"Those girls would never order pieds paquets," the waiter whispered as he set down a copper platter of tripe and pork sloshing dangerously in a rust-colored broth. "But you don't seem worried about getting sauce on your Gucci bag."
It's unclear if this was meant as a compliment, but it's true: A splash of garlicky braising liquid seems a small price to pay for a brush with one of Provence's greatest dishes. Not bouillabaisse or ratatouille, but this underrepresented classic, traditionally made from bundles of fatty pork wrapped up in tripe with parsley and garlic, then braised for many hours with lamb trotters.
Every cook has her own way of doing it, but the good ones manage the same trick. They conjure something with dizzying levels of meatiness from unglamorous odds and ends. They turn a little stuffed sock of tripe into a luxurious delight. Though there are no lamb's feet in the version served at Claudette—Carlos Suarez and Mark Barak's new southern French restaurant in Greenwich Village—neck bones serve as a replacement.
The sunny dining room | Chicken thigh tagine [Photos: Tasting Table]
Koren Grieveson's Provençal menu showcases the region's most reliable clichés, and the restaurant even looks like a sweet little café inside a seaside hotel with granny chic rattan-backed chairs and white-washed everythings. What's really exciting is the chef's attention to an old ugly dish like pieds paquets, so fuddy duddy and time-consuming that it's endangered even on its home turf.
The packets of beef tripe here are delicate things ($12), very small, stained deep orange from a long braise with tomatoes and white wine. You know what's inside—a bit of pork shoulder, cooked until it belongs there—but it's a thrill to cut each one open all the same. They're arranged in a single layer with tiny skin-on potatoes and slices of carrot.
The platter looks quite different from what you'd be served family-style out of a giant greasy pot on a patio in Marseille, but it's very good. Earlier this year in Provence, Grieveson learned how to make the dish from a cook named Reine Sammut, who in turn learned it from her mother-in-law, Claudette—the restaurant's namesake.
Hearts of palm salad | Chef Koren Grieveson | Pre-dinner aperitifs [Photos: Tasting Table]
Then Grieveson tweaked it. She decided to swap out the intensely flavored trotters for a lighter stock made from lamb necks, so as not to scare off her Greenwich Village clientele. A wise decision, but a shame since eating the soft, sticky bits of meat off the bone is half the fun of pieds paquets (which translates to "feet and packets"). Console yourself by ripping up pieces of charred bread and using them to soak up what's still a lush sauce.
The chef has situated the dish in the appetizer section, but the portion is generous enough to make a meal of, especially if you throw in some of that excellent grilled eggplant with vinegar-spiked yogurt and mint ($7), which seems painted with the finest crackle of char, and maybe a wee salad of peas and radishes dressed in lemon juice and cumin ($5).
If you can't stomach tripe, there's a lovely North African-influenced braised chicken dish made only from the thighs, sweet with apricots and mint, dotted with raw oranges, and served a bit dramatically in a clay tagine ($26). Even though you'd probably make a mess of it in the candlelit dining room filled with elegant middle-aged couples and groups of women with very fancy handbags, you'll wish there was twice as much of the aromatic broth at the bottom of the dish, and a spoon so you could really get in there to polish it off.
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