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A new French flourish
Craig LaBan, Inquirer Restaurant Critic
Take a stroll down East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia's buzziest dining strip, and you can taste any number of flavors that have defined the city's menu trends in the last decade, from craft cocktails to hipster Mexican, handmade salumi, and wood-fired pizza, washed down with a veritable river of craft beer.
But now suddenly, there are also soubise, snails, and cassoulet. Foie gras comes seared with spiced cream cheese or whipped with rabbit rillettes. Boudin noir (blood pudding) is back - très back - because French food has reemerged in a big, big way.
I realize it wasn't so long ago that French cuisine was pronounced, pretty much globally, to be dead and irrelevant.
But the proof is in the current soufflé of hot options: Four French restaurants - including Fond, Will, Townsend, and Laurel - have opened on or near East Passyunk within the last couple of years. And it mirrors a citywide resurgence. At least a quarter of the restaurants I've reviewed in 2014 either call themselves French (Le Chéri, Paris Bistro, Good King Tavern), or weave distinct Gallic accents through their menus, from the escargots "à la Georges Perrier" at Treemont to the soubise sauces and tartares at Pub & Kitchen, to the Bordelaise-sauced burgers at Crow & the Pitcher, where Le Bec-Fin's refurbished Christofle cheese cart trundles once again in its gleaming silver glory. "Yes, it is back, and I'm glad because it was worrying me a bit," said Jean-Marie Lacroix, the former chef at Fountain Restaurant and Lacroix at the Rittenhouse known as "Papa" to his many proteges.
Along with Perrier, of course, Lacroix helped set the city's gold standard for luxury dining in the 1980s and '90s, training a generation of cooks in the fundamentals and helping put Philadelphia on the national map.
But that was then. In recent years, the stuffy trappings of haute cuisine, heavy sauces, and formal service had all but evaporated (along with Walnut Street's Restaurant Row) beneath the waves of BYOBs, Nuevo Latino ceviches, Asian fusion dumplings, farm-to-table small plates, Neapolitan pizzerias, molecular-gastro foams, Spanish tapas, Korean tacos, whiskey-bar pickles, and wild edibles foraged in the New Nordic style.
"Cuisine is cyclical, just like music and clothing," said Paul Lyons, who's cooking chickpea socca cakes, duck confit, and other Provençal flavors at Bella Vista's Good King Tavern.
"It's undeniable that French food was out of fashion," said Townsend "Tod" Wentz, a Lacroix acolyte who's now chef-owner of Townsend. "The increase in casualness - we covered that in the gastropub phase. But people do want to dine again."
It may well be a matter of generational timing, as a wave of young cooks who at some point trained under either Perrier or Lacroix have simply come of age to open their own restaurants.
"They were working in other people's places so they could make their mistakes elsewhere, because you can't open a restaurant when you're 20," said Charlotte Calmels, who co-owns Bibou and Le Chéri with chef-husband Pierre Calmels, a Lyonnais and former chef at Le Bec.
There was always, to be sure, a steady drumbeat à la Marseillaise pulsing softly in the background as survivors like Olivier de St. Martin (Caribou Cafe, Zinc Bistro), Patrice Rames (Bistro St. Tropez), Michele Haines (Spring Mill Cafe), Peter Woolsey (Bistrot La Minette), and the Calmelses' Bibou more than held their own. Stephen Starr's mega-bistro, Parc, was recently noted by Restaurant News Magazine as the city's most profitable restaurant, with an estimated $11.9 million in gross sales.
But what has emerged with this latest popular wave of Franco-Philly Dining 2.0 represents a stunning range of interpretations of what French cuisine has become - and with the talents to make it as relevant as ever, from Top Chef Nick Elmi's deconstructed cassoulet and cocoa-marbled foie gras at Laurel, to the gleaming copper pan of unrepentantly classic choucroute for two served at Townsend's bar, just a few doors away.
