A fantastic vegetable tajine and other dishes show the growth of Paolo Griffa

At Petit Royal in Courmayeur the experience is always playful, the attention to aesthetics is detailed and the references are complex. But the chef has now reached the neat flavours he sought

03-05-2021
Vegetable tajine, sauce of lassi with cumin and mi

Vegetable tajine, sauce of lassi with cumin and mint, lemon and cinnamon couscous: this is perhaps the dish that most stood out a few weeks ago at Petit Royal in Courmayeur. And it depicts the constant growth of Paolo Griffa. The recipe is dedicated to artist Yulia Brodskaya and is part of the menu dedicated to art, in this case, paper art. (Photos from Tanio Liotta)

The dish above, is a sort of beautiful vegetable mosaic with a deliciously spicy sauce (the official name is: Vegetable tajine, sauce of lassi with cumin and mint, lemon and cinnamon couscous) on top of being excellent. In fact we believe this could be a new signature dish, even given all its possible new interpretations in the future and shows how its author, Paolo Griffa, has grown even further. He's not yet 30, he'll turn 30 on the 25th of July, but he's already been in the fine dining orbit for a while. I've been following him for quite some time. One thing has been always easy to say of him: he has talent, skill and he's very ambitious. His fault, if anything, was that he wanted too much: he filled his creativity with superstructures, he enriched it with surprising, impressive references but sometimes this meant he ended up a little out of focus. Simply because the chef was still missing a little extra experience that would allow him to keep the bar as high as he placed it. His virtuosity was clear; but it was so clear that it overshadowed emotions.

Paolo Griffa

Paolo Griffa

We believe the vegetable mosaic shows a change of style, and perhaps even a new consecration: complex yet neat, sound yet almost light (after all, it's a vegetarian dish), for sure harmonious, velvety, charming with its delicate beginning which then becomes pungent thanks to the spices, the acidity, the hotness. It's a crossover of cultures: Griffa's Italy, his typical hint at France, Morocco through the tajine and couscous, India with lassi, a yogurt and cumin-based drink. A very successful intuition, and a perfect outcome. And it's not the only one. The extraordinary Disgelo del Monte Bianco - that is to say a wafer of black olives (reproducing the skyline of Monte Bianco), venison, black truffle, juniper berries, wild currants, salad, Jerusalem artichoke chips, chestnuts and snow of tomato water -  is an edible representation of the surroundings which, as often the case – and perhaps this could have been the case with a younger Griffa, a few years ago – risked overdoing it, and instead is brilliant and fully accomplished.

The dining room at Petit Royal, the gourmet restaurant inside the Grand Hotel Royal e Golf in Courmayeur (Aosta)

The dining room at Petit Royal, the gourmet restaurant inside the Grand Hotel Royal e Golf in Courmayeur (Aosta)

What's more is that Griffa reaches the goal without forsaking his passion for what we called "superstructures": the experience at Petit Royal is dotted by playful provocations, interactions between dining room, kitchen and table, connections, a spasmodic attention to aesthetics, obsessive perfectionism, research, overflowing stimuli. All things that risk(ed) making the experience itself heavy: the chef's maturation shows in his capacity – which he has now found, after a long quest – of mixing all this with essential flavours, clean palate, precision. Features that we can find in the two above mentioned dishes, and in many other too (not all, but almost).

Trivia fact: Griffa for Easter presented his Easter Bomb, metalized chocolate "bombs" with a spark too, and a sparkling and sweet filling. This was available from the chef's website, www.paologriffa.com. The Easter Bomb was grey or pink, in two different flavours. To discover the filling, you needed a wood hammer included in the package (made by local craftsman Giorgio Denarier), a playful tool, crucial to savour the two fillings: ganache with hazelnuts praline, hazelnuts from Piedmont, pailleté feuillatine and fizzy sugar for the grey bomb, and coffee ganache with hazelnut praline, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans, pailleté feuillatine and again fizzy sugar for the red bomb 

