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Still Kicking

Martick's Still Bangs Out Some Damn Fine Food

Michelle Gienow

Martick's Restaurant Franšais

This location is closed

By Richard Gorelick | Posted 7/2/2008

City Paper last reported on Martick's Restaurant Français back in May 2002, when Morris Martick was only 79 years old. I misremembered this as having been Michelle Gienow's last review before she turned over the feedbag to me but it was actually the unforgettable Maison Marconi that she went out with. I knew it was something sentimental, with an "M."

Either way, I like the idea of a six-year check up on Martick's, and it felt like a fitting way to end my nearly six-year tenure as the City Paper's restaurant critic. Besides, a Martick's story pretty much writes itself. Oh, it's so quirky and oh, it's like a time capsule and did you know before it was a French restaurant, it was a speakeasy (what wasn't?) and you still have to knock on the door to be sized up before you come in and we're walking--if everybody could keep pace. We have a lot to look at and I'd hate for you to miss the snakeskin wallpaper. Maybe John Waters will be here tonight (but where won't he?)!

When we did go on a recent Tuesday night, this is what we saw: Martick's was a restaurant. It was hopping. Not only were there customers--a couple dozen of them--but a staff, too, about a half-dozen of them: an excellent waitress, a pro of a bartender, and a few cooks or chefs working with Martick in the kitchen. You ordered food, someone made it, and someone else brought it to you. In my mind, this is never what used to happen, but it must have.

It was bright in Martick's, too; brighter than any of us remembered (and cleaner, too, we thought) but maybe because on these longest of days, sunlight is still coming through those stained glass tiles on the front wall. The truly great thing is that, for all of this and for how truly good the meal was at Martick's, it really is nutty, in a Dickensian chipped-plate and chipped-glass way. And, boy, if you can't relax about stuff like that, please don't go there. If you can't taste how great Martick's "Parisian-style" country pâté ($9) is because you can't get beyond the accompanying Saltine crackers, you suck.

Some of the food Martick's sent out needs no contextualizing and certainly no apologies. A gorgeous hunk of salmon ($22) topped with black caviar cream is simply divine as long as you can manage to parcel out a little bit of caviar luxuriousness with each forkful of salmon. Like almost all of the entrées, this dish came piled with market-fresh, lightly sautéed broccoli, carrots, and peppers. That Martick does his own shopping is something he doesn't bother explaining on the menu--it's just what's done.

A rack of lamb, pink-fleshed and meaty, is coated with some salt and pepper, grilled, and then stippled with a double-thick horseradish cream ($28). This presents beautifully, the bone white against the black-and-tan, and tastes so good. Martick's bouillabaisse ($24), a regularly appearing special, is still among the tops in town with a simple, fennel-filled sauce and choice ingredients, especially New Zealand green-lipped mussels. For mopping up the sauce, there's a continuous supply of good baguette and room-temperature butter. Yeah, butter--go to hell, olive oil.

There are classics on the menu, like chicken marsala with mushrooms ($18), beef Burgundy ($18), and quail served over lentils ($26). A few cavils: the simple fillet ($24) could be even simpler, without an unadvertised wine sauce; the Persian chicken ($22) with apricots, dates, figs, and nuts felt like it was missing a finishing touch--something to bring all the flavors together, but I'll be damned if I know what it is. Maybe I was put off by the whole cashews.

A dessert menu ($7 each) lists Mad Men desserts like profiteroles, fudge cake, and crème caramel. They're good, but not when a heart is set on something with strawberries in season. And don't miss the garlic bread ($2) at the top of the meal.

Times are tough, but let's all try to keep eating out as often as we can. Enjoy the pate, forgive the crackers. Tip big.

Writing Omnivore has been so much fun, and the best part was being on the same page as Chris Myers and Uli Loskot's beautiful photographs. Thanks for reading.

Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Michelle Gienow will return to her old noshing grounds for three weeks of restaurant reviews, while a permanent replacement is found.

Bye, Richard!

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