At one end of the spectrum informed by the French biblical teachings of Larousse Gastronomique, no one produces the forgotten standards like quenelles or boudin noir with as much grace and soul as Pierre Calmels at Le Chéri. Chris Kearse at Will BYOB, meanwhile, paints his gorgeous plates with an avant-garde mastery of modern techniques often associated with Spanish cuisine. But underneath that foamy pouf of ham dashi, there are court-bouillon-poached snails in truffled red wine sauce. Scallops are sauced with vivid green Chartreuse. Duck comes with orange-caramelized Belgian endive.
"The combinations are very, very French. The whole philosophy of these dishes is French," says Kearse, whose restaurant, after my most recent exceptional meal, has been elevated to three bells (see "Good Taste" on F3).
Of course, a few years ago, many of these restaurants could just as easily have been called "New American," that pervasive catchall label that spoke to the desire of American chefs to roam free without the constraints of any ethnic borders.
But what defines the current wave as French, perhaps even more than any particular repertoire of touchstone flavors, is a renewed fervor for the hands-on basic skills, from stock-making to bread-baking and charcuterie, that was always lurking at the roots of the American culinary revolution.
"French cuisine is what everyone learns at culinary school," said Lyons, who said he's now "having a blast" with the daily tasks of making terrines and duck confit at Good King after a hectic summer turn at Morgan's Pier deep-frying burgers that, as a high-tech experiment in cooking for the masses, had been cooked sous-vide then frozen in liquid nitro.
For the many other young cooks who never quite found such occasion to re-embrace those fundamentals - skipping straight to agar-agar and meat glue instead of learning to properly reduce a sauce or roll a torchon - chefs like Wentz can see you: "You stick out like a sore thumb. You still need to be able to do it with your hands."
After a decade of other culinary infatuations and trends, this return to French ideas, old masters like Jean-Marie Lacroix agree, is a good thing: "What some of these chefs are cooking today is different, maybe a little lighter, and a little cleaner from the things we've learned along the way," he says. "But sometimes, when you can go back and do something over again, you will do a better job."
Good King Tavern Socca
Makes 3 cakes
1 pound chickpea flour (16 ounces)
4 ounces water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1. Combine all ingredients thoroughly in a blender.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a 9-inch cast-iron pan (preferably heavy-bottomed) in oven.
3. After 30 minutes, carefully remove hot pan from oven. Put 2 tablespoons of canola oil in cast-iron pan and then ladle 6 ounces of the socca batter into the pan. Tilt and rotate pan to cover bottom and place in oven.
4. After 10 minutes, check to make sure socca is crispy throughout; if still slightly wet, cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from pan with spatula and cut into wedges. Repeat to make 2 more soccas. Serve.
- From chef Paul Lyons at Good King Tavern
Per cake: 840 calories; 29 grams protein; 92 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams sugar; 42 grams fat; no cholesterol; 1,199 milligrams sodium; 27 grams dietary fiber.
Good King Tavern Ratatouille
Makes 2 quarts
10-12 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups eggplant, peeled and diced medium
2 cups zucchini, diced medium
1 cup red pepper, sliced
1 cup Spanish onion, sliced
10 whole garlic cloves, ends removed
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
2 pounds canned crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1. In a Dutch oven or deep sauce pot, saute each vegetable separately in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (The zucchini and eggplant will need additional olive oil as they cook because they tend to absorb the oil.)
2. Combine all vegetables, add the garlic, thyme, and crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Check for seasoning. Fold in chopped parsley just before serving. Bon appétit.
- From chef Paul Lyons at Good King Tavern
Per serving (based on 8): 227 calories; 4 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams sugar; 18 grams fat; no cholesterol; 222 milligrams sodium; 6 grams dietary fiber.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/food/20141106_A_new_French_flourish.html#oE4wqQHhk3l29GTP.99
A taste of Southern France in South Philly
My first taste of socca was in the summer of 1990, with the Nice Jazz Festival swooning behind me in the dusky Roman ruins of the Jardin de Cimiez, and a sunny July day's worth of Côte d'Azur sea salt still crusting my skin.
