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Bouillabaisse and other French classics at Marseille in SoWa

Loic Le Garrec, of Petit Robert Bistro in the South End and Kendall Square’s Batifol, opened another lively spot.

Bouillabaisse is made with head-to-tail shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, and fluke, with a thick slice of toast smeared with the spicy garlic sauce rouille.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Where to Marseille in Boston’s SoWa neighborhood, opened at the beginning of April.

Why Loic Le Garrec owns Marseille, and like his most recent opening, Batifol in Kendall Square, no expense was spared on design details. Chef Robert Fathman, who runs the Marseille kitchen, has cooked all over town, including at Les Zygomates.

The Back Story Le Garrec, whose former business partner was chef Jacky Robert, with whom he owned Petit Robert Bistro locations, now owns the only remaining one in the South End. Marseille is in the building where former restaurants Brasserie and Gaslight once were. The new space is a beautiful hue of turquoise blue that’s meant to reflect both the sky and the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France, says Le Garrec on the phone from France. During the renovation, he kept the zinc bar that was made in France for Gaslight.

Chef Robert Fathman in restaurant's courtyard area. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

What to Eat The restaurant’s website bills itself as “Coastal Fare of Southern France.” Le Garrec says that since Marseille is a seaport city, “we wanted to do southern French food with influence from Spain, Morocco; use a lot of spices. French with a lot of influence.” It feels like the place is still trying to figure out what that is. But the food we tasted was exemplary. A deeply flavored bouillabaisse is made with head-to-tail shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, and fluke, with a thick slice of toast smeared with the spicy garlic sauce rouille. In another dish, shrimp sit in a dark sauce aromatic with anise-flavored Pastis, popular in the south of France (the shrimp here are called gambas, which is the Spanish word, part of the menu confusion). Chips Maison, homemade sea-salt potato chips, are warm and really delicious, accompanied by an updated French Onion Dip. Really — a 1950s American recipe. Pate de Campagne with pork and chicken liver is perfect. Toasted slices of baguette, made by a bakery Le Garrec owns, suits the very dense crumb of the bread. A profiterole for dessert, filled with espresso ice cream, chocolate whipped cream, and halva crumbs, with chocolate sauce poured over the top at the table, would be divine if it weren’t the size of a small plate and enough for three diners. What’s wrong with a classic individual profiterole for one?


Housemade potato chips with French onion dip.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

What to Drink This is supposed to be a night out in Marseille. You have to ask yourself what all the non-French wine is doing here. The list is completely unadventurous.


The Takeaway With 170 seats inside and another 80 on a patio, Marseille will undoubtedly become a go-to spot this summer, especially on SoWa First Fridays. The staff is just learning the menu, and if you catch someone especially enthusiastic, like our college-student busboy one night, every little need will be attended to (including warm cloths to wipe our hands after peeling shellfish). The kitchen has a star at the helm and the idea of southern French food is very appealing. When things settle in, it should be an exciting place. 560 Harrison Ave., SoWa, Boston, 857-277-0366,

Pate de Campagne with pork and chicken liver.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Sheryl Julian can be reached at