Address: 2 quai du Port, 13002 Marseille
Telephone: 04 91 90 63 53
In the midst of my winter European tour, I stopped over in Marseille, capital of Provence and the 2nd largest city in France. It was immediately apparent how much more diverse the population was (we had just come from Lyon) – many African migrants make Marseille their first port of call on the road to French naturalisation.
The restaurant: When I went in December 2012, I tried the cuisine of Lionel Levy. The reins have now been handed over to another chef, Ludovic Turac, in March 2013. Naturally, this review may be a bit dated. What remains constant: The restaurant has one of the best views of the Old Port in Marseille, and I had learnt about it through browsing a few reviews by locals of places to eat at in Marseille, where I spent a few days.
Milkshake de bouille baisse (3.5/5)
Marseille is famous for its bouillabaisse, a traditional dish. Personally, I am of the realist school regarding “traditional dishes” in Europe (i.e. ‘I know the words “traditional” “local” and “delicacy” are often code for “what we ate while under siege when we ran out of cats.” ‘ – Ex Urbe). I ate two different versions of Bouillabaisse, here and at l’Epuisette (both Michelin-starred), both somewhat disappointing.
Here, bouillabaisse is re-interpreted as a milkshake. The heavy garlic flavouring in the stew forms the bottom of the milkshake, followed by a layer of seabass, and then a layer of marscapone, and a bouillabaisse soup foam on top. A pastry straw gives the conceit of being able to drink the milkshake a la Americain, but is not functional.
The resulting dish was very heavy, and not particularly cohesive. This dish is considered a signature of the restaurant, carrying over even to the Ludovic Turac era, so I expect that a taste might be acquired for this heavy concoction.
Noix de Saint Jacques, legumes d’hiver. (5/5)
A truly spectacular dish, a complex edible canvas. A bold decision was made to serve a raw root vegetable (the shaved rose-pink slices of tuber you see in the picture), along with a savory pumpkin-y sauce, and starchy sweet potato. A braised soft asparagus-like stalk looked liked the sweet potato, but had a different texture. Perfectly seared scallops finished off this dish. Each vegetable’s texture and flavor rang clear, and harmoniously together. It looks like a “winter vegetable riot”.
To me, this is a reference dish. When I think about winter vegetable compositions or a scallop dish, I still recall this dish very fondly.
Clementine glacee (4.5/5)
A riotous celebration of clementines. An inner frozen clementine sorbet within a flan pudding (on the left), under the cover of sweet-sour clementine sauce, and a sweet(er) clementine soft sorbet on the right.
I was very glad to have come here: it was very bold of the kitchen to put a raw root vegetable in a winter vegetable composition, and it turned out to be very memorable.
Overall Rating: 15/20
Memory: Noix de Saint Jacques, legumes d’hiver.