As they emerged in giant round steel pans from the blazing hearth, I hungrily watched that socca, a paper-thin crepe of chickpea flour and olive oil, being scraped up in curling yellow shards and folded into paper cones to go. The heat-charred edges were irresistible, and the cake's silky-soft, earthy batter, tinged with wood fire and sea air, was gone in few bites. But that taste has lingered for me as an indelible memory of the Mediterranean - one I've craved often ever since.
Who knew it would take nearly a quarter-century to taste it again?
It arrived on a long board in Bella Vista, as the best nibbles at the Good King Tavern often do, stacked into a pile of crispy-edged triangles. And it disappeared nearly as fast, though with a couple of unexpected accoutrements: a crock of ratatouille and a mound of Bibb lettuce. Chef Paul Lyons, 29, who went on a reconnaissance trip to the south of France, the ancestral home of co-owners Chloe Grigri and her father Bernard, thought the pancakes needed a little something to jazz up his rendition for Philly.
They really didn't. But I loved his twist nonetheless, the fresh greens adding a tender crunch, and the tomatoey chunks of eggplant and zucchini lending an emphatic Provencal tone as vintage soul from Bill Withers and Dusty Springfield poured from the stereo into this boisterous South Philly bistro.
The Good King Tavern - named in honor of René d'Anjou, the 15th century ruler who was the last king of independent Provence - was not intended to be "overtly French," said Chloe Grigri, who grew up spending summers in her father's hometown of Luynes near Aix-en-Provence. At the very least, this project was intended to showcase the un-stuffy, accessible side of French culture.
And they have succeeded in many ways. Their warm revamp of the former Chick's, aided by family friend Owen Kamihira, has removed walls and made the corner space feel larger and more inviting, now with a long wood community table and booths, and cheery hues of Provencal blue and mustard for the vintage pressed-tin ceiling and walls.
There are other places nearby to get better cocktails and more craft beers. But the Good King's wine program, explained with surprising aplomb by the well-informed young staff, is just what I'd hope for from a neighborhoody French boîte. The list of 20-some bottles is mostly under $50 (with pitchers of vin du table from $20 to $30) and focused on lesser-known labels from Cahors, Alsace and Languedoc, including a crisp white Muscadet from Chateau de l'Oiselinière that gave me a craving for raw oysters.
Of course, bivalves were about the only thing Lyons didn't serve. The former George Sabatino sidekick, who worked at Stateside, Barbuzzo, and Morgan's Pier, is so enthralled with his exploration of French bistro flavors that the printed menu of 20 items, ranging from spicy grilled octopus to plank-sized "meat boards" laden with housemade sausages and pâtés, is not enough to contain him. A chalkboard of 10 more specials meets with mixed success.
I was thrilled with his urge to whip salt cod into a funky, garlicky potato crock of brandade, or fava beans into a vivid green puree over toast with garlicky sauteed maitake mushrooms. His guinea hen rilletes, confit in duck fat and shredded into a cold, unctuous spread, was essentially a knockout chicken salad.
But Lyons would also do well to stifle himself a bit, working to refine fewer dishes rather than keep adding on new challenges. I loved his take on smoked Morteau sausage, a cuminy nutmeg-scented link steeped in wine that evoked a kielbasa. But his sausages with rabbit and Toulouse-style pork were dry. The foie gras torchon was too sweet from Grand Marnier. The bacon-wrapped "country pâté" reminded too much of liverwurst.
The odd house-made "mortadella" (reminiscent of a pork roll) was the least of the croque monsieur's issues. It was too bready. Other classics, the less-than-tender snails and some very dry frog's legs (though dusted with tasty Moroccan spice), also need work.
