Hey, One-Percenter ! Ever wished to enjoy a simple French bistrot experience, only significantly nicer, at marginally greater cost ?
Haven't we all. I'm barely solvent, and still I routinely find myself wishing I could simply pay more for a civil experience in Paris. There's a cultural chasm in contemporary French restaurateurism, between the segment that whorishly lunges after money and modernity, and the rest, to whom the very idea of money is vaguely offensive, like a horse suggesting horse-riding to other horses.
The great thing about 8ème arrondissement power-bistrot Le Griffonnier is it's the sort of establishment one thinks must exist, and turns out, in fact, to exist : a place where politicians and bankers eat the same unimprovable French village staples as you do for lunch every day, only their plates arrive with a glistening side of wealth, by which I mean serious service and serious wine.
I read via ubiquitous endorser of almost-everything Gilles Pudlowski that the restaurant has been run for the last eight years by Cédric Duthilleul, a former hotélier. But it was my friend J who initially hipped me to Le Griffonnier's existence. I believe he discovered the place through a Burgundy dealer he works with. J's stand-alone description of a lunch at Le Griffonnier? "They have Clos Rougeard by the glass."
I was sold. Unfortunately the information was no longer current by the time I visited for a quasi-business lunch with my gallerist friend D. So instead as we perused the substantial, almost bargain-free wine list, we shared glasses of Benigné Joliet's 2006 Clos de la Perrière 1èr Cru, the renowned former Grand Cru of Fixin blanc.
It showed appreciably less wirey and briney than the time I tasted it two years ago at Les Itinéraires. Taking that as the lesson it probably was - only buy serious Burgundy by the bottle - we ordered a 2009 Savigny-Les-Beaune 1èr Cru from Bruno Clair, a reliably classic, widely-distributed Marsannay-la-Côte based producer, but one whom my wine director friend Taylor Parsons of the Mozza group in LA recently came back from a visit positively raving about.
This particular Savigny-les-Beaune withstood our raised expectations. It was handsomely feminine; with fullness and forthrightness to its refined raspberry-tart fruit. If it were a singer it would have been Eleanor Friedberger, who in her classic, 70's Asylum-style songwriting patiently wrings perfect nuance out of her limited, school-librarian range.
It's note-perfect uninventive cuisine for people who appreciate food but have no wish to dissect it or speak about it for hours, because there are other pressing issues at hand, such as money. The contemporary trend for minimalist menu design - the austere list of ingredients and commas - is mere preening next to a genuinely minimalist menu, where nothing need even be explained. What is a filet du boeuf ? What is celerie remoulade ? Get out.
The time other restaurants' service staffs spend explaining preparations or, more frequently, holding unhurried meteorological conversations with rose-vendors and passing strangers, Le Griffonnier's spend working, crisply and politely. The lunch D and I shared that day was gargantuan by our normal standards - aperitif entree plat fromage wine coffee - but it took no longer than usual, because we wasted no time attempting telekinesis with second courses or bottles of eau gazeuse. Things arrived. The bill did too, 180€ for two.
So anyway the good news is that to get a great lunch in Paris all you have to do is attend the best schools and go work for the Ministry of the Interior.
8, rue des Saussaies
Tel: 01 42 65 17 17
An account of what seems to be a typically stunning meal at Le Griffonier at GillesPudlowski.
Another experience of Benigné Joliet's Clos de la Perrière, in 2011 at Les Itinéraires, 75005
Other great steaks in Paris:
Bistrot Paul Bert, 75011
Le Severo, 75014