Saturday, August 6, 2016


The Marshal is so farm-to-table that the incessant vehicular traffic funneling into the Lincoln Tunnel entrance just outside is incongruous.  It unfortunately makes al fresco dining outside this cozy little Hell's Kitchen nook a lot less attractive, but once inside you can forget the noxious exhaust fumes and honking horns and settle into a different kind of bustle.  The real estate of The Marshal is pretty diminutive- and they've wedged in as many tables as could possible feet per (very popular) square inch.  If the purveyor's farms that they promote at every turn are anywhere near as close with the restaurant as the tables are to one another, they're keeping it as local as they possibly could.  And, in fact, they are.  In order to be seated, however, tables must be pulled out to allow for a body to sit upon the cushioned benches that line the south wall.  Across from me, my tablemate looked somewhat dwarfed as his chair was significantly lower than my perch, also creating an awkward table height for him, but perfect for me.  Minor inconvenience.  Water and wine was provided efficiently, though our server seemed a little less knowledgeable than might be desired, and his congeniality took a little coaxing.  Once we got it, though, he was very pleasant, and the floor manager (obviously a veteran in the industry) ruled the goings-on with the grace and mastery of a Queen Bee.  Service was practical and adept throughout the evening, even as any elbow room disappeared and the queue outside expanded.

The menu is encyclopedic in its crediting of  ingredient provenance, as well as just being a generous menu to begin with.  It states at the bottom that they are happy to provide any further farm sourcing information, but I can't imagine what that would be unless you want to know the farmer's blood type or something.  But it's nice to know what careful attention is being paid to where your food is coming from.  It's a lot to read, though; there are nine or so Starters designated as such, but these could also include almost any entry from the Farm Sides.  Thus, I began with the Upstate Grower's & Packers green bean and mint salad, which was lightly dressed in a lemony verjus and a flutter of Tonjes Farm feta.  Raw green beans were in the compostion.
A vast improvement would come from a gentle steam of the beans to tenderize them, heightening the whole dish.  This, in fact, is really the only flaw with The Marshal: if anything, the produce is left to speak for itself a little leniently.  It wouldn't hurt to provide a megaphone, so to speak, and give the dirt candy's voices a boost.  Another starter worked better, as it featured Pulled Lamb, richly meaty but not gamey, to roll up into Bibb lettuce and doctor up with feta, radishes, jalapenos, cilantro and/or pickled onions, as you please. With all the focus on the farmers, vegetables are not their strong point.

Masterful Chef Charlie Marshal is, however, with the proteins.  Cod steamed in parchment was so much more than steamed fish... the parchment was, in fact, practically incinerated from the wood-burning stove.  The Marshal exclusively relies on a cherry and apple wood stoked oven to cook... no gas.  And all that deliciously smoky, woodsy char made its way into the ample hunk of flaky fish.  Somehow, however, the flavor escaped the delicate tangle of ribboned squash and turnips that nestled in  below.  Again, the veggies seem to get lost in the shuffle.  Bone-in Chicken shared this fate, as it's magnificently juicy breast meat, anointed with goat
 cheese and a flutter of herbs, far outshone the tough saute of salty rainbow chard beneath.  Even a side of dainty, darling Snow White mushrooms were underseasoned, the only hint of herbs supposedly flavoring them was a little twig of rosemary steam bereft of the fragrant needles and any of their pungent flavor.  I wonder if some of this wasn't because Chef Marshal was not in the kitchen the evening of our visit, but this would be even then an unfortunate excuse.

Desserts performed in the same caliber as the proteins.  A dense scoop of vanilla perched atop thin slabs of fudgy chocolate, gilt with a nub of Andrew's Honey comb atop and lashings of honey beneath, with tiny crunches of bee pollen crowning the affair.  A berry shortcake featured spectacularly flavorful berries- rasp, black, blue and straw- layered with a delicate sponge cake and creamy whipped cream.  Personally, I don't consider sponge cake a short cake.... I prefer a biscuit-type pastry, but the berries were so remarkable that this time, I'll let it slide.  In this instance, the exceptional produce, left to shine on it's own, was more than enough.

tel.  (212)582-6300

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