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Review Recap: Hotel Griffou

Record to date: 10–5

Star bettors could be in for a rough few months. After five years, it was usually apparent what Frank Bruni would do. Pete Wells has thrown a curve ball two weeks in a row, first dumping a FAIR rating on Gus & Gabriel Gastropub, and today unloading the dreaded SATISFACTORY on Hotel Griffou:

At every restaurant I’ve seen, a three top is a four top missing a chair.

Not at Hotel Griffou, where we were sent to the bar while someone hunted down our table. The restaurant has four dining rooms, and we had an excellent view of one, a bright space with long beer-hall tables that sat empty. We imagined that they were being held for a group. Naturally, this is where we were seated, 50 minutes after we had arrived.

I was afraid that if I returned they would hit the one-hour mark and lead me to a produce crate by the dishwasher. So I stayed away…

The cooking is hard to classify, partly because the menu is divided into “Seasonal” and “The Classics.” In the first category are garden-variety takes on Mediterranean-derived dishes… As modern as these dishes were, their presentations were often scattershot, as if the food had been lobbed in the general direction of plates as they sailed toward the kitchen door.

Frank Bruni never gave two goose-eggs in a row, as Wells has now done. Bruni’s philosophy seemed to be that, as the Times does not review every restaurant—indeed, it does not even come close—there’s not much point in calling attention to places that aren’t any good. So he gave out just enough goose-eggs to remind readers that it was possible to get less than one star.

I’ve long felt that too many of Bruni’s one-star reviews sounded like zero, and it led to a perception that one star could never be a compliment. Wells could be giving the star system a long-overdue course correction, which would be terrific if Sam Sifton keeps it up.

Unfortunately, I doubt that we’ll be so lucky. I suspect that the worthwhile restaurants have been laid aside for Sam Sifton, which has left Wells to pick up the scraps. Poor fellow.

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