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MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Jesse Keyes founded Modo to design and develop creative businesses that facilitate
a balanced, pleasurable and productive life. A spatially oriented “architecture for
living” undergirds Modo’s hospitality, culinary and fashion functions.
www.oneseventh.com www.griffou.com www.karolinazmarlak.com
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Emerging Designers, New York
22 May, 2009 by Robert Cordero, Contributing Editor
Karolina Zmarlak | Transformational value
The ever-morphing Barcelona dress, courtesy of Karolina Zmarlak
NEW YORK, United States — As global economic woes continue to wear on consumer spending,
some fashion and luxury companies are teetering on the brink. Blue chip brands are halting
expansion plans in order to focus on survival tactics, while smaller labels with limited resources
are faced with the reality of sudden annihilation. It may not seem to be the ideal time to start a
new label, but New York-based womenswear designer Karolina Zmarlak remains unfazed.
“All ventures in the business of fashion are daunting because it is an industry that is constantly
moving, contradictory, and revenuechallenged,” she argues. “But it would be tragic to not
face the demons and complexities by attempting to ‘wait it out.’” Rather than sitting on the
sidelines, Zmarlak has jumped into the fashion game with an eponymous Autumn/Winter 2009
collection of directional and versatile clothes that bravely tackles womens’ shifting perception
of real fashion value.
Faced with tight personal credit, consumers want more bang for their hardto-part-with bucks.
“We have taken this deeply to heart by enabling each piece to be worn in various, truly distinct
ways,” notes Zmarlak’s business partner, Jesse Keyes, adding: “Just as the Parisian woman is
famously able to style the same garment in a myriad of ways with accessories, our pieces can be
accessorized within their own structure.”
Zmarlak’s current offering consists of well thought out and superbly executed designs that give
a whole new meaning to value shopping. There are two-toned, silk Georgette tops with contrast-
ing hues that can transform into a short, architectural dress, a Samurai-like wrap blouse and even
a bulbous, Lanvin-like top. Trousers are made with active wear material to structurally resemble
leggings, but are cut high for a slimming effect around the waist. Zmarlak’s gowns also offer the
same transformational value, and thanks to their innovative execution, are designed to fit any size.
And the versatility doesn’t end there: almost all of the pieces can be worn inside out and are
infused with enough Lycra that you can literally throw them into your luggage without
worrying about wrinkles. “We hope [the clothes] will be seen as investment pieces for the
woman’s closet,” Zmarlak says. “Our design is not trend-driven, but rather can be considered to
hold to certain classic basics, while being forward in their expression, fabrication and quality.”
The line is aesthetically well considered, but Zmarlak ups the irresistibility factor further with
an accommodating and functional price point too. “We wanted to offer a price range that would
be realistic for the modern woman. Though we are in the high-end, ready-to-wear category, we
offer foundation pieces that fall within the $200-$400 retail range. While a woman may only
buy one $1400 dress or a $2,000 coat—which become her investment pieces—she can under-
gird and layer her entire wardrobe with our design-driven foundations,” insists Keyes.
When asked how she feels about starting a line amidst the economic maelstrom, Zmarlak
reamains undaunted: “Now is the time to show strength, build identity and be confident that we
will find our customer and vice versa.”
With conviction like that, who’s to argue against it? Takashimaya certainly didn’t. The
influential Japanese department store just bought the rookie womenswear line.
Robert Cordero is a Contributing Editor of The Business of Fashion.
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Posted: 12:58 AM, December 26, 2009
Last Updated: 8:04 AM, December 27, 2009
The dapper doorman
Bringing old-school charm to the nightclub bouncer world
By JUSTIN ROCKET SILVERMAN
Burly thick-necked bouncers are a dime a dozen at most bars and nightclubs in the
And then there’s Robert Harris.
“I’ve found that if you put a smile on your face and maintain a calm voice, people are
much more likely to respond with the same calm,” Harris says. “It’s when you raise your
voice that things start to escalate. I was brought up to be respectful of everyone, so
that’s how I do my job.”
Meet the city’s most dapper doorman.
A 70-year-old retired NYPD officer, Harris has become a fixture on West Ninth Street,
where he watches over the entrance to a bar and restaurant called Hotel Griffou.
Wearing his signature driver’s cap and black trench coat, the doorman embodies the kind of sophistication that
belonged to a more genteel era of nightlife. Think ’50s supper club instead of 21st century mega-club.
It’s the kind of grace that leads Harris to remove his thick winter glove before shaking someone’s hand, anyone’s
hand — and this guy shakes a lot of hands. The neighbors, especially the dog-walking regulars, have come to
adore him. Harris can make small talk with passersby, and the dogs seem to love him as much as their owners.