Trivia fact: Griffa for Easter presented his Easter Bomb, metalized chocolate "bombs" with a spark too, and a sparkling and sweet filling. This was available from the chef's website, www.paologriffa.com. The Easter Bomb was grey or pink, in two different flavours. To discover the filling, you needed a wood hammer included in the package (made by local craftsman Giorgio Denarier), a playful tool, crucial to savour the two fillings: ganache with hazelnuts praline, hazelnuts from Piedmont, pailleté feuillatine and fizzy sugar for the grey bomb, and coffee ganache with hazelnut praline, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans, pailleté feuillatine and again fizzy sugar for the red bomb 

A final commendation goes to the deep research and the great job done with local culinary excellences: Piedmontese Griffa is today the perfect ambassador of Valle d'Aosta. He dedicates to these excellences a specific menu, while the other one is a tribute to art, and then there's the freehand menu that draws from both. The two stars will arrive, thanks for the tightly-knit staff too: pastry chef Titti Traina stands out with the excellent Vadim Vasilewsky in the dining room and the wines of Alessandro Mantovani who presents some surprising local wines (like the noteworthy Stau, a Vallée d’Aoste blanc made from Chardonnay with a small percentage of Traminer and Muscat, from the small Cave Monaja winery in Quart).

And here's the complete dinner, with photos from Tanio Liotta.

We start with the delicious Water of pumpkin with parsley oil. It's fun too: guests have to blow in a glass straw to make bubbles: this results in smoke coming out, and in the oil and water mixing

We start with the delicious Water of pumpkin with parsley oil. It's fun too: guests have to blow in a glass straw to make bubbles: this results in smoke coming out, and in the oil and water mixing

Fassona Tartare, radishes, brisée pastry, shallots, carrot wafer

Fassona Tartare, radishes, brisée pastry, shallots, carrot wafer

Lentil Tartellette, beluga lentils, mousse of champignons

Lentil Tartellette, beluga lentils, mousse of champignons

Tacos of black cabbage, mousse of cauliflower, curry and raisins in rum

Tacos of black cabbage, mousse of cauliflower, curry and raisins in rum

Apple in osmosis of Martini

Apple in osmosis of Martini

A classic from Griffa, Fried bread with smoked eel 

A classic from GriffaFried bread with smoked eel 

Breaded teteun and bagnetto verde. Delicious

Breaded teteun and bagnetto verde. Delicious

Pie with wild boar and cherry 

Pie with wild boar and cherry 

The maison sourdough bread with wholewheat flour and seeds. It's paired with an extraordinary butter, which Griffa makes by mixing two different butters from Valle d'Aosta with a little salt 

The maison sourdough bread with wholewheat flour and seeds. It's paired with an extraordinary butter, which Griffa makes by mixing two different butters from Valle d'Aosta with a little salt 

Trout in salmon sauce from Morgex in ceviche of red orange, ramolaccio and citrus fruit gel. It's part of the Art menu and a tribute to Katsushika Hokusai and ukiyo-e

Trout in salmon sauce from Morgex in ceviche of red orange, ramolaccio and citrus fruit gel. It's part of the Art menu and a tribute to Katsushika Hokusai and ukiyo-e

On the side they serve this "lake of citrus fruits": gelatines of orange, yuzu and lime with a delicate broth from the marinade of the trout. You can sip it on the side, or dip the pieces of trout, mixing the different gelatines to your liking for different intensities aromas 

On the side they serve this "lake of citrus fruits": gelatines of orange, yuzu and lime with a delicate broth from the marinade of the trout. You can sip it on the side, or dip the pieces of trout, mixing the different gelatines to your liking for different intensities aromas 

Disgelo del Monte Bianco, that is to say a wafer of black olives (to recreate the skyline of Monte Bianco), venison, black truffle, juniper berries, wild currants, salad, chips of Jerusalem artichoke, chestnuts and snow of tomato water. A brilliant, complex, and fascinating dish. It's part of the menu dedicated to Valle d'Aosta

Disgelo del Monte Bianco, that is to say a wafer of black olives (to recreate the skyline of Monte Bianco), venison, black truffle, juniper berries, wild currants, salad, chips of Jerusalem artichoke, chestnuts and snow of tomato water. A brilliant, complex, and fascinating dish. It's part of the menu dedicated to Valle d'Aosta

