An Early Taste of Margaux
It's been a month since Margaux (5 West 8th Street, 212-321-0100) opened to quiet fanfare at the swank Marlton Hotel just off Union Square Park.The restaurant is the work of hotelier Sean MacPherson, who also lent his beaux-arts design eye to this boutique nine-story hotel that was once a frequent stop for Jack Kerouac -- he penned two novels here when it was the New School dorm. While Margaux is presented like a chic Parisian cafe -- gilded fixtures, ornate mirrrors, celadon-green booths -- the objective, MacPherson says, was to create a space that feels like it belonged to the neighborhood.
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"It's something of a living room for the neighbors," he says. "A facility that will service the neighborhood in the long run." And that means both during the day and at night.
As for the food, MacPherson penned the menu with executive chefs Michael Reardon and Jeremy Blutstein, both of whom he'd worked with before, and the trio aimed for a list with a healthy Eastern-Mediterranean slant. There's a burger with English cheddar and sunchoke chips on the list, but it's served alongside dungeness crab bucatini lashed with Calabrian chile oil, a rich cauliflower-custard flecked with brittle kale bulbs and a heady hint of Reggiano, Colorado lamb perched on a thick plank complemented with the day's best vegetables, and shareable plates like the farmer's board, a plank of buckwheat crackers, quinoa tabouli, kale harissa, avocado hummus, beets, and smashed sweet potatoes. The latter dish, Reardon says, is not only Margaux's biggest seller to date, but also a testament to the kitchen's end goal of using the best seasonal produce out there, echoing the flavors of Southern France, Italy, and North Africa.
Menu favorites change every day -- "It's what we can source," Blustein says -- as the kitchen likes to focus only on what's best that day, whether that's from a local market in New York or Santa Monica. "If something looks good to us it goes up in the market," he says. "But if a mainstay on the menu has ingredients that start dropping in quality, we'll pull it off and replace it with something else." A liberally used ingredient on one night, for instance, was sweet blood orange; on another it could be Day Boat cod. All meals start with a complimentary saucer of just-harvested raw vegetables, like radicchio, radish, and carrots.
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So pull up a seat, and don't fret if the dining room is filled on a busy night: Margaux reserves a good number of spots for walk-in customers. And in keeping with its commitment to the neighborhood, there are plenty of bar stools, where you can order drinks and food from the full menu.