“Bob has become a valuable extension of our front-of-the-house atmosphere,” says co-owner Jesse Keyes.
“Now the regulars say hello to him more than they say hello to me.”
This stretch of Ninth Street off Fifth Avenue is an unlikely spot for a place as hip as Griffou. Keyes, also a partner
at La Esquina and Goldbar, is very aware of the impression a doorman leaves on the neighbors, many of whom
remember the infamous after-hours club Marylou’s that used to be at the same address.
Hotel Griffou, named after a boarding house there long before Marylou’s, is far less debaucherous, yet the liquor is
just as potent. The dapper doorman spends much of his night asking a crowd of what Keyes calls the “understated
affluent” to keep their voices down outside. He rarely has to ask more than once.
“When you have a big bouncer who is too bulky, it creates trouble,” says Griffou regular Laura Coulthard, 25. “Bob
is a gentleman, and that’s what a classy bar like this is all about.”
Bouncer work has been good for the dapper doorman, as well. Since he started this summer, Harris says he has
lost 9 pounds and seen his cholesterol plummet. He attributes it to being on his feet five hours a day. But having a
parade of gorgeous young women kissing you on the cheek every night certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Venue Review: Hotel Griffou
Spectacular cocktails at new Village restaurant
By Danyelle Freeman
NY Daily News
The cocktails at Hotel Griffou are phenomenal. There's one called the Trophy Wife. I wanted to dislike it based on
its name alone, but it's excellent - a vibrant mix of cachaca, Champagne and passionfruit puree. My favorite is the
Tarbell, a soothing combination of cucumber vodka, elderflower liqueur, cucumber and mulled red grapes. It's the
kind of drink that's a little too easy to drink - as is the Mexican Rose, made with tequila, strawberries, lime and a
fragrant dose of cilantro.
The Griffou isn't a hotel. It's a restaurant that recently opened on a quiet Greenwich Village block lined with
brownstones. It's named after a famous 1870s boardinghouse that once occupied the same space. Writers like
Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe used to eat there. Now, people like Jennifer Lopez and Madonna do.
There's no sign out front, just a blue awning with the number 21 on it. The owners are a pedigreed bunch - they've
worked everywhere from La Esquina to Waverly Inn - well-versed in the art of speakeasy-style spots. There's an
elegant, wood barroom up-front, followed by a series of charming dining nooks. You can request dinner in the
salon, the library, the palm terrace, the wine vault or the studio. The powder blue salon feels like a -ladies-who-
lunch room, and the palm terrace feels tropical. Or you can eat in the library, which is festooned with a blizzard of
knickknacks like stuffed birds, books, musical instruments and teeny TVs playing oddball cartoons.
The only room I didn't like was the studio with its siren red walls, wood benches, uncomfortable metal chairs and
mismatched art. Most of the artwork was donated by friends of the owners, who are paid back in dinners and
The menu is filled with French-inspired American classics, like sole meunière, duck à l'orange and baked Alaska.
The chef, Jason Giordano, reworks traditional dishes, turning lobster thermidor into a rich fondue with four kinds of
cheese, caramelized onions, shallots and heavy cream. I also liked the duck à l'orange, finely cooked and served
over baby beets, oranges and a golden beet and orange puree.
It's a shame the rest of the menu isn't very good. I ordered steak tartare. What I got were dainty brioche rounds
topped with a meek steak tartare and a cold, quail egg. Either I have a bigger appetite than most of their guests or
the portions are way too tiny. How can the kitchen consider three shrimp an "appetizer" - and what if I'm sharing?
Am I supposed to play rock, paper, scissors for the third shrimp?
Usually, half the fun of ordering steak Diane is the show - a beef tenderloin doused in brandy and flamed
tableside. None of that here, just a tough, sliced tenderloin in a mustard veal jus alongside butter-drenched
potatoes. As for the market greens, I'd be embarrassed to serve it at a backyard barbecue, never mind a hip
restaurant. It was a miserable salad with chalky goat cheese and fried shallots. And don't get the sole meunière. (It
tasted curiously like soap on two separate occasions.)
The desserts are good. There's a velvety butterscotch banana pudding with vanilla wafers and a teacup of bread
croissant pudding. Perhaps they should rebrand Hotel Griffou as a cocktail bar with good desserts.
