program where you get to top a flaky buttermilk biscuit with choice goodies like avocado, red-eye gravy, and fried chicken to salami sandwiches, greasy beer-battered fried fish tacos, andouille corn dogs, and skillet eggs. In fact, you could argue that lunch and brunch, where the kitchen keeps things simple, fresh, and classic, are where Peels really shines.

Dinner at Peels can be a frustrating experience. On the few occasions I’ve been over the past 6 months, service is consistently bad. While the waiters can be friendly, not always a guarantee, it’s inevitably difficult to find one when you need one, to succeed in hailing one down when you find one, and to actually get what you need once you hail one. You get the sense that there just aren’t enough servers to adequately attend to the bi-level space; there’s an irritating disorganization. On my most recent visit, someone, whether the kitchen or the server, forgot our rather substantial order – and my friend and I had to wait close to an hour for our entree without almost no apology. That’s whack.

That being said, the food was pleasant. To start, the golden tomato gazpacho is a refreshing antidote to muggy New York summers; whereas, the creamy spicy salty spreadable pimento cheese dip, served with crusty bread, is pure sin. It’s heavy and truly luxurious. The fried chicken entree is delicious – the chicken is juicy, the breading is crispy, and the ranch dressing is the ideal coolant. The cheeseburger is similarly well-done – cooked appropriately, flavorful, and drenched in cheese. The shrimp & grits is … nice; the grits are just begging for some more texture and salt, but the shrimp is complemented beautifully by a fried egg and bacon (how do you say no to that?). None of the dishes are the best in New York by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re good, hearty, and satisfying.

Peels is good, and perhaps most importantly for the restaurant, it’s cool. It’s popular with those New Yorkers who ‘know where to go;’ it’s got a hoppin’ bar scene, great people-watching on the patio, and some wonderful cocktails to complement the down-home cuisine. It had enough buzz at open to generate a crowd of regulars and fans, and now it sustains itself on a pretty hip clientele. And to be sure, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Perfect For: coffee and pastries, large groups, singles ready to mingle, bourbon cocktails and biscuits, decadent Sunday brunch

Peels on Urbanspoon

Osteria Morini: A Bad Restaurant with Great Food

I’m going to cut to the chase: Michael White’s casual dining spot in Soho, Osteria Morini, is somewhat of a hot mess. Despite the generally excellent food that White is known for at his other restaurants (Marea, and the now defunct Alto and Convivio), there are so many flaws in the design of Morini and how the restaurant is run that it’s hard to truly love this place.

Located on the Soho triangle where Lafayette and Centre converge at Spring Street, Morini doesn’t look like much from the outside. Peering through the door, it looks leaden and dark, unfriendly. On the inside however, it’s aggressively rustic, to the point of seeming chintzy and faux. The tables are heavy and wooden, the sort of thing you’d see in the ‘Rustic Home’ section of a Raymour & Flanigan competitor; while aesthetically-pleasing, if you’re into the whole country kitchen look, they are ridiculously tall; thus, unless you’re a giant, the table is just too tall to eat at comfortably. Further, all of the dining chairs are supposed to be ‘ artfully mis-matched’ in shades of mint green, white and brown, yet the overall affect is a forced ‘countryside-in-Manhattan’ style that looks just plain matchy-matchy. The rest of the decor is typical farmhouse-chic: copper pots and antique cooking utensils, old photographs, wooden hutches displaying Italian kitsch, mini pots of fresh flowers on each table. Perhaps the most distracting thing about Osteria Morini though is the noise; it is unbelievably noisy, starting at a low hum early in the night and rapidly rising to a full-on roar by 7:30pm. Who designs a restaurant without taking into account the acoustics? Such excessive noise can really ruin a meal.

In fact, Osteria Morini was so loud that our waitress could not understand what we were ordering and had to repeat everything we said to verify she got it right. Perhaps the staff’s constant exposure to loud noises is the reason why they were borderline incompetent. Although our waitress was mostly friendly, both she and the bus boys rushed me and my friend Julie through our meal. Half way through every single course, we were asked whether we wanted our food cleared, even though it was clear that we were still eating. At one point, a bus boy tried to take away an as-of-yet untouched appetizer and when we said no, proceeded to snag my friend’s bowl of soup out from under her and clear her starter course silverware. She had to ask for it back to finish her food.