The French onion soup was one standard I loved despite its unconventional presentation outside the usual crock - a wider bowl allowing for more cheese-encrusted house-baked crouton action, the balanced broth deeply steeped from veal stock, thyme, and onions. His crispy-skinned trout amandine, shined with brown butter, scattered with slivered almonds and haricot verts, was a retro delight and a bargain at $15. The duck confit, with meltingly soft meat beneath its crispy skin, was perfect with bitter frisee greens and smashed fingerling potatoes fried in more duck fat. There may be no $15 cut of beef in town more tasty than his rosemary-marinated skirt steak-frites, with herb butter and fries dusted with an onion-garlic powder and an umami-boost of nutritional yeast.
But Lyons' personality (and Stateside/Barbuzzo pedigree) most emerged in riffs on bistro ideas for small plates laden with seasonality and clever tweaks. The pan-roasted Brussels sprouts were scattered with the BBQ crunch of smoked hazelnuts and a Provencal undercurrent of raw garlic-basil puree. Tender artichokes poached in a white wine barigoule took an unexpected turn with smoked lentils that mimicked the meaty twang of bacon. Skewered cubes of seared monkfish were moistened with a buttery stew of spring onions, ramps, peas, baby artichokes and a fava bean-olive tapenade.
Eggplant "3 ways," though, was my favorite, a multi-technique display that didn't forget to showcase the ingredient. Baby eggplants were tenderly cooked sous-vide before a finishing pan char. Pickled cubes of eggplant added tangy little bursts. And a silky "eggplant caviar" puree at the base of this colorful medley (which also crunched with shaved raw sunchokes and purple rounds of watermelon radish) had a Mediterranean richness and a sneaky prickle of spicy heat.
The handful of desserts here are simple, but also elevated by satisfying little winks - a hazelnut brittle for the rich chocolate pot de creme, and a lavender ice cream for the brioche bread pudding.
The unmistakable perfume of the purple flower evoked a distinctive flavor of Provence - much like the opening nibble of those chickpea socca cakes. What makes the Good King Tavern so promising, though, is how easily this tavern channels that casual, south-of-France flavor for South Philly.
Bernard Grigri, his daughter Chloe, and chef Paul Lyons discuss the Good King Tavern at www.inquirer.com/labanreviews. Inquirer critic Craig LaBan hosts an online chat at 2 p.m. Tuesdays at www.inquirer.com/labanchats.
The Good King Tavern Is Doing Brunch Now
[Photo: The Good King Tavern/Twitter]
The Good King Tavern, Bella Vista's new favorite French spot, is now serving brunch — and not just on the weekends, but on Fridays as well. Launched this past weekend, brunch service runs every Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And with chef Paul Lyons (who clearly shares his old boss George Sabatino's love of making things hard on himself) in the kitchen, it follows that everything from the bread to the breakfast sausage is being tackled in-house.
The debut brunch menu included dishes like smoked salmon tartines, croque madames, omelettes, pain perdu, and poached eggs with French bread, breakfast sausage, and charred scallion pistou. There's also a "breakfast board," recalling the excellent cheese and charcuterie boards available at dinner. And while you can get a mimosa or bloody mary, TGK nails classic cocktails — so you might want to branch out a little with a Pimm's cup.
(If you still need a nudge through TGK's door, though, check out Brian Freedman's adulating review in this week's Philly Weekly. The skate in saffron cream sauce is the solution to literally all of the world's problems; the steak frites "is steak and potatoes as the great carnivore in the sky intended them to be eaten," rhapsodizes Freedman.)
Philadelphia's 10 Hottest Restaurants
Photo by: Danya Henninger
Why It's Hot: Côte d'Azur native Bernard Gigri and daughter Chloe have created a cozy brasserie that makes a tucked-away corner off South Street seem like the south of France, and chef Paul Lyons’ food plays a starring role in the transformation.