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
February 17, 11:39 AM ! Howard Portnoy - NY Restaurant Examiner
New York restaurant review: Ghost of
restaurants past and present at Hotel Griffou
As might be expected of a city of its advancing
years, New York has its share of restaurants with "a
past." At some, like Fraunces Tavern, history was
made. At others, like Delmonico's, eating history
was made. Hotel Griffou has the rare distinction
of belonging to both categories. Back in the late the
nineteenth century, the restaurant was a writers'
hangout. Mark Twain dined here and so did
William Dean Howell (Twain's eventual
biographer), who referred to the Griffou in two of
his novels. Shortly after the turn of the twentieth
century, a murder-suicide on the premises earned
the establishment some unwanted press. Then it
closed. Then it reopened for a season as Marylou's.
Photo: Howard Portnoy Then it closed again.
Which brings us more or less current. Last June, the space and name were reclaimed by local restaurant veterans
Larry Poston, Johnny Swet, and Jesse Keyes. To give the restaurant a contemporary feel, they added an obligatory
cocktail menu. And in a nod to the history of the space, they named one of the cocktails the "Tarbell," for
muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell, who was a resident in the boardinghouse to which the restaurant was attached
(the hotel in Hotel Griffou).
The past, as they say, is prologue. The many rooms that make up this subterranean retreat have been infused with
a cosmetized patina of age, occasioned partly by period furniture, shaded sconces, and old portraits in gilded
frames. Some of the rooms, such as the Library (its actual name), are straight out of the game Clue.
The menu, which fittingly has one foot in the past and one in the present, was recently revamped, and some of the
early curiosities—duck confit poutine, chocolate baked Alaska—were deep-sixed. Happily, the lobster thermidor
fondue was retained, though as Linda Richman of SNL Coffee Talk fame might observe, the dish is neither lobster
thermidor not a fondue; discuss. The item as realized is a savory blend of cheeses (Gruyère, Fontina, and cream
cheese) and lobster meat, though efforts to dip up the quite solid mass with the house-provided croutons will prove
futile. There is no law against using a fork.
Among the new items under the heading "Seasonal" you will find a lone, large raviolo of duck confit and goat
cheese in a blood orange gastrique. In addition to the above-named ingredients, the saucer-size pasta package
conceals a tempered egg, which pleasantly oozes yolk when you cut into it. An unheralded garnish of beets add a
surprise dimension to the dish.
An expertly cooked fillet of salmon is glazed with Banyuls wine and sandwiched between crunchy baby carrots and
French lentils. But if you're going to visit once, the dish to have is the veal chop, a huge pan-roasted knob of the
butteriest meat, flecked with a sweetbread foam and buried in oyster mushrooms and roasted fingerling potatoes.
Even after inquiring, I'm at loss to explain the descriptor "blanquette de veau" style appended to the dish, but
don't let that stop you from ordering what may be the city's best veal chop.
Any restaurant worth its salt nowadays includes at least one salted sweet on its dessert menu. At Hotel Griffou, the
requirement is met by salted caramel banana pudding pie—which by the way is fabulous. Remarkably, the flavor of
ricotta cheese carries the main melody in the Nutella ricotta cheesecake, which is the only way a true ricotta
cheesecake fanatic would have it. The item is crowned by a hazelnut encased in crystalized sugar; a nifty grace
Despite mixed reviews in the months after it opened, Griffou was doing a brisk business on a recent weeknight, this
in spite of snow earlier that day, which had made a mess of the streets. I suppose there is some truth to the axiom:
Rebuild it and they will come.
Hotel Griffou, 21 W. 9th Street, bet Fifth and Sixth Aves, 212-358-0228. Open seven days for dinner. Price range:
$8 to $19 for first courses, $14 to $38 for main courses, $7 to $10 for desserts. Major credit cards are accepted.
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
New York Home > Nightlife > X Factor
Photo Credit: Jamie Chung
Published August 23, 2010
A Plush New Lounge on Kenmare
The fall of Rome was quite a party.
Wine flowed like water, indulgent feasts lasted all day, and there’s a reason it’s still called the Roman orgy.
Well, it’s only been 1,500 years, but we have a feeling Rome is finally ready to fall again...
Introducing XIX, a new lounge deep underneath Nolita Italian date spot Travertine, now open for select
Like all the best dens of iniquity, the numerically named XIX is completely hidden from passersby. Yet
once you suss out the unmarked door and descend the steep staircase, you’ll be surrounded by a dim,
candlelit, plush little chamber decked with lipstick-red leather couches ringing the room and a series of
1,000-pound slabs of etched marble hanging on the walls. Each slab tells part of the story of a young
Roman warrior, scorned by his love, who plunges into combat to prove himself to her. (Not unlike the story
of your senior prom.)