Part of me wishes I could just write Osteria Morini off the map for its obvious annoyances, yet unfortunately for me and fortunately for it, the food is actually quite wonderful. At Morini, Michael White demonstrates his facility with the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, churning out soulful and hearty dishes without a whole lot of fuss. There are the requisite cured meats and cheeses, one of which, a special on the night I visited, was utterly marvelous: aged nutty Parmesan, served in thick nuggets with a slice of pickled pear, a dollop of poached date, and soft fruit & nut bread. The antipasti options are extensive: fluffy ricotta with spring peas and pesto, creamy duck liver mousse crostini, mozzarella di bufala with figs and saba, marinated olives, and so forth. Perhaps the best though is the house meatballs, a savory blend of mortadella and prosciutto, baked in a wonderfully thick, salty and flavorful tomato gravy (particularly good for sopping up with crusty bread).

Morini offers a number of entrees, such as roasted hampshire pork with sage, roasted baby chicken with brussels sprouts, or a sangiovese-braised short rib, but the ‘primi’ pastas are where the real magic is. My favorite? The Gramigna, a strange looking dish that tastes delightful. The maccheroni noodles are spinach green and egg yellow, shaped strangely like curly-cues, and cooked a sharp al dente. The best part though is the sauce, filled with chunks of tomatoes, pork sausage, and plenty of black pepper. The result is a comforting, colorful, and satisfying dish that I could eat every night if it didn’t put me back $17. Unfortunately the only missteps food-wise were at the end of the meal. Both desserts sampled, a couple of sorbets and the panna cotta, were just plain bad. Upon leaving, all I had lingering in my mouth was the cough-syrupy taste of a ‘strawberry’ sorbet that tasted suspiciously like a Jolly Rancher and the strange texture of the citrus panna cotta served in a cup. I couldn’t even taste the apricot sorbet, the flavor was so ‘subtle.’

Osteria Morini is the ultimate sort of disappointment – a restaurant with such potential and delicious food that is poorly run. It’s difficult to enjoy a meal when you’re rushed through it and constantly interrupted, when the noise level is borderline intolerable, and when the actual seating is uncomfortable. Not a single aspect was damning, but the combination of little irritations turned Osteria Morini into a restaurant I wouldn’t soon return to.

Perfect For: cocktail night, early in the night eats, pasta fanatics

Osteria Morini on Urbanspoon

Empellon: Mostly Missing Lowbrow Mexican

‘Trendy’ Mexican food seems to be a thing in New York these days, as evidenced by former wd-50 pastry chef Alex Stupak’s new Empellon and its predecessors Cascabel Tacqueria, Toloache, Dos Toros, Hecho en Dumbo and so forth. Whether or not this thing, usually a blend of dressed-up Mexican street food, fancy cocktail menus, and a casually elegant vibe, is successful depends on the restaurant, and unfortunately, Empellon struggles where others have triumphed.

On the suddenly red hot corner of West 4th and West 10th in the West Village, Empellon is pretty much like every other hip ‘neighborhoody’ restaurant in the area. It has fresh white walls, unadorned dark wooden tables, a backlit bar stocked with all sorts of fancy alcohols (mostly artisan tequilas here), rounded leather booths for groups, and the requisite gilt-framed mirror, you know, to make the room look bigger or whatever. Sure, it’s comfortable and charming, but this look is starting to get a little bit redundant (see: 10 Downing, Bistro de la Gare, Casa, Recette, Kingswood, and so on and so forth). I ask myself: why should I come here if there are carbon copies with different menus littered throughout the surrounding blocks?

Perhaps my beef with Empellon rests in that not only was the atmosphere ‘same old same old,’ but the food was wildly inconsistent. Some of what the kitchen produced was truly delicious, while other dishes were just plain bad. The guacamole is wonderful – the type of stuff you could eat every night with one of the bar’s stiff tequila or mezcal-based house cocktails. And its made even better by the two ‘salsas’ its served with – a smoked cashew sauce and a smoky arbol chile variety; both are distinctive and addictive. Yet, the tacos were over-priced at $12 each and almost inedible. The lamb barbacoa tacos, by far the most tasty sounding, were pretty awful – underseasoned lamb meat, a tough tortilla, horrible bits of bitter green olives that overpowered every other meek flavor in there. The chicken variety were better, though not by much; like the lamb barbacoa, the chicken was egregiously under-seasoned, and unfortunately, not even the little nuggets of green chorizo could save this dish.

