One of the joys of seeing a Broadway show—besides, you know, seeing a Broadway show—is the pre-theater dinner. It is a joyous rush of eating gourmet food while sitting on a grubby Midtown sidewalk, and then letting the delicious food coma wash over you while you are serenaded by a full orchestra and beautiful lighting. While there are many wonderfully cozy places in Hell’s Kitchen, Marseille has an enchanting environment that makes the pre-theater experience not quite so hectic.
Located on 9th Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, Marseille is perfectly situated just a block away from the Theater District, making it the perfect place to enjoy a meal without having to hop on a subway or fight a crowd to get to your seat. The closest subway station is the 42nd Street/Port Authority Station on the A, C, and E trains, but it is walking distance from all Times Square stations on the 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, W, and S trains.
The dinner seating opens at 5 PM, which is perfect timing for a pre-show meal. Our hostess was very accommodating and asked about our seating preferences before promptly seating us al fresco. Our waiter was equally friendly, and more than happy to check on all the food allergies, although he admitted he was not so knowledgeable on the ingredients of the menu. He was, however, happy to recommend many dishes, and I finally settled on the special duck a l’orange, served with a dragonfruit sauce and wax beans. For all his skepticism, our server was extremely nice and double-checked with the chef twice to ensure it could all be prepared to avoid any incident, particularly since we were to catch a show!
The presentation on the elegantly plated, with a warm color palette that foreshadowed the succulent flavors of the plate. The duck was cooked perfectly to ensure a crispy skin, with soft meat, made for savoring. I am not usually a vegetable person, but the wax beans were so delicious, sopping au jus, that I ate all of them! My only disappointment was that the dragonfruit sauce, for all its beauty, was mostly flavorless. However, experience has taught me that the actual dragonfruit itself is the same way: visually impressive, but practically tasteless.
While a sidewalk in Hell’s Kitchen is usually one of my least favorite places in the city, the dining experience at our little table at Marseille was actually very pleasant. A large portion of the meal was spent determining whether or not the man behind us was, in fact, Steven Spielberg. (My childhood was spent at the edge of Hollywood, so this potential sighting was very exciting). All in all, it was a delightful dinner and a great prelude to a great evening at the theater.