Since no food is served here, you can’t actually have someone drop peeled grapes into your mouth (unless
you supply the grapes and the grape-servant). So we’d advise focusing your attention instead on the wine,
the DJ and finding the hidden room behind the red velvet curtain at the DJ booth, where young warriors
can find other ways to prove themselves to their loves.
We’d start with grapes. !
XIX 19 Kenmare St
New York, NY 10012
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Fashion & Style
September 15, 2010
XIX, the Hot New Bar in NoLita
By DENNY LEE
CAN’T get in? Well, then, it must be hot. That must explain why XIX, a new subterranean bar in NoLIta,
tracked down Disco, the infamous doorman from Bungalow 8, to work its door. It was a bloodbath the other
Thursday. Strapping tennis players from the United States Open? Nope. Three guys from Brooklyn? Not a
chance. Rejects from the Kenmare up the block? Rejected again.
The scene downstairs was more serene. Turns out, the line about the private party is sometimes true. A
reporter for Page Six, Tara Palmeri, was having a birthday party, though the only boldface name was Bode
Miller, the skier, who was cavorting with two women, beer in hand. That didn’t stop the uninvited from trying
to crash — and being rejected.
Michael Nagle for The New York Times Michael Nagle for The New York Times
Tucked under Travertine, an upscale Italian restaurant on gritty Kenmare Street. The door is unmarked, but
just look for Disco, who’s hard to miss at 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds. The bar itself is dark and small — just a
single 800-square-foot room with bordello-red banquettes, fake wood ceiling beams and marble slabs carved
with Romanesque scenes of war and love-making. Think frat basement, redone by a metrosexual decorator.
It’s still finding its groove, but on recent visits, the crowd was a mix of fashionable jocks in V-neck T-shirts and
$300 jeans, and sassy women in Alexander Wang tops who didn’t mind buying their own drinks. But the space
is small — capacity is 75 — so the vibe can change on a dime.
When there is a private party, don’t bother. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of Disco, who, depending on the
night, can be the guy you curse out or your best friend.
There is a D.J. booth, featuring a roster of downtown names like Tommie Sunshine, who will be spinning
No cocktail menu at the moment, but there is the bottle service — Grey Goose for $400, anyone? Beers like an
Amstel Light start at $11.
XIX, 19 Kenmare Street (near Elizabeth Street); no phone. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 p.m. to 4
a.m. DENNY LEE!
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Posted: 11:33 PM, February 12, 2010
Last Updated: 1:58 PM, February 18, 2010
Axl not sweet to fashionistas
While only Fashion Week can persuade
Guns N' Roses to play a secret show for 200
fans, it can't force frontman Axl Rose to turn
up on time. The rock wildman was nearly
three hours late for his show, leaving the
well-heeled crowd -- including designer John
Varvatos, p.r. icon Kelly Cutrone, One
Model Management chief Scott Lipps and
photographer Mick Rock -- waiting in a
sweaty VIP area until just before 1 a.m.
yesterday for the band to take the stage at
the Varvatos store in the East Village. Once
onstage, Rose -- who one guest said looked
like Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" --
wouldn't stop and played until 3 a.m. The
band continued the party at E__P, the music
venue downstairs, until 5 a.m., when Axl
shouted, "We're going to a club." As Axl
staggered out, The Post's Brian Niemietz
asked him how late he stays out at night and
the sweat-drenched star snarled, "As long as
KEVIN MAZUR ARCHIVE/WIREIMAGE.CO
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
AUGUST 31, 2009
TABLES FOR TWO
21 W. 9th St. (212-358-0228)
by Nick Paumgarten
The text message came in from an early arriver: “I’m here.
Surrounded by girls.” Her dinner companion found her at
the bar, amid several teeming parties of young women,
their hair brushing her bare shoulders as they leaned in to
order drinks. One’s first inclination was to credit the
gimmicky cocktail menu, but a few rounds proved that
these drinks were not girly; even the sweet-sounding ones
were, in deference to an alleged old-timey disdain for
sugar, very dry. The bartender, in a kind of lacy Rosa’s
Cantina dress, explained that during Prohibition there
wasn’t any mulled fruit. There was gin, however, and it
went well with cava and a dash of lemon juice.