Other non-taco dishes are better – the octopus marisco with parsnip and a lovely dressing of chipotle, sweet spices, and an unrefined sugar called piloncillo is well-cooked and an unusual spin on an octopus starter. The queso fundido options sound ridiculously good. I mean, how could you not salivate over a bowl of melted cheese served with warm tortillas? However, the execution was not as good as it could have been. I was imagining some sort of decadent Mexican fondue, and yet what I was delivered was a disappointingly small bowl of extremely concentrated pseudo-melted cheese that had hardened a bit too much. Its hard not to like melted cheese, and so, of course, I ate every bit of what was served; yet, at the end of the day, I would rather just go get some fondue at The Bourgeois Pig. The best part of the meal was the end of the meal. The bunuelos, a bowl of churros-like fried doughnut holes, are utterly incredible. Served with two sauces, a warm honey and an absurdly-delicious caramel-ish cajeta, these are like Pringles on steroids (once you pop, you just can’t stop). I could eat them every night, if I didn’t mind risking heart failure.

Empellon is fine; it’s not great and its not dreadful. Mostly, it just makes me miss low-brow Mexican fare from such favorites as Benny’s Burritos and Maryann’s Mexican. Why pay $12 for a crappy taco if you can pay half that for a scrumptious burrito or decadent plate of nachos at a less chi-chi spot? or perhaps a better question is, in a neighborhood as jam-packed with quality restaurants as the West Village, why pay exorbitant prices for mediocre food when those same prices will get you something amazing just down the street? That being said, if you’re only looking for some guac and awesome cocktails with your lady friends, Empellon is undoubtedly your spot.

Perfect For: guacamole and margheritas at the bar, ladies night out, west village locals

Empellon on Urbanspoon

Riverpark: Very Colicchio, But Not Colicchio’s Best

Riverpark, Chef Tom Colicchio’s newest fine dining spot in Manhattan, is a strange sort of place. First off, it’s in a completely wacky location for a restaurant, tucked behind Bellevue Hospital and close to cantilevered over the FDR. If you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, it’s hard to find, especially in the dark. Second, although it seems to cater to the neighboring hospital crowd, it’s as sleek and slinky as a Meatpacking District restaurant frequented by models and their men. Third, despite the Colicchio pedigree and interesting menu, the food is not particularly far above mediocre. For all these reasons, Riverpark is a confusing place, with a whole lot of swagger and not a whole lot to back it up.

The restaurant looks oh-so-Colicchio. In fact, it’s a dead-ringer for Colicchio & Sons, with the same high ceilings, massive windows, sleek industrial-chic aesthetic, and a comfortable modernism. The spacious room is split into a bar/cafe area and a dining room. While I understand the conceptual difference between the two, the separation is so indistinct that it’s almost not worth thinking about. To it’s credit, Riverpark has a few visually stunning elements. The ceiling above the bar casts modern magic, emulating the twinkling luminosity of a rural night sky; giant window upon giant window in the dining room look at over the East River, and while the panorama of industrial Williamsburg may not be the most charming, a view of anything ‘nature’ in New York is appreciated; and the outdoor patio, opening during clement weather, is a slick and comfortable spot to lounge with cocktails on modern couches with the woosh of the FDR in the not-so-distant background.

The menu at Riverpark is similar to that at Craft and Colicchio & Sons, a Tom Colicchio standard blend of modern and innovative ‘American’ cuisine with seasonal and, when possible, local ingredients. The options are diverse, ranging from a brothy mushroom consomme to an Italian-inspired ramp & ricotta ravioli to the updated English favorite leg of lamb with potatoes, mint, and peas. Unfortunately, while each dish seems intricately constructed to strike the perfect balance between dressed-up comfort food and gourmet creativity, the actual execution is only average.

The cavatelli with braised lamb, sweet peas, mint and horseradish is muddy and confusing; it was almost delightful with perfectly cooked and toothsome cavatelli in a blend of tender lamb, peas and fresh mint, yet the overpowering horseradish threw in a wrench in the whole production. The diver sea scallops were over-cooked and rubbery, strangely fishy, and lacking in that silky texture and meaty flavor that make scallops dishes so wonderful – an overall failure, despite the very tasty bacon-ramp vinaigrette. The smoked flour gnocchetti sardi starter is one of the more unusual dishes I’ve tasted in while, with a crispy smoky gnocchi with nutty parmesan, lemon, and crisp spring asparagus. Unfortunately, all this ‘creativity’ backfires – once again, the flavors are muddy and confused; there is just too much going on.

