French food is often synonymous with indulgence. Butter, fancy sauces, rich meats—it all add up to delicious food for sure, but not something you necessarily want to eat all the time. Michelin-starred chef John Fraser (formerly Nix) hopes to take French cuisine in a different direction, though, at his new restaurant, La Marchande, which opened Tuesday.
Located on Wall Street, within the new Wall Street Hotel, La Marchande aims to be the live restaurant of the FiDi group in New York. “We’re really trying to get a level of fit that’s probably balanced with a level of ambition so you feel like something exciting is going on here,” Fraser said. Rob’s report. That translates to a menu of items we hope you’ll eat every day, with snacks and drinks sitting alongside some quintessential offerings, like prime rib of lamb.
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The restaurant is located on the site of the first American stock exchange, and is also near the historic pearl trading district of New York City. Fraser drew from this history, describing his research as a bit “nerdy”, to inform the menu and direction of the restaurant as a whole. “We use a world class pantry to cook French food,” he said. “We use these tools, universal stocking stuffers, to lighten things up a bit and maybe not be as heavy or full of cream and butter as what a French brasserie would be.”
Some examples of this spirit? The summer rolls — although Fraser said he hardly calls them — contain unexpected ingredients like beef jerky, tuna risotto and asparagus pickle. A plate of clams made with oysters outside the shell poached in butter along with pickled ladders and rice crackers. La Marchande’s version of grilled lobster is served with fluffy creamy scallop mousse and a lighter version of the traditional American sauce made with coconut milk.
“I love and respect French food very much,” Fraser said. “However, this is not that. I think this is not even trying to compete with that. It is something that is perhaps a little more vibrant and brighter and fresher.”
The food is accompanied by a 120-bottle wine list curated by Beverage Director and Advanced Sommelier Amy Racine. Low-ABV drinks make great pairings with some lighter fare, and the bar highlights exclusively French vermouth.
As far as decor goes, La Marchande aims to revive the atmosphere of classic French cafés. The carved wooden bar is decorated with green marble, antique mirrors, and pink floor tiles, while the raw bar has mother-of-pearl details, a nod to the restaurant’s history. This space then opens onto the dining room, where the booths in the back can be obscured for a more private experience.
With New Yorkers returning to both the office and restaurants in droves, Fraser hopes La Marchande will be part of the city’s revitalization. “As a New Yorker, I want to come back stronger than we used to be,” he said. “And I think opening something new is one of the most important pieces that we contribute.”
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