A LocalBozo.com Restaurant Review
630 Ninth Avenue at 44th Street, Hells Kitchen
Getting There: A,C,E to 42nd Street – Port Authority
Restaurant Review: Marseille
Hells Kitchen is sort of a neighborhood unto itself. It’s just removed enough for the theater district and just outside of Times Square’s reach that it’s actually developed it’s own charm and character, especially the farther west that you travel. For a number of years, there’s been something about French brasserie Marseille that’s always been alluring. Whether its the restaurant’s prime corner location, outdoor seating, or its cleverly decorated and perpetually full dining room, on countless occasions we’ve walked by the place with the promise of one day actually stepping inside. And after arranging for our initial visit, the results were decidedly mixed.
There’s a lot to like about Marseille. First and foremost, an eclectic blend of different culinary inspirations that end in mostly French fare. You’ll find items like “Hummus” ($7.50) and “Moroccan Eggplant” ($5.50) alongside “Crispy Calamari” ($12.75) and a “Bouillabaisse” ($28.50) and while experts at everything are usually a master of none, the menu to its credit is fairly broad and extensive in that regard. Inside, the restaurant is typically buzzing. There’s some touristy carryover here certainly, but despite the clientele, the bar area always seems full as do the majority of tables placed about the dining room. The decor feels both fun and authentic, like a place that you might stumble into in the area surrounding the Marais district in Paris. A mirrored pillar sits dead center in the dining area and is a focal point of the restaurant leading to the architectured glass panel columns which lead to the ceiling. The open layout of Marseille is equally as modernized, despite having been open at this location for many years.
With elements from so many different regions (‘Tapas Tuesdays’ being one of them), the options are varied and nobody would fault Marseille, situated in proximity to so many out-of-towners, for price gouging their guests. In a refreshing change of pace, the restaurant doesn’t really do that. Aside from a competitively priced prix-fixe selection (three courses for $38), the remainder of the menu is reasonable considering its location. That said, the courses seemed to be hit and miss. Citing a bit of French authenticity, we began with the “Burgundy Snails” ($10.75). Eschewing the escargot moniker, Marseille’s traditional style tray was filled with six hunks of snail meat, each crevasse filled in with garlic butter and doused with herb flavored bread crumbs. The dish proved a worthy appetizer but failed to live up to the standard of mouthwatering escargot that we’re used to enjoying. Candidly, dipping the slices of fresh bread to the table into the remaining oil and garlic butter proved pivotal to our overall enjoyment of the meal.
Where the starter was sufficient, our pasta course was a dissappointment. The watered down “Pumpkin Squash Agnolotti” ($12.75) was utterly tasteless. With the seasonal change to autumn, a pumpkin infused stuffed pasta dish seemed to be just what we had been craving. Instead we were served four bland envelopes of indistinguishable pasta topped with a ‘sumac butter sauce’ and spinach, that left us thankful that we only ordered the small portion. The “Grilled Salmon” ($22.50) meanwhile was the evening’s highlight. Served in an eggplant puree and topped with an odd looking charmoula pesto, the well cooked fish combined all of the delectable flavors that we were hoping for from Marseille. The added broccoli rabe and halved tomatoes also complimented each forkful of fish delightfully from start to finish.
Although we aren’t necessarily raving about our Marseille experience- you could do a lot worse in the area. Their service is expedient and friendly and their prices are affordable considering the part of town where they reside. And inside, the place is always energized regardless of time of day. So while we can’t necessarily advise that you go out of your way to dine here, if you find yourself looking for a decent yet upscale meal in Hells Kitchen on the cheap, leave Marseille on your radar. Maybe you’ll have a different experience there altogether.
Rundown of the Meal
Burgundy Snails ($10.75)
Pumpkin Squash Agnolotti ($12.75)
Grilled Salmon ($22.50)*