Hotel Griffou appeared to be in the Daily Candy stage of early renown, a destination for new-restaurant scalp-collectors and
spotters of personages whose names in print may tip between Roman and bold. Among the owners are guys who have opened
other speakeasy-ish joints (such as Freemans and La Esquina) that have managed to feed people well while maintaining some
cool. This restaurant, unmarked outside, occupies the garden level of an old Village town house that was once a nineteenth-
century boardinghouse frequented by Mark Twain. More recently, the space belonged to Marylou’s, a neighborhood mainstay.
Past the bar is a warren of dining rooms (the Library, the Studio, the Palm Terrace, and so on), each with its own category of
bric-a-brac and contrived kitsch. In the Salon, a giant, droll color photograph of an older woman in a trenchcoat, shooting
flames from her wrists, seemed to epitomize the place. The food at a restaurant like this must be good enough merely to stave
off the fear that you may be the mark in a scam. As it stands, you wonder. The menu is heavy on French-infused comfort food,
some of which, like the gloppy lobster-thermidor fondue or the plate of fried sweetbreads in a white onion sauce (reminiscent
of a Philly cheesesteak, which just seemed wrong), could benefit from the restraint evident in the cocktails. Still, Hotel
Griffou has been open just two months, so it deserves some slack. Simpler stuff—such as the bacon-Gruyère burger—bears up
better. The pork paillard, pounded thin and seasoned with chives, shallots, and veal jus, comes from a recipe set down by
Madame Marie Griffou in 1892. Allegedly. (Open daily for dinner. Entrées $17-$40.) !
PHOTOGRAPH: ELIZA HONEY
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Thu, Jun 18, 2009
Your Hotel Griffou Cheat Sheet
This hotly-anticipated restaurant with stellar downtown pedigree opens for
public walk-ins tonight. Here’s what you need to know. Plus: Slideshow!
By ELIZABETH BOUGEROL
Kimba/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0
Hotel Griffou, the hotly-anticipated restaurant with a stellar downtown pedigree, opens for public walk-ins tonight.
Here’s what you need to know:
¥ What do we mean by “pedigree,” ‘zactly? The owner triumvirate is as follows: one used to manage
Pastis and the Waverly Inn (Larry Poston), one was a founder of La Esquina (Jesse keyes), and one
presided over Freemans and parts of the Keith “Minetta Lane” McNally and Sean “Jane Hotel”
MacPherson empires (Johnny Swet).
¥ The resto is named, sez Grub Street, after “the 1870s boardinghouse where (per Appetite City, by
William Grimes) you could score a multi-course feast, complete with a pint of wine, for 50 cents.”
¥ Rooms like the salon and library are all fine – with décor just kooky enough to be genuinely European
– but if you can, score a spot in the be-chandeliered wine vault, which seats 14.
¥ The menu (from Spice Market’s Jason Michael Giordano) has decidedly old-school touchpoints: duck a
l’orange, sole meuniere, pork cutlets “from an 1892 recipe.” The prices are new-school: Entrees will run
you $17, for the burger, to $42, for the lobster tails with brown butter veloute.
¥ House-menu cocktails are $14; refreshingly, there’s not a sidecar or a sazerac in sight. Best-named
cocktail is The Trophy Wife: Matusalem rum, passion fruit, key lime juice, sugarcane syrup, nutmeg.
Hotel Griffou, 21 West 9 Street near Fifth Avenue; (646) 448-4632
Grub Street has even more details and a Griffou slideshow.
Copyright NBC Local Media, First Published: Jun 17, 2009 2:21 PM EDT
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
First Look at Hotel Griffou, Opening for Public
Photo: Adrian Wilson
One of the restaurants mentioned in William Grimes’s
Appetite City will make a comeback of sorts when Hotel
Griffou opens for preview walk-ins tonight. The Griffou
is named after the 1870s boardinghouse where (per
Grimes) you could score a multi-course feast, complete
with a pint of wine, for 50 cents. As you can see below,
the throwback menu (designed by Jason Michael
Giordano, a former chef de cuisine at Spice Market and
Mia Dona) isn’t quite as generously priced, but you may
forgive that when you take a look at our slideshow. Owners Larry Poston (a former manager of Pastis
and the Waverly Inn), Johnny Swet (former manager at Freemans as well as at Sean MacPherson’s and
Keith McNally’s restaurants), and Jesse Keyes (a founding partner of La Esquina and GoldBar) have
done quite a number on the “library room,” the “salon,” and the “studio” (each have about 30 seats,
and two of the rooms have working fireplaces) as well as the fifteen-seat terrace and a fourteen-seat
wine vault. Reservations will be open to all starting July 1 (the official “soft opening”), but given the
owners’ pedigree, we won’t be surprised when that means “we have a 6:30 and an 11 p.m.” (dinner will
be served from 6 p.m. till midnight and the bar will stay open till 1 a.m.). Are you going to want to get
in on this place early and often? We’re thinking yes, you are.
