“Does lower Manhattan’s Gold Coast have a new hotel?” I wondered when making a reservation at Hotel Griffou. No, that’s not the case, but back in the 19th century, this historic brownstone was a hotel owned by an eccentric woman, Madame Marie Griffou, who inherited lots of money from her husband and kept bears for pets in the garden out back.
But now the space downstairs houses a restaurant with unique dining rooms that offer that feeling you’re in someone’s home or perhaps a secretive speakeasy. Each dining room, from the library to the wine vault has its own feel, with quirky artwork and a mix of old-world meets modern touches, like candelabras and elegant booths. There’s a feeling that there’s more to this place than meets the eye, and indeed old literary luminaries like Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain frequented Hotel Griffou back in its original heyday.
Now Hotel Griffou is making a new splash, with Chef Jason Michael Giordano’s (formerly of Tocqueville, Café Boulud, Spice Market and Mia Dona) market-driven cuisine. For brunch, one must order the sticky buns that arrive warm in a skillet, as well as the lobster thermidor fondue, plus a Kitchen Sink Bloody Mary, smooth and spicy and made with cucumber-infused vodka. Brunch is served every Sunday, and in honor of Mother’s Day, there is a special prix-fixe brunch. But dinnertime is a must, for dishes like the rack of lamb or Maadame Griffou’s 1892 recipe for pork.
Haute Living: What’s new at Hotel Griffou?
Chef Jason Michael Giordano: Recently we modified the focus of our menu from French influenced American dishes to classic American market-driven cuisine. In addition to offering our everyday favorites, we’re also running daily specials to take full advantage of what’s available and in season at the Union Square Greenmarket on that particular day.
For Mother’s Day, we’re offering a three-course Prix-Fixe brunch menu for $25. Diners will have the chance to indulge in our acclaimed Sticky Buns served piping hot to the table, and brunch favorites such as the Omelet with Gruyère or Fontina Cheese served with Hash Browns, the favorite Griffou Burger topped with melted Gruyère and Bacon and served with fries or the Smoked Chicken and Avocado Sandwich accented with Honey Dijon Tomatillos. Diners will also receive either a complimentary Mimosa or Bloody Mary from the extensive Bloody Mary Menu.
HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at your restaurant?
JMG: With all the recent changes I would have to say the Steamed Red Snapper served with snap peas, morels and bathed in a ginger broth. I also love, some of our specials such as the Tempura Soft Shell Crabs served with ramps, shishito peppers, and baby cilantro, or the Crispy Octopus topped with a sesame blood dressing.
HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
JMG: I prefer causal restaurants where the food is really the star. Most recently I’ve fallen for Ippuddo and Motorino. Others favorites are Ssam Bar and Zaragosa.
HL: What’s your ideal meal?
JMG: Savoring a great hand made pizza, while drinking good beer or a bottle Chianti, with close friends.
HL: Your favorite special occasion spot?
JMG: I can’t remember the last time I went out for a special occasion but I would have to say it would be at my sisters’ house in Asheville, NC. I’m close with my family and having the chance to cook and eating barbecue on her mini farm.
HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood, and why?
JMG: Hands down it would be the East Village. It has everything that I want in a neighborhood like great restaurants, bars, and parks. A nice bonus is that most of my friends live nearby so it’s easy to meet up and hang out with them.
HL: What do you like to do on your days off?
JMG: Actually that would be day off! Since the days are pretty hectic in the kitchen, catching up on sleep is definitely key for me! Afterwards, I’d grab a bite to eat with some friends in the neighborhood. It’s really all about relaxing and recharging myself for the following week.
HL: Your favorite vacation destination?
JMG: Definitely Mexico. Give me a beach, with crashing waves and a beverage in hand and I’m there. I absolutely love it down there.
HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
JMG: Cooking a multi-course birthday dinner for my mother and family in Asheville last year. I love cooking – but especially for my family! Meals with the Giordano clan are always fun. It’s the perfect time for all of us to catch up with one another and the dinner table is always filled with laughter.
HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
JMG: Pearl Onions; pork belly (fat back); fresh fish(of the highest quality, any will do); foie gras; and fennel.
Hotel Griffou is located at 21 West 9th St; 212-358-0228
Photos courtesy of Adrian Wilson.