Williamsburg’s quaint bistro serves French comfort food classics with great service

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On a corner in a still gritty section of Williamsburg stands a tiny bistro.

At night, the fresh coat of white paint and new outdoor tables are the few signs that Gribouille is a recent addition to the neighborhood. Inside, the mix of antiques, old wooden pastry case and fading, gilt-edged mirrors would suggest that the chef of this quaint place has been dishing out traditional bistro fare with little fanfare to generations of satisfied locals.

The boite that was opened in March by Parisian ex-pat Timothee Spitzer and chef Anthony Cottet began as a patisserie. Lunches, a popular brunch and recently dinner (served Thursday through Saturday) were added when customers began requesting savory items to complement the sweet offerings.

The dishes on Cottet’s menu look and taste like something from the kitchen of a French "maman." It’s Gallic comfort food: classic, no frills fare, prepared with love and served with little flourish. Gribouille (pronounced gree-BOO-ee) may refer to Scribble, a cartoon character on French TV, in name, but it is the place you come to after a late night out or whenever you want to linger over adult pleasures such as carefully prepared, deeply flavored fare in a place without attitude - a rare find in this increasingly trend-driven neighborhood.

We opened a bottle of Pinot Noir (it’s B.Y.O.B. until the long-awaited wine license is granted) and tore into crunchy slices of a tart billed as an Alsatian pizza on the menu. It’s a crusty, thin round of chewy, brittle dough topped lightly with a layer of sharp Gruyere cheese and scattered with slices of porcini mushrooms that left a lingering piney, earth scent about our table. It’s a lovely dish to start the meal and would be just as delectable with coffee during a leisurely breakfast.

I’m tired of butternut soup that could double for pumpkin pie filling. Cottet’s version is light, subtly flavored with curry for a touch of heat and freshened with lemon.

Slices of Petrossian salmon with a delicate hint of smokiness came topped with a sprinkling of capers and small cubes of tomatoes. A dab of whipped creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon cut the richness of the fish.

Ordering pork loin can be dangerous. Roasting the lean cut can cause it to dry out. Here, it’s surprisingly moist with luscious, crusty pieces of fat clinging to the rim of each juicy slice. The meat is drizzled with a bit of a creamy sauce flavored with leeks, and it’s served with an ideal partner: A big square of crisp-edged potato gratin that separates into tender, rich layers when cut. Half of a small roasted tomato, fragrant with fresh rosemary, and a spear of asparagus added color to the plate.

There’s a buttery hanger steak on the menu that is great eating. It’s served with an "au poivre" sauce heavily laced with black peppercorns that deepens the rich taste of the meat. Accompanied by that lusty potato gratin, the dish is especially satisfying on a blustery night.

It’s surprising that a dessert at a bistro that began as a patisserie would supply the one off-note to our meal. The crust of our lemon tart that surrounded a creamy, pleasantly bitter center was too thick and soggy edged. A puff of vanilla and bourbon mousse atop a round of moist sponge cake was just sweet enough with a welcome boozy note.

There’s a quiet pleasure to everything at Gribouille: the straight-up, well prepared bistro fare; music kept to a soft hum in the background; and a staff whose attentiveness shifts from coddling to unobtrusive according to the diner’s needs.

Doesn’t sound like Williamsburg? That’s reason enough to visit.


Gribouille (2 Hope St. at Roebling Street in Williamsburg) accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. A three-course, $23.95 prix fixe dinner is served Thursday through Saturday evenings until 10 pm; a la carte entrees: $11.50-$22.95. The patisserie is open from 8 am to 7 pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday and from 8 am to 10 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Closed Mondays. Brunch is served on the weekends, from 10 am to 4 pm. Take the L train to Bedford or Lorimer Streets. For more information, call (718) 384-3100 or visit the Web site,

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Reasonable discourse

anonymous from williamsburg says:

out of business
June 4, 2008, 3:51 pm

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