Riverpark is not the best of Colicchio’s New York restaurants, despite it’s truly gorgeous decor and unusual location. The most important part of the restaurant, the food, is unimpressive. However, if you’re looking for elegant bar snacks, fancy cocktails, and a sleek atmosphere, Riverpark is an excellent pick, especially for after-work festivities, client events, and treating your visiting parents to a uniquely New York experience.

Perfect For: the east side hospital industry, after-work drinks, power lunches, Colicchio fans, dining with a view, outdoor cocktails in the summer

Riverpark on Urbanspoon

Hotel Griffou: A Fashionable Boarding House Reborn – Again

I’ve always been intrigued by Hotel Griffou, mostly because I can’t lie about my mildly embarrassing fascination with supper clubs and their spawn. Granted, the faux supper club on 9th Street and 5th Avenue has gotten slammed for its service, it’s pretensions, an obnoxious crowd, and so forth. However, not even this laundry list of bad reviews was going to keep me away. And good thing it didn’t, either all those reviewers were on crack and prejudiced for whatever reason or Hotel Griffou has really cleaned up its act.

The location is lovely, situated in the basement of a posh building, a former 1870s boarding house, on 9th Street, just off the famous Fifth Avenue ‘Golden Mile.’ The restaurant is dark and twisty, in a good sort of way, with dim sultry lighting and a collection of dining rooms modeled after townhouse parlors and living rooms. Up front is the bar, generally crowded with a fashionable group of after-work suits, writers, gallery owners, fashionistas, and so forth. Its remarkable how attractive every person I encountered appeared to be – perhaps it was the lighting. The dining rooms are cozy and stylish, with luxe dark wood dining tables, petite personal ‘gas’ lamps, fancy wallpaper that seems taken from the stairways of a Victorian home, and all sorts of vintage-y portraits and paintings. Yes, the look is now a little over-done in New York’s trendy dining scene, but it just looks so pretty that it’s hard to get tired of.
I had quite a bit of trepidation regarding the food, given the less than complimentary reviews from the NYTimes and NYMag. However, with the hiring of Chef David Santos in October of 2010, everything has changed: the menu is marvelous and the food even better – magic seems to have made its way to Griffou. The organic poached egg starter is near perfect: a beautifully poached egg sits atop rustic bits of gnocchi romani, which are swimming in a decadent truffled chestnut veloute. When you cut into the egg, the rich yolk explodes over the rest of the plate, coating the gnocchi in a golden yellow glaze. Also excellent is the housemade cavatelli, a perfectly-portioned bowl of well-made cavatelli, cooked to an addictive chewy texture and served with bitter and refreshing broccoli rabe, a dusting of chili flakes, and melted clothbound cheddar that hints at classic mac n’ cheese. Though I didn’t have a chance to sample them this time, I have plans to go back for the golden cod brandade fritters and the fois gras terrine, served with an unusual-sounding jasmine and kumquat marmalade.
The entrees are grand: roast suckling pig, a whole roasted chicken for two, lamb leg, peking style duck, tuna bolognese, and so forth. Of course, there is also the requisite ‘haute’ burger, and this one is pretty damn delicious. Served on a buttery toasted brioche bun, Santos keeps it simple with a perfectly cooked and impossibly juicy patty, a thick slice of sharp Vermont cheddar, and sweet dried tomatoes. On the side, an ‘artful’ mess of golden brown salty and crispy fries – parfait! My friend was lucky enough to find on the menu the branzino, served beautifully filet-ed with crispy skin and a bed of luscious gnudi. Its safe to say that with the arrival of Chef Santos, Hotel Griffou’s food woes are a thing of the past. There was not a single misstep all night for Santos and his kitchen – a rare thing in a restaurant known more for its scene than its cuisine.
Hotel Griffou was a wonderful surprise – you can’t help but feel chic in its sultry renovated ‘boarding house’ rooms, surrounded by beautiful people. The food was hearty and sophisticated, accessible, and packed with flavor; each dish was well-executed. Naturally though, whether because of its coveted location or its fashion-friendly image, the prices are steep. Appetizers rarely dip below $14 and entrees below $25 – glasses of wine or one of the house specialty cocktails add frighteningly quickly to the bill. However, if you’re looking for a quintessentially trendy downtown New York restaurant, where reservations are reasonably accessible and the food is good, Hotel Griffou offers up a pleasant and, at times, exciting experience.
Perfect For: showing off your new shoes, cocktails with friends, pretty people-watching, a night of indulgence, swanky eats before a night on the town, burning a hole in your wallet
Griffou on Urbanspoon