The Tour de France restaurant group is always serving up a new way of reinventing their menus and giving their guests something innovative without comprising taste or quality. And, as many of us would agree, it is always refreshing to try a new eatery in Manhattan, especially one you have passed by several times while walking through Hell’s Kitchen.
When I heard Marseille and nine other Tour de France restaurants were celebrating a week of Bouillabaisse with special international inspired menus, I knew I had to stop in for some tastings. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bouillabaisse I recommend you get to know it sooner than later! Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provencal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. The more traditional stews have a mix of different fishes in a light broth and is easily a fish lover’s dream.
When my guests and I arrived at Marseille we were greeted by three gorgeous hostess and quickly seated in a comfortable spacious couch-like booth. Our server, Marco, suggested we order a drink, and we were surely not opposed. With an immense wine list and unique drink menu I knew I had to try something tasty. We started off with The Cherry Manhattan (Jim Bean Rye, cherry heering, sweet vermouth and brandied cherries, $13) and the Bellini Martini (Skyy Vodka, champagne and peach puree, $12). Both were delicious and made to perfection! My Bellini Martini was a hint sweet but refreshing on a cool spring night.
As we sipped our cocktails out came warm fresh-baked bread, some stuffed with black olives the other with oats and raisins. It was the perfect starter to pick on as we reviewed the menu. Our server Marco recommended we start with the Tuna Crudo Provencal (crispy salad, lemon confit aioli, castlevetrano olives, $13.75). The tuna was perfectly cooked at a rare temperature and was so refreshing and light. The fresh herbs and zest of the lemon made this dish one to not forget. We also decide on the Shrimp Beignets (lightly battered shrimp in a spicy aioli sauce, $8). These were light and crisp and the perfect “cheat” we needed to satisfy our fried food craving. My guest also ordered a cup of the infamous Petite Soup de Bouillabaisse (monk fish, shrimp, mussels, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, croutons, topped with rouille and gruyere, $11.75). This was spectacular and the taste of saffron was just enough. A true French dish that is worth the try.
After quickly eating up our appetizers it was time to think about our entrees, but before we could blink an eye the chef sent out a dish that I was hoping to try from the start, Lobster Chupe (Peruvian lobster soup with potatoes, fennel, leeks, tomatoes, peas and a poached pullet egg, 13.50). I will admit, this dish blew me away. After all of us broke the yolk and scrambled it into our lobster soup we couldn’t stop consuming this little plate of Heaven. We all looked at one another and began to boast how all we needed was more bread to sop up all of the goodness. Perfection I like to call dishes like this one.
As if the evening couldn’t get better, Jonathan, Marseille’s Wine Director popped over and recommended we try a French Rose that would pair perfectly with majority of the dishes on the menu. The wine came from a small island that was right outside the city of Marseille. A small pour, a swirl, a sniff, a taste and I was sold. “Lets go with the Rose,” I shouted. It was light and crsip and just what we needed with our meals. Marseille has an extensive wine list and are well equipped to help you pick the perfect bottle per your taste.
Everything on Marseille’s menu sounded tempting, but I knew I had to order up something from Chef Andy D’Amico’s Bouillabaisse menu. Since I was craving something a bit on the lighter side, Marco recommended I try the Chicken Sancocho (all natural chicken braised in a rich poultry broth with annato, tomatoes, cilantro, leeks and garlic served with plantain yucca dumplings, $21.50). I was sold—plantain dumplings sounded like an evil joke! Who knew two of my favorite things could be rolled into one, literally. My guests decided upon the Duck Magret (carrot and almond mousseline, almond streusel, lavender rhubarb, carrot and paprika jus, $23.50) and the Tagliatelle Forte (arugala, leeks, roasted tomamto broth, jalapenos, sheep’s milk ricotta, $18.75). Both dishes came out looking stunning. A twirl of pasta and a bite of duck and I was in Heaven. Both had such unqiuely different flavors I couldn’t choose which I enjoyed more. My dish was just as divine. A side dish was handed to me filled with chopped onions, jalapenos, cilantro and a wedge of lime. I dumped it all into my broth and squeezed the lime right onto my chicken, which was cooked just right—juicy. The plantain dumplings were little pockets of deliciouness, especially when dipped in the zesty broth.
What an extraoridnary meal. As we were handed the dessert menu I was ecstatic to see what else this French gem had to offer. We ordered two cappuccinos, which my guest boast to be one of the best cups of java she has ever had. We also decided upon the Crisp Apple Tart (brown sugar ice cream, caramel sauce, $9) and the Chocolate Torte (dark chocolate sorbet, salted peanut butter ganache, $9). Both were the perfect endings to our meal. Out came three complimentary glasses of sweet dessert champage that we gobbled down with our sweets and a Saffron Panna Cotta (tomato gelée, fennel tuille, 8.50). This dessert was a cup of salty and sweet and was a perfect ending for our pallets.
Marseille is a great spot for brunch, lunch, dinner or for a fine cup of coffee or pastry. With outdoor seating, diners can eat alfresco or enjoy a delicious drink at their gorgeous bar. Also check out their Tapas Tuesday menu as well as other special events that take place throughout the year.
MARSEILLE: 630 9TH AVENUE NEW YORK, NY. Tel: 212.333.2323