Hotel Griffou, 21 W. 9th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-358-0228
By: Daniel Maurer!
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Dining & Wine
Published: September 23, 2009
RESTAURANT REVIEW | HOTEL GRIFFOU
Stargazing, With a Bit of Nostalgia
By PETE WELLS
Christopher Smith for The New York Times
THROWBACK Hotel Griffou, in a former boardinghouse on West Ninth Street, has four dining rooms decorated in
WHEN the operators of restaurants known as celebrity hangouts are asked how an ordinary civilian can get V.I.P.
treatment, they invariably give the same answer: Make yourself a regular.
I used to believe them before Hotel Griffou, a new restaurant on West Ninth Street, came along. Its owners —
among them veterans of the Waverly Inn, Freemans and La Esquina — have the frequent pleasure of reading
gossip items about the meals enjoyed there by Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, Sean Penn and the like, but Hotel
Griffou seemed to follow the principle in reverse. I was treated worse each time I showed up.
After my first dinner, I sat by the bar to wait for my friends to catch up. An employee rushed over and asked, in a
voice that floated like a paper airplane, “Can I buy you a drink while you’re waiting for your table?”
I wish she had been around for my final meal there, when I checked in on time for an 8 p.m. reservation. “Three
people?” asked the man at the desk. No, four, I said. He replied, with evident sorrow, that he had me down for
“I called a couple of hours ago to change it to four,” I said.
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
“Our reservations line closes at 5,” he said, as if he’d caught me. Why did it matter? 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
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.
That’s too bad in some regards, because Hotel Griffou does have its allures. Each dining room has a different motif,
as if the restaurant were trying to ignite a collect-them-all frenzy. A friend described the Library as “very man-
cavey,” outfitted with wooden ducks, a manual typewriter, a fiddle, a saddle, shelves filled with law books, a
football that looks as if it was in play when F. Scott Fitzgerald was at Princeton, and four fox pelts.
The Salon, dominated by a large photograph of an old woman shooting flames from her wrists, looks like the
drawing room of an English aristocrat with a weakness for odd contemporary art. The most sedate chamber is
coyly known as the Palm Terrace. It sports a potted palm along with ivory leather banquettes and wallpaper
celebrating the glory days of the Raj.
A Little Red Riding Hood installation distinguished the last room I ate in, but I was too addled to give it a full
Apart from the modern art, the overall aesthetic drinks deep of the current nostalgia for country houses and
hunting lodges in the sunset years of the British empire, mixed in with the renaissance of the types of handmade
cocktails that faded during Prohibition. There’s a letter-perfect mint julep and a navy grog with pineapple juice and
rum that almost makes you want to join a ship. Of everything Hotel Griffou offers, the drinks are the easiest things
to swallow. They helped buff the rough edges of the food that followed.
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. Grilled trout with tomatoes and braised fennel
was typical, and successful. Much stranger was a chicken breast “in pistou,” as the menu claimed. In actuality, the
delicate basil sauce coated a handful of crisp vegetables rather than the powdery, overcooked chicken, which could
have used it. Tender fettuccine appears with a rotating cast of seasonal vegetables. One night it was a very
enjoyable pairing of kale and cranberry beans, on another, fresh chickpeas with eggplant, so underdone it
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.
The classics were more solid. On this side of the menu you’ll find a dish not served anywhere else in the city, a plate
of pounded and fried pork cutlets under a dark mushroom sauce with peas. It is an appealingly unreconstructed
throwback, dating to 1892 and attributed to Marie Griffou, who once ran a boardinghouse at this address.
The tender and rich burger was a solid success, and the secret seemed to be the way the kitchen let a mildly tart
and spicy ketchup soak into the top bun. It shouldn’t have made a difference, but it did. A strip sirloin steak was
cooked just as we had asked, and hit the right beefy notes, though the sauce au poivre seemed to be geared to
diners who don’t like black pepper.
But you’d think that our waiter might have delivered a $37 steak, or for that matter a $17 burger, without having to
be reminded who got what. Service at Hotel Griffou can be wildly inconsistent. In the Library, we were under the
ministrations of a flotilla of servers. (Given the country-estate mood, and how briskly and unobtrusively they
patrolled the room, I am tempted to call them servants.) On another night, we got the kind of gruff attention you
expect at a steakhouse.
