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Feb 22, 2011 08:02 PM

Hotel Griffou - Sunday Portuguese Brunch

It's very difficult to change the perception of a restaurant that has been inextricably tied to mediocre food, but David Santos, who drew raves during his brief tenure at the helm of 5 & Diamond, is aiming to do just that at the unhelpfully named Hotel Griffou (no, it is not a hotel). With stints at Per Se, Bouley, and Restaurant Nicholas, the man clearly knows how to cook. After taking over the kitchen four months ago, the food has been changing completely, especially on Sundays, which has become Portuguese day.

Over the long weekend, I had four free slots for meals in the city. So I went to Le Bernardin twice, Per Se once, and finally got to try the Sunday Portuguese brunch at Hotel Griffou.

To start, pumpkin sonhos with housemade cranberry jam demonstrated the craft of proper frying. They were just lightly sweet, braced by the tart fruit.

Among the appetizers, the cod fritters are a must-order. Deftly fried, a delicately crisp crust yielded to a smooth, satisfying mixture of salted cod, potatoes, and eggs. Further richness and spice emerged after dragging the fritters through a small bowl of creamy Urfa biber aioli. Sardines, topped with peppery arugula, tasted fresh and vibrant, and plump Piri piri shrimp were treated gently, revealing an appealingly delayed kick of heat.

A beautiful rectangle of suckling pig came sheathed in crispy skin, adorned with a twirled slice of blood orange, smashed fingerlings (delightfully crunchy and blistered at the edges), and a simply dressed salad. It was a deeply satisfying plate of food, with blood orange acting as an inspired foil to rich, fragrant tendrils of pork.

A spiced rice pudding, appropriately glutinous and also just lightly sweet, concluded the meal pleasantly.

Cocktails were quite good, but to be honest, I think I'd rather just order another dish! Many thanks to Chef Santos for admirably bucking the trend of yawn-inducing brunches that are rife throughout the city.

Comp disclosure: Piri piri shrimp

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

Hotel Griffou
21 W 9th St, New York, NY 10011

5 & Diamond
2072 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026

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  1. Were the pumpkin sonhos a special? I don't see them on the online menu but it could be out of date. Was that the only carb-y option? The PDF menu from their web site indicated a single option for someone looking for a sweet breakfast -- pain perdu. I imagine that will keep a fair number of people away since they'll seek a multitude of pancakes, french toast, etc.

    4 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      I think the sonhos were given to every table.

      The brunch is unconventional, but I think it'll greatly appeal to people looking for something besides pancakes, waffles, etc.

      1. re: hcbk0702

        I'm intrigued but my husband won't be pleased with the menu unless there's pancakes, waffles, etc.

        1. re: kathryn

          well its more lunch then brunch to tell you the truth. We dont eat the americanized items for breakfast. The pain perdu is a version of what we eat. The menu is true to form on what we would eat on a sunday afternoon.

          1. re: chopjwu12

            Oh, I'm not protesting the authenticity! More my husband's reluctance to have only lunch items for brunch.

    2. Have you tried the regular dinner menu?

      6 Replies
      1. re: fm1963

        The menu us actually changing this weekend. Spring is in!

        1. re: chopjwu12

          Is the menu on the website the old or new menu?

          1. re: orthorunner

            Good question, only because I saw enough variety of egg dishes that I thought would appeal to people who goes for the "strict" eggs-and/or-pancakes-only" folks.

            1. re: orthorunner

              If you are referring to the brunch menu, it is current. Chef Santos took over as executive chef in October, and he has replaced the previous, more traditional brunch menu with his Portuguese-inspired menu.

              Re; the dinner menu. If I understod his post correctly, the dinner menu now on the website is current but only until this weekend.

              We haven't been to the Hotel Griffou yet, but I've read posts on another food forum from those who have been for both brunch and dinner, and they all say the food is outstanding. It doesn't surprise me because Chef Santos used to be the chef de cuisine at a very highly-rated upscale restaurant in NJ, and his food there was always tops. Hotel Griffou is very high on my "go to" list.


              1. re: RGR

                Thanks for the input; we are planning to go this weekend, so I will make sure to report back! It is fantastic that instead of allowing Hotel Griffou to remain a hipster spot with reportedly mediocre fare, that the owners changed things up to make it a foodie destination.

                Hotel Griffou
                21 W 9th St, New York, NY 10011

                1. re: orthorunner

                  From what I understand, orthorunner, hipsters are continuing to go there at dinner time (some people use the "d" word to describe that group), especially on Friday and Saturday. But you're right that by hiring Chef Santos to totally reform the menus, the owners' intent is to change the image of the place so as to bring in dining clientele who appreciate quality cuisine.

                  Here's the link to an interview with one of Hotel Griffou's owners about the changes:


        2. I had an unexpectedly fine dinner at Hotel Griffou last night. I'll definitely try their brunch.

          Hotel Griffou
          21 W 9th St, New York, NY 10011

          1 Reply
          1. re: H Manning

            Agreed. The cod fritters, duck egg with gnocchi, duo of lamb, and apple pie souffle with Vermont cheddar and caramel ice cream were all great. Nice service too.

          2. i live down the block and avoided this place like the plague. but a friend brought me over for their brunch and i was very impressed. i had the complimentary sonhos...actually as the op described...expertly fried and delicious.

            i ordered the suckling pig. im usually a light eater in the morning but i figured 'when in rome.' it was one of the best pork dishes ive had in nyc in ages. the potatoes were particularly delicious...almost confited with butter.

            i will certainly have dinner here. santos was walking around and seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

            i had a drink at griffou a few back for the first time and was surprised at the quality of service there as well. this is a place i had a ton of pre-conceptions about. i assume with the lion down the block, the owners realized that the only way they could survive is with quality food and neighborly service...what a novel concept.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sam1

              Yeah, Santos has really turned this place around.