Cheesecake sottosopra: a goat's milk cheesecake with fennel pollen, radishes, oil with wild mountain fennel, sponge of Selim pepper. A little complicated to eat, but beautiful and delicious. It's part of the menu dedicated to Valle d'Aosta

Cheesecake sottosopra: a goat's milk cheesecake with fennel pollen, radishes, oil with wild mountain fennel, sponge of Selim pepper. A little complicated to eat, but beautiful and delicious. It's part of the menu dedicated to Valle d'Aosta

Vegetable tajine, sauce of lassi with cumin and mint 

Vegetable tajine, sauce of lassi with cumin and mint 

Lemon and cinnamon couscous is served with the tajine

Lemon and cinnamon couscous is served with the tajine

Risi e bisi blu Chagall e oro: risotto cooked in a broth of olmaria and pea flowers, concentrate of prosciutto, peaso tamari (miso of rice and peas) and kimchi with flakes of gold, sprouts of pea and fontina. Part of the Arte menu, a tribute to Marc Chagall and Fauvism. A beautiful dish, worthy of the first page of a magazine: it has a huge potential; I believe it still hasn't found its finish, and is not fully expressed. But we're almost there 

Risi e bisi blu Chagall e oro: risotto cooked in a broth of olmaria and pea flowers, concentrate of prosciutto, peaso tamari (miso of rice and peas) and kimchi with flakes of gold, sprouts of pea and fontina. Part of the Arte menu, a tribute to Marc Chagall and Fauvism. A beautiful dish, worthy of the first page of a magazine: it has a huge potential; I believe it still hasn't found its finish, and is not fully expressed. But we're almost there 

From the menu dedicated to Valle d'Aosta: Rabbit royal, chestnuts, black truffle, pan brioche and sauce royal

From the menu dedicated to Valle d'Aosta: Rabbit royal, chestnuts, black truffle, pan brioche and sauce royal

Griffa works on a careful research of the various types of potatoes in Valle d'Aosta 

Griffa works on a careful research of the various types of potatoes in Valle d'Aosta 

And the new menu dedicated to the Vallée: Venison glazed with pine resin, powdered leek, porcini and black trumpets, mountain potato salad, pickled onions and crème fraîche with spring onion, Bearnaise sauce. Part of the Arte menu, it represents primitive art. It's the evolution of a dish we had already tasted, read here

And the new menu dedicated to the Vallée: Venison glazed with pine resin, powdered leek, porcini and black trumpets, mountain potato salad, pickled onions and crème fraîche with spring onion, Bearnaise sauce. Part of the Arte menu, it represents primitive art. It's the evolution of a dish we had already tasted, read here

A selection of some twenty cheeses from Valle d'Aosta. In particular, there's an exceptional fontina d'alpeggio, which won the Modon d'Or award

A selection of some twenty cheeses from Valle d'Aosta. In particular, there's an exceptional fontina d'alpeggio, which won the Modon d'Or award

The machine to make grattachecca...

The machine to make grattachecca...

... and here's the Kakigori e Monte Bianco, that is to say a Monte Bianco gelato, chilled and then served as if it were grattachecca, with a chocolate and rum sauce 

... and here's the Kakigori e Monte Bianco, that is to say a Monte Bianco gelato, chilled and then served as if it were grattachecca, with a chocolate and rum sauce 

Pignatta: a small horse of chocolate 

Pignatta: a small horse of chocolate 

The "sweet" that can be usually found inside the pignatta is on the side: Candyfloss sphere, mousse of bergamot and rosemary, blood orange sorbet, hazelnut biscuit. A great dessert

The "sweet" that can be usually found inside the pignatta is on the side: Candyfloss sphere, mousse of bergamot and rosemary, blood orange sorbet, hazelnut biscuit. A great dessert

Final treat: passion fruit ganache, apricot and raspberry gelatine, raspberry and rose gelatine, chocolate brittle and feuillantines, coffee truffle 

Final treat: passion fruit ganache, apricot and raspberry gelatine, raspberry and rose gelatine, chocolate brittle and feuillantines, coffee truffle