630 9th Ave.
New York, NY
(212) 333 2323
When good Americans die, they go to Paris.
The day was cold and windy and gray. I needed a long walk to recover from a very tough week at CrossFit. I only have two weeks before I depart for Nepal to climb Mera Peak. Mera Peak will be a tough 23,000 foot climb. My resolve: If Vernon Tejas is at the summit, I will be at the summit. I will summit strong and will always feed the courage wolf.
We decided to walk to the AIPAD Photography Show at Pier 94 from our apartment in Tribeca. We decided to stop for lunch before the show; we knew it would be visually overwhelming. We saw Marseille across the street. It looked warm and inviting and we decided to give it a try.
It was very busy. We were at the top of Saturday brunch but we were quickly given a table. The lighting is art deco, the floors are brown mosaic tiles, the mirrors are old and silvered and reflect large bouquets of pink flowers. A large pedestal anchors the center of the room. Lists of “Les Champagnes” and “Les Bieres Pression” are engraved in the glass. There are curved banquettes around the pedestal in the center of the room. The room is all curves and arches and windows and creamy color and soft light. The bar is in a separate room and is large and comfortable. It has well-worn Thonet bar stools. There are large windows that open to 9th Avenue. The space suggests Casablanca or perhaps Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam. It is a beautiful space; we were impressed and felt fortunate to have discovered it.
The staff was formal and efficient and wore traditional black and white; I noticed our waiter replaced my knife from a silver tray.
The chef of Marseille is Andy D’Amico. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has a strong resume that spans two decades. He is a member of the Tour de France restaurant group. He oversees the kitchens at Nice Matin, Marseille, Nizza and 5 Napkin Burger. His central aesthetic is Southern French and Northern Italian cuisine. His cooking borrows from French, Italian, Greek and Northern African cuisines.
The dinner menu has most of the bistro classics. Unusual dishes include fava bean hummus, chicken tagine, vegetable couscous, and pomegranate glazed salmon. (Bouillabaisse is featured but we would be reluctant to try it after the disastrous onion soup discussed below.)
We ordered the French onion soup, charred avocado toast (roasted tomatoes, pickled mushrooms and chervil) and healthy frittata (egg whites, roasted peppers, spinach, leeks and pesto).
The bread came. It was strange: petit ginger muffins and sliced sandwich bread. The muffins were good, the sandwich bread stale and lifeless. Tell me why a bistro would ever serve insipid sandwich bread? Why not a baguette?
The soup was dreadful.The broth was thin and tasteless, the cheese was a solid mass of mysterious inorganic matter, and was over stuffed with lifeless soggy bread. It disintegrated into an unattractive brown mass. Drain water. I set it aside even though it was cold outside and soup was very much needed.
In the resources, I have included two excellent recipes for French onion soup. Perhaps Marseille could try one of them? It is not a national secret.
All French bistros should serve excellent bread, pommes frites and French onion soup. Why should the basics not be mastered? It should never be otherwise.
The avocado toast and the frittata rescued the meal. The toast came with a pile of fresh greens, the mushrooms were earthy and delicious and the avocados were fresh. My wife reported that the frittata was delicious.
Fortified, we continued our walk through Hell’s Kitchen to Pier 94. The Photography Show was delightful. There were several Japanese publishers of photo books. I restrained myself impressively and only purchased two books: signed versions of Daido Moriyama’s Record.
We would like to return for dinner. Have a glass of wine at the bar first and then explore the menu.
Service: 8 Busy, mannered and efficient.
Archetype: 5 Marseille is too big to be a bistro but is inspired by bistro culture. It is a beautiful space. The bar is particularly inviting.
Food: 6 Average to disastrous. No excuse for inedible French onion soup and tasteless sandwich bread.
Energy: 8. Even though Marseille is a large space and was busy with Saturday morning brunch, the noise level was not bad nor did it feel frenetic. We liked the large open windows, the mosaic tiles, and the overall design.
French Onion Soup Recipes
AIPAD Photography Show