Up until the end of June, a classic steakhouse was one of the few things in Atlanta that Ford Fry didn’t have. Things changed in July when he opened Marcel in the former Abattoir space. Although I was sad to see Abattoir go, I was pretty excited about the new addition to Atlanta’s steakhouse scene.
At first glance, I loved what they did with the space. The dim lighting, leather booths, and velvet curtains definitely gave off an “old school” steakhouse vibe, but then there were modern twists like the bright and mirrored bar in the center.
To soak up all that vodka and vermouth, our server immediately brought out a plate of piping hot bread that was likely pulled out of the oven 25 seconds earlier. If you’ve ever tried one of the famous English muffins at the Model Bakery in Napa, then you’ll know why I was so excited about this particular bread basket. Marcel’s version looked deliciously similar and melted in your mouth just the same. Thank goodness they only gave us one each, or else I might have skipped the steak altogether.
Although I was hoping for a tableside preparation when I ordered the Caesar a la minute, everything else about the salad was exactly what I wanted. The romaine was crisp, the croutons were buttery, and the dressing was perfect. Although it wasn’t served tableside, you could tell they had just mixed everything up minutes ago, hence the “a la minute.” Also, never underestimate the importance of a chilled salad served on a chilled plate. It can make all the difference in the world.
If steak isn’t your thing, Marcel has tons of fresh seafood options. There were several east and west coast varieties on the oysters du jour list, and they were served with baked sea salt crackers and all the necessary fixings.
The sole meunière was classically prepared and beautifully presented. They brought the fish out whole for a preview, and then returned it minutes later, filleted and ready to eat. The fish was cooked nicely – flaky throughout with a crispy pan sear. The subtle lemon-butter sauce really allowed the sole to shine on its own.
A day or two before I dined at Marcel, I read an interesting article that compared steaks on a price per ounce basis at all the big name steakhouses in Atlanta. The verdict? Marcel was the most expensive steakhouse in Atlanta. So naturally, this made me even more eager to give their steak a try.
I went with the 8 oz filet madame, and Chad with the 14 oz bone-in filet monsieur. Fitting, I suppose. Ever since my horrific experience at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, I am extra careful and overly specific (almost to the point of obnoxious, really) when ordering a steak. In this particular instance, I am pretty sure I used some combination of extremely rare, blue, barely cooked, and cold center. I also specifically requested a cool plate. Crystal clear, right? Wrong. My first steak came out on a piping hot plate and was barely medium rare.
Contrary to popular belief, I really don’t enjoy sending back $50 steaks. So if anyone has a suggestion about how I can be more clear about the whole rare thing, I’m all ears. I will say though, that Marcel recovered very gracefully from this misstep. The manager was extremely apologetic and brought out a new steak right away (not that it takes much time to sear a steak for 20 seconds on each side).
The second steak was served on a cool plate (check), with a cool, red center (double check). The outside of the steak was nicely seared with a salty-buttery crust. The filet was ever-so-slightly marbled, and flavorful enough that it didn’t need any of the additional sauce add-ons that the menu offered. It was really delicious, and worth waiting for. Did it taste $.62/oz better than Kevin Rathbun’s filet? Probably not, but keep in mind that, like any other steakhouse, you’re paying for the entire experience, not just the steak.
Side-wise we tried the creamed corn and the scalloped potatoes. Both sides were creamy, cheesy, and decadent to the point where a few bites was enough. They were definitely sharing-sized portions. The crispy, baked crust that encased the creamed corn was to die for, and I don’t even really like corn.
In the end, despite the minor steak snafu, I had a great experience at Marcel. I was impressed with the food, and the service didn’t skip a beat. Judging by the jam-packed crowd at the restaurant, I don’t think Marcel is going to struggle to sell any steaks, higher price tag and all.