To the recently renovated Wall Street Hotel comes the culinary wizardry of John Fraser and chef Rick Horiike who, together, comprise the face of La Marchande.
Fraser, himself Michelin-starred and whose hospitality group has opened a slew of critically-acclaimed eateries, brings his culinary prowess to New York City with his newest concept, a French brasserie-inspired fusion experience located in the busy Financial District. La Marchande, which translates from French to mean ‘the merchant,’ draws upon the heritage of its host venue as an international hub of commerce to offer its patrons a truly memorable dining experience. Total Food Service spoke to Fraser to uncover the inspiration behind La Marchande and to explore all that his newest concept has to offer.
Despite its delayed debut, the conceptualization of La Marchande had been long in the making. Even prior to the industry shake-up induced by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, JF Fraser Hospitality Group had been shortlisted to operate the food and beverage service at the Wall Street Hotel under a licensing agreement, a partnership that is not new to the group. Under a similar agreement, they also run the F&B at the EDITION Hotel in West Hollywood, California. Their partnership with the Wall Street Hotel has been a success, remarked Fraser: “They’re very supportive,” he added about the Paspaley family, the Australian custodians of the New York hotel.
Thus, the group’s bicoastal expansion builds on prior experience and success with hotel licensing agreements, but more importantly, marks a bold and promising step for the group following the difficulties of the pandemic. Despite the group’s commitment to remaining “asset cautious” due to continuing fluctuation and uncertainty within the workforce, restaurant industry, and economy, La Marchande’s debut signals renewed faith in on-premise dining and the hospitality industry as a whole. Still, “the scars of COVID run deep,” admitted a wary Fraser.
As with virtually every property he has created, Fraser’s latest has quickly opened to critical acclaim. Finding an open table at La Marchande during the week has quickly become a tough challenge. Fraser and Executive Chef Horiike, a veteran of both Wild Ink and Morimoto, have created a whimsical menu to rave reviews. Their menu contains both classic staples of French cuisine and modern reinventions, draws inspiration from many different sources.
While Fraser cites the rich flavors of French brasserie as his primary inspiration, he sought to create an experience that felt and tasted “young and playful.” To achieve this, the restaurateur borrowed elements from the Wall Street Hotel’s heritage: “the formation of the stock [exchange began] on this property,” explained Fraser, “so we’re playing with this idea of a modern pantry.” Citing the hotel’s location in southern Manhattan, which, centuries ago, was home to the bustling South Street Seaport, Fraser also felt inspired by the culinary techniques of fishermen, some of which are reflected in the menu.
As suggested by its name, which translates from French to ‘the merchant,’ La Marchande’s menu perfectly reflects the heritage of its location. With that the restaurateur posed himself a question: “What kinds of things could we introduce into a classic French bistro?” In response to the quandary of how he could facilitate this incorporation, Fraser reinvented some brasserie classics: “using things like coconut milk to lighten things up so the [fare] isn’t as heavy, or soy sauce and fish sauce – [ingredients] that aren’t typically found in a French bistro.” His non-traditional approach to French cuisine celebrates lightness and vibrancy, a departure from the more heavy-leaning recipes that constitute much of brasserie fare. By swapping out heavier, often cream-based sauces for vinaigrettes and broths, Fraser “lightens things up,” using these elements “so [the dishes] are not so creamy and sauce-heavy.” The added benefit of a leaner menu, Fraser explained, is the revitalization and celebration of the dish’s ingredients. “The way it hits the plate is super fun!” he promises.
While the task of creating fusion cuisine may seem daunting to most, Fraser explained that the collaboration with Horiike, who draws upon his Japanese ancestry to create some truly unique dishes, has been a remarkably enjoyable experience.
To supplement the reimagined French fare, La Marchande boasts a masterfully created and French-inspired wine and cocktail list. Curated by sommelier Amy Racine, the wine list celebrates many of France’s distinct regions and their namesake wines; with a list that totals 120 different selections, there is no shortage of choice or variety. The restaurant’s cocktail list attests to its French orientation: with a vermouth-centered menu, every drink offers a taste of France.
Patrons of La Marchande can expect a sublimely masterful French experience. The dynamic duo of Fraser and Horiike has given rise to a menu that both embraces classic brasserie cuisine while incorporating a modern, historically-driven, and light twist that promises a unique dining adventure. The JF Fraser Hospitality Group’s newest licensing venture with the Wall Street Hotel in the heart of the Financial District is a beacon of hope as the restaurant industry returns.
All photos courtesy of JF Restaurants. To learn more, visit their website.