After that last meal, having abandoned the gooey desserts that had the excessive sweetness that is the hallmark of
school bake sales, we saw a vehicle parked at the curb, a Mercedes Sprinter cargo van that had been expensively
retrofitted for passengers. A driver had ferried somebody from out of town for dinner at Hotel Griffou. With luck,
that somebody did not have to wait for a table. I’d hate to think of the driver’s overtime.
21 West Ninth Street, (212) 358-0228.
ATMOSPHERE Four intimate dining rooms have contrasting decorating schemes but share an aesthetic that is
prewar and vaguely Anglophilic.
SOUND LEVEL Ranges from civilized (in the room called the Palm Terrace) to raucous.
RECOMMENDED DISHES Deviled crab croquettes, spinach salad, grilled Tasmanian sea trout, fettuccine, burger,
strip sirloin frites, plat au boeuf.
WINE LIST French-leaning, with just enough choices under $50. An ideal night here would begin with a cocktail,
and could stop right there.
PRICE RANGE Appetizers, $8 to $16; main courses, $19 to $38.
HOURS Monday to Saturday, 6 to 11:45 p.m.; Sunday, 6 to 11 p.m.
RESERVATIONS Recommended several days to a week ahead.
CREDIT CARDS All major cards.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS Not accessible.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN Ratings range from zero to four stars and reflect the reviewer’s reaction to food,
ambience and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
July 7, 2009 by Jean Nathan
Griffou’s Wilde Past: West Village Restaurant’s
Ghost Guests Included Oscar, Twain, Tarbell
Shot by Adrian Wilson.
Faux classic is the New York restaurant flavor du
jour, but partners in the new Hotel Griffou at 21
West Ninth Street hit authenticity pay dirt with a
history-buff neighbor’s fortuitous tip.
Johnny Swet (former general manager of Bowery
Bar, Balthazar, Pastis and Freeman’s); Larry
Poston Jr. (formerly front-of-the-house manager at
Town, Pastis and the Waverly Inn); Jonathan
Hettinger (who had run a private-equity fund
before managing Cafeteria in South Beach, Fla.); and Jesse Keyes (founding partner of La Esquina and Goldbar) were
having trouble coming up with a name for their 3,600-square-foot venture between Fifth and Sixth avenues, the
basement of three linked, landmarked, 19th-century Anglo-Italianate brownstones.
“Ocean’s 21” read the name on the broken-down awning—a Rat Pack–themed ’50s-style speakeasy that had been
closed for four years. Before that it was the infamous Marylou’s, where Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro were
regulars and the drugs flowed as freely as the booze; before that, a steakhouse called Nat Simon’s Penguin. None of
Then, after a meeting with the buildings’ co-op board in late January, Robyn Malin-Rubinstein, the board’s treasurer,
asked whether the partners knew that the space had encompassed the Hotel and Restaurant Griffou in the late 1800s.
She told them the buildings were built in 1851 as a boardinghouse that Marie Griffou and her second husband took
over in the early 1870s. In its heyday, muckraker Ida Tarbell had lived at the hotel and frequented the restaurant, a
writers’ hangout. It was referred to in at least three novels by two Gilded Age customers (Thomas A. Janvier’s At the
Casa Napoleon, and William Dean Howell’s The World of Chance and A Hazard of New Fortunes). Someone, Ms.
Malin-Rubinstein added, had kept a brown bear tied up in the backyard before the authorities required its removal to
the Central Park Zoo.
The partners went into a research frenzy.
They found that Mark Twain dined at the Griffou. Oscar Wilde did, too, during his 1882 American tour. The baby bear
was apparently purchased by Louis Napoleon Griffou, Madame Griffou’s son, who, it was said, feared the temptation to
buy something foolish with his earnings.
Madame Griffou died in 1905, and her establishment made its last headlines a year later, when a 60-year-old married
banker killed his 28-year-old lover and then himself in one of the hotel’s rooms. (Ms. Malin-Rubenstein, who has lived
for the past decade in a spacious modern duplex on the third and fourth floors where she and her husband,Jason, the
co-op president, run Product Lounge, a home design licensing firm, was a bit taken aback to discover that the very
room in which the murder-suicide took place is one of the eight that make up her apartment.)