Must Order: Socca (chickpea pancake) ($7); escargot ($7); steak frites ($15)
Insider Tip: Cocktails are as well done here as at some of the fanciest bars in town, except they’re $4-$5 less, on average. Bartenders are also willing to craft something custom to suit your mood, and it’s wise to take advantage.
614 S. Seventh St.; 215-625-3700
Good King Tavern Delivers Well-Crafted Casual French Classics
The restorative powers of a well-prepped order of steak frites are difficult to overstate. Prior to a recent visit to the Good King Tavern, I, along with most other Philadelphians, had been feeling victimized by the weather, by the aggressive capriciousness of this winter, by its angry snow storms and recalcitrant ice.
But just a few bites into my perfectly sliced skirt steak, I realized that I already felt better than I had in weeks. The transformation began as soon as we walked in to the candlelit space, formerly Chick’s Wine Bar but now reimagined as a quintessential French tavern. The pressed tin walls, the wooden tables illuminated by flickering votives, the original mirrors behind the bar: All of it conspired to force me to take a deep breath for the first time in weeks and maybe even enjoy the weather. When you’re ensconced in a space as cozy as this, it’s difficult to feel anything but contended.
A well-crafted cocktail certainly helped things along, and my sazerac, all swirling with Vieux Carré absinthe against the seam of spice from the Rittenhouse rye, was a classic restorative. (It also was a tremendously generous pour, nearly three fingers-full.) But a glass of wine from the approachable, smart selection would also have done the trick, too. There is enough here to appeal to any taste, from familiar house pours to less-known varieties that are worth exploring. Beers, too, are well-chosen and suited to the food.
But it’s that food that really calmed me down, centered me the way only well-crafted, casual French classics can. The kitchen here, under the leadership of Chef Paul Lyons—and the watch of owners Bernard and Chloe Grigri—is subtly ambitious, crafting as much in-house as they can. The results are deliciously evident in the meat board, a canoe-sized wooden vessel bearing meltingly delicate foie gras torchon, sliced thin and elegantly perfumed from the Grand Marnier in its marinade; country pate all earthy with pork shoulder and chicken and pork livers, all of it wrapped in bacon; duck rillettes cleverly tossed with a parsley and pickled shallot salad; and nutmeg- and lavender-kissed Toulouse sausage, produced right here and seared to order. Pickled cauliflower and cabbage, as well as smart sides paired with each (the black olive and fig tapenade is great), dot the plate, the better to cut through the heartiness of those excellent meats.
Octopus, cooked sous vide and then charred to order, was streaked with unexpected notes of cinnamon and chili flakes: Dynamite. It would have been better had it been slightly more tender, but it still arrived plenty addictive on its bed of peppery arugula. The brandade was a fabulous take on the deeply comforting Portuguese puree of potato and salt cod, but here cleverly garnished with a gorgeous anchoïade, which brought together roasted fennel bulbs, anchovies, almonds, capers, pernod and more. This was a hearty portion, and appropriate for sharing. Or, frankly, for ordering at the bar with a glass of white: A perfect casual dinner for one.
The skate special arrived luxuriating in a cream sauce kissed with what tasted like all the saffron in the neighborhood. It was deeply perfumed with it, and burnished to a beguiling color not all that different from a custard. Dunk the crispy skate in it, spear a potato chunk, and tell the winter to go to hell: With this on your plate, all is just fine with the world.
And then there’s the steak frites. Lyons is smart enough not to try to reinvent what’s already more than good enough, but the little details here lift it up beyond its humble origins: The smoky hint from its char-broiler stint; the vivacious pink center of each slice; the crunch of sea salt snapping each bite to life; the fries all crisp and rich with garlic and onion powder and nutritional yeast. This is steak and potatoes as the great carnivore in the sky intended them to be eaten.
