Make Way for Marseille

I recently wrote about neighborhood restaurants, and how swell they are.  Well, I must admit, I have been without my favorite neighborhood restaurant for a couple of years now.  It was a wonderful French restaurant called Le Madeleine.  It had fresh food, fairly priced, with the MOST delicious pork burger on the face of the planet.  When it closed, it took another little piece of my heart.  And it was killing me softly.  Ok, sorry…I’ll stop.
ANYWAY…since then, i have tried in vain to find a restaurant that mimics the high quality paired with the nice atmosphere and low prices.  The closest thing I have come to find as my neighborhood spot is Marseille
A combination of all the fare known in Marseille, France, the restaurant features food from France, Greece, and Morocco. These are all influences known in the port city.  The bistro is bustling and lovely, with large tables and booths and big plate glass windows, perfect for gazing and gawking at people hurrying down Ninth avenue while the sun shines but the wind blows their coats askew.  Yeah, I’m the jerk laughing at you.  I know, my karma is shot to hell.
When we sat down, we were given a basket of multi grain bread along with some bread and olive oil anointed with herbs de provence.
 Though the butter and oil mixture was both unique and delicious, the bread was neither.  Dry, cottony, and devoid of flavor.  YICH!
For an appetizer, we got the Moroccan cigars.  Short rib braised for hours in Moroccan herbs and spices were shredded off the bone and served in crisp phyllo “cigars”.  Boy could this make me take up smoking!  Smoky cumin and sweet cinnamon pervaded the beefy, rich meat.  The phyllo dough was light and crispy, and dipped in the gently garlicky aioli, this was a taste sensation and a total delight.  I could have eaten…oh i don’t know…about 40 of them.
We also got the sauteed Swiss Chard.  Ever since cooking with it, this has become one of my favorite veggies!  So hearty and filling while still tasting virtuous and vegetal.  Though this was a little heavy on the garlic, it wasn’t enough to keep me from eating it. All.
This is the  Marseille burger with sauteed onions, melted gruyere, and aioli. I am SO SORRY I couldn’t get an interior shot…that guy was just too fast!  It was cooked to perfectly pink-not bloody and moo-ing the way I like it, but a gentle and subtle medium.  Thick and juicy with that salty, nutty cheese and the sweet, melting onions…this was a hell of a burger.   The aioli was a creamy, gently garlicky kick to the robust beef, and the bun was PERFECT-not too thick or too thin.  Really great stuff.
The fries were also DIVINE!  Thick, crunchy without and creamy potato-ey within, these were total winners. Expertly salted and served piping hot, these were real FRENCH frites-by that I mean totally intoxicating.
I got the Petite Bouillabasse for my main.  A light and acidic tomato soup filled with sweet leeks, soft celery, and hearty chunks of peeled potato.  Delicate mussels, snappy shrimp, and mokfish that was positively velvety.  A crunchy crouton layered with gruyere cheese and that fragrant saffron-y, garlicky, slightly spicy mayo based sauce known as rouille finished the dish.  Parsley and thyme scattered throughout the soup, bringing the dish to life.  It could have used a touch more heat-perhaps with some harissa-but other than that,m it was really perfect.  Fresh, light, with multi-layered flavors and textures….it was just wonderful.  So I ate it all…duh!
Marmie-obsessed as always with anything long braised-got the lamb with couscous.  I took a forkful and found it a bit bland-yes it was salted, but the lamb was too one note for me-it was just…lamb. It cried out for some harissa, some fresh mint, a little cumin, SOMETHING…but Marmie loved it, so that’s what counts right?  Her couscous was great, though!  Fluffy, tender little grains that soaked up the lamb-y flavor and also added its’ own flavor through the use of fresh herbs.  This was easily my least favorite dish, but Marmie’s most favorite.  Go figure, right?
Anyway-this was for sure a great meal.   Service was fast and friendly, atmosphere was upscale and attractive, and the food was totally delish.  My only gripe…it was kinda overpriced.  It just was.  It was about $70 for the 3 of us, which I thought was pricey for a neighborhood spot.  It was totally delicious, but the markup was just too much for the kind of restaurant Marseille should be.  It if was closer to $55, I would totally consider this my go to restaurant.  As it is, I will continue to consider it a solid and delicious place that has to be reserved for special occasions and lunch with Marmie.  And I will continue to search for that elusive neighborhood spot.
Marseille on Urbanspoon


  1. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    im so glad you liked the burger too!!! like i said, if it was just a couple of dollars cheaper, i swear i would be here ALL the time

  2. Hey! Didn't know we were in the same neighborhood?!

  3. I too mourned to demise of Le Madeleine – I'd gone there for many years. I've been to Marseille a number of times. First right after they opened and it was an exquisite meal. Then a couple of years later it was obvious that they had toned down the gourmet theme and gone for more bistro-like food. Very good but not exquisite. Most recently I found it very good but though I love the visuals of the interior, it is really noisy and thus doesn't strike me as a neighborhood fave. Your meal looks like they may have a new chef and might be worth another visit. Uptown a bit – try Cafe Luxembourg – now there's a place I'd like to call home (if I could afford it every day!)

  4. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Hungry-yeah we are neighbors! I did kinda assume that after reading a couple of your posts 🙂
    @Dee-It is absolutely noisy-I should have mentioned that! Nowhere is Le Madeleine, but Cafe Luxembourg looks delicious-I see they have my all time favorite salad of frisee et lardons!