Sometime between that incident and 1907, the Hotel Griffou closed. By 1909, it had reopened as the Hotel Europe,
according to the New York Times obituary for Xavier Hernandez, the Griffou’s maitre d’ for 35 years, who died that
year in his room upstairs. In 1929, a new owner’s plan to demolish the buildings and rebuild was averted by the stock
market crash. (No one has yet been able to fill in what went on in the three decades between the Depression and the
1960s, when it became the
The new Griffou is open now, in an age more tarnished than gilded, with a vodka-elderflower cocktail named the Tarbell
on its retro-inflected menu. As celebrities like Chloë Sevigny, Rachel Roy, Harvey Weinstein, John Leguizamo and Ross
Bleckner filter in, the partners are still finding the past a calming obsession. “It’s like ready-made soul,” said Mr. Swet,
who is trying to establish historical proof that Edna St. Vincent Millay, his poet idol who once lived on the block, was a
regular at the old Griffou. He’s still looking.!
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
Monday, June 29th 2009, 11:49 AM
This week's real estate news and gossip
Hotel Griffou located at 21 W. Ninth Street in Manhattan (Wilson)
There is life after football for ex-New York Jets wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. The native Californian
has taken up interior design as something that counts as more than a hobby. Whether he’s any good or
not, we’re not sure, but A&E television network thinks he’s interesting enough for his own design-themed
reality show. “Keyshawn Johnson: Tackling Design” premieres Saturday, July 11, at noon. The show
follows the talented USC graduate and NFL analyst who grew up in South Central’s Crenshaw as he
designs homes for clients.
After getting a glimpse of Johnson’s own home on “MTV Cribs” years back, we were impressed by a
minimalist touch. We’ll see what he can do with a camera over his shoulder instead of a cornerback.
One thing’s for sure, the guy loves publicity. We hear Johnson gets tough in the first episode when he
calls on a husband to be firm with his wife over color choice.
What major-league movie star has reportedly given up Gramercy Park digs for the far West Village? The
family is renting there and may be looking to buy a nearby townhouse. Lady Gaga is also looking in the
West Village. Her two-car entourage was spotted on Charles St. with a real estate agent.
After turning a SoHo loft space into a residential event extravaganza, the folks at Thrillist.com must be a
little tired. Over five nights, Thrillist partnered with Absolut vodka and different nationally known locally-
based Web sites (the Onion, flavorpill, Cool Hunting) to bring over 1,500 guests through the Safe Harbor
Loft off Grand St. Hula-Hoop dancers, graffiti artists, deejays and world-class bartenders who taught
guests how to mix drinks.
While the space changed decor nightly, certain design elements remained. Thermosensitive pillows by
NunoErin and authentic race chairs from Jaguar and Ferrari (inset) were interior highlights in the loft-
turned-home party space. For more information, check out www.thrillist.com.
Barbara Bush, John McCain’s daughter Meghan and actor John Leguizamo have a new neighbor on
lower Fifth Ave. Bar/restaurant Hotel Griffou just opened at 21 W. Ninth St. in the legendary space once
known as Mary Lou’s. Through the 1990s, Mary Lou’s drew stars such as Jack Nicholson, author Jay
McInerney and some very colorful made men. Griffou, named after a woman who ran a rooming house
on the same site in the early 1900s, gives the place new life. Owned and designed by Johnny Swet
(Balthazar, Freemans), Larry Poston (Waverly Inn) and Jesse Keyes (Gold Bar, La Esquina), Hotel
Griffou promises to be the newest place for the “A-list” crowd.
Focusing on food and decor, the owners have spiced up this relatively midsize space by dressing up
each room differently. The Studio is a pink blush room made to resemble a working artists area. The
color gives it a Lily Pulitzer-on-acid feel. The Library has fox skins, 1920s leather footballs, silver
chalices, folk art and law texts from the Mary Lou bookshelves. “The idea here was to take elements
from this place’s great past, twist them, engage them and then fragment them again,” says Keyes, the
real estate developer in the group. What’s he mean? Frilled wallpaper breaks away and disintegrates into
solid wall. Art will not have accompanying cards giving the artist’s name. The multi-room sound system
was installed by residential apartment specialist Bryan Bilgore who has done apartments in the Carlyle
Hotel and many new condominiums. Hotel Griffou officially opens July 1. While the kitchen closes at
11:45pm, the lively bar stays open till 1am, a far cry from Mary Lou's after-hours scene. As for
Leguizamo, locals tell us the Colombia-born actor needs to pick up after his dog.
MODO PRESS KIT 2011
10. IAC Building by Frank Gehry
8. East Harlem School by Peter
Gluck and Partners
4. Scandinavia House by
2. Pier 62 Carousel Shed by CR
1. HL23 by Neil M. Denari Architects [Photos by Paul Clemence]
7. 1 7th Avenue South by Rogers
6. Greenwich Village Residence by
5. 23 Beekman by Della Valle
4. Scandinavia House by
9. Diana Center by Weiss/Manfredi