Wrap things up with decadent bread pudding—who doesn’t love cranberries, sliced almonds and chocolate carried in a creamy brioche vessel?—or a chocolate creme brulee (that could have used a more assertively crisp cap on top). And make sure to check out the homemade ice creams: The lavender one on top of the bread pudding was stunning. And then, after all that, order another drink, linger for a bit, and enjoy the ample charms of the Good King Tavern. It’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and full of enough unselfconscious pleasures to demand, and fully justify, repeated return visits. No matter what the weather looks like.
THE GOOD KING TAVERN
614 S. Seventh St. 215.625.3700. thegoodkingtavern.com
Cuisine: “French Tavern Food”
Hours: Daily, 5pm-1am; Bar: 5pm-2am.
Price range: All a la carte items under $20.
Atmosphere: Casual and comforting.
Food: French-tavern classics done right.
Service: Friendly, welcoming and very well-informed.
The Good King Tavern Brings the South of France South of South Street
Before eating at The Good King Tavern, I had never heard of Luynes. The little village is situated like the knot in a tug-of-war that Aix-en-Provence is about to win against Marseilles, and is famous for its three international schools and a prison that looks like a grim concrete starfish. More relevant to Philadelphians, though, is that Luynes is where Paul Lyons learned to make ratatouille.
“The woman we were staying with in this little villa — Laurence was her name — she taught me right there outside on the patio table,” says Lyons, chef of the month-old The Good King Tavern. “Pretty fucking dope.”
What’s even more pretty fucking dope than the first hand lesson — it was one of many during an immersive week in the south of France, where Lyons studied regional sausage-making, croissant-baking and pastis-swilling before opening Good King — is the ratatouille he recreates back home. Sunk into a white ramekin on a wooden board, his version of the stew made me sigh with contentment and melt into my chair. Bound in a vivid tomato sauce fortified with garlic and herbs, the tender zucchini, eggplant, red peppers and onions tasted like a long-forgotten summer. I spooned it over slices of buttery, crepe-likesocca, a chickpea-flour pancake served on the seaside streets of Nice “like fries on the boardwalk,” and rolled my eyes up toward Good King’s navy-painted, pressed-tin ceiling, spread out above like a Provencal night sky.
When you have ratatouille this good, it’s not hard to see why they made a movie about it.
“It was nice to get a compliment on it from Bernard [Grigri, Good King’s owner]. He tried it and said, ‘That’s pretty good,’” says Lyons. “But he’s French, so that means it’s great.”
Grigri grew up in Aix-en-Provence and came to Philly in the ’80s. His business is glassware, not restaurants; he’s a salesman of coupes and flutes to clients like Williams-Sonoma out of his company’s Brooklyn HQ. But, as Lyons points out, he’s French, and fine living for the French is not so much a hopeful pursuit as it is a perfected birthright. Usually, European aesthetes do good restaurants make. Grigri has Lyons in the kitchen to help him, as well as his daughter and business partner, Chloe, running the front of the house with a veteran team.
Tables and booths backfill the dimly lit dining room, but the bar is the finest place to sit. If you can stomach a bit of no-game bartender-hostess flirting before the dinner rush, the industry gossip is as juicy as Lyons’ skirt steak. Charred dark on the outside but pink as a watermelon inside, each bias-cut slice of beef resonated with flavor extracted from a marinade of olive oil, lemon, roasted garlic and herbs, a gilding of hotel butter and a crown of lacy caramelized onions. Twice-fried and tossed in a spice mix, the crisp, properly salty, square-ended frites joining the steak rank among the city’s best. The secret? Nutritional yeast, which lends the fries “that crave-able taste that you want to keep eating,” a neat trick from sous chef Gary Bisignani — like Lyons, a Barbuzzo alum.
The steak frites is an example of the bistro staples that pepper Good King’s menu — required reading, you might say, as dictated by the Grigris. But Lyons proves capable of pushing beyond the classic tropes with plates like the electric eggplant three ways. In a landscape of paprika oil auroras, shaved sunchokes and radishes, the trio of cast-iron-seared wedges, aggressively (awesomely) spicy puree and brunoised pickles reminded me of Morgan’s Pier, where Lyons spent last summer. He explores lesser-known regional specialties, too, like the house-made Morteau sausage, a smoked chicken-and-pork chub flavored with white wine, nutmeg and cumin.
While the menu is on the small side, it’s augmented nightly by a handful of specials written on chalkboards and mirrors around the restaurant: charcuterie boards, frogs’ legs, lamb shanks for two — all I have to try another time. Not bad for a North Jersey skateboarding brat who fell into cooking while earning a B.A. in English at Temple and working as a food runner at Bar Ferdinand. His skills are impressive, and proof you don’t need culinary school to become a great cook.
This is not to say Lyons is faultless. He’s got a wicked affection for salt — and this is coming from someone who loves salt — realized in the bibb-and-pickled-shallot salad served with the socca/ratatouille setup, as well as in a boat of escargot in a muddy sauce of garlic-and-butter vampire repellent. The Morteau sausage arrived over potato gratin, the shoddy construction of which the chef almost bragged about: “Bake that shit, you don’t have to make it the most beautiful in the world.” True, but you need to at least make sure your cream sauce isn’t broken.
Fortunately, Lyons found dairy redemption in the rich, anglaise-style lavender ice cream topping of a simple and lovely apple tart. He does all the desserts here, too. It’s just another duty the 29-year-old who arrives every day at nine in the morning proudly heaps on his plate, like an extra serving of ratatouille.
The City Paper
Now open: The Good King Tavern
The Good King Tavern is in its opening week at 614 S. Seventh St., in the former Chick's Social across from Nomad Pizza.
This is a father-daughter partnership: Bernard Grigri, a French-born businessman, and Chloe Grigri, who's been in and out of the biz. They've enlisted Paul Lyons, a former chef de cuisine at Barbuzzo and Jamonera and more recently chef de cuisine at Morgan's Pier, to execute a French tavern menu.
With help from Owen Kamihira, they considerably lightened up the classic barroom interior, whose antique mirrors and old-fashioned lighting impart a certain comfortable sexiness. There's seating in booths and tables, as well as at a wooden, high-top communal table.
The Good King Tavern replacing Chick's
Father-daughter duo Bernard and Chloe Grigri are hammering out The Good King Tavern at 614 S. Seventh St., the former Chick's Social at Seventh and Kater.
They describe the concept - rooted in the South of France and Alsace - as French tavern fare reinterpreted, with original cocktails, beer on draft and wine in bottles and pichets.
Designer/restaurateur Owen Kamihira (Bar Ferdinand/El Camino Real) is helping to set up the place, whose interior and attitude will be brighter and cheerier than its predecessor's.
Chef Paul Lyons, a former chef de cuisine at Barbuzzo and Jamonera and more recently chef de cuisine at Morgan's Pier, will lead the kitchen.
Paul Lyons Named Chef at The Good King Tavern
At the beginning of August, we had the news that the Grigri family was taking over the former Chick’s Social at Seventh and Kater and turning it into The Good King (“tavern” has since been appended to the name).
Now The Insider has a target date for the bistro that father-daughter team Bernard and Chloe Grigri are opening (late October), and also some more exciting news: Paul Lyons has been named opening chef. Lyons (above, right) was chef de cuisine this summer at Morgan’s Pier (he recently left), and also worked with George Sabatino at Stateside and Barbuzzo. Located just south of South Street, the bar has the potential to develop into a real hot spot. We’ll be looking forward to it.
Update: Chloe Grigri reached out with some additional details on the new bar's intended style. It will be a French-inspired affair, with wine served in pichets, small, personal pitchers as well as draft beer and reinterpreted French tavern cuisine. Bar Ferdinand's Owen Kamahira is helping update the interior design to go along.