A written post about 6th Ave’s newest up-class experimental meat and veggie restaurant.
Unless you’ve been entombed within the shrouds of the Murray Morgan bridge the past few months you’ve probably heard of Marrow on 6th Avenue. It filled the space formerly occupied by Beyond the Bridge across the intersection from Jazzbones; however, unlike the short lived cafe that preceded it, Marrow has managed to bring something fresh and new to 6th Ave. In fact, Marrow seems to have reinvented classy.
The place is new-industrial a la the Ace hotel in Portland with Bulleit whiskey bottles suspended on steel tethers in the entryway and mind-blowing light fixtures consisting of only exposed 25watt bulbs. The tables are clean butcher block and the chairs aluminum (my only beef). The waitstaff and patrons are generally well dressed but sporting gauged earrings and tats. The menu plays a similar role. Think of a paradise where insatiable carnivores frolic happily alongside mild mannered herbivores. Kind of like those pamphlets Jehovah’s witnesses persistently leave in your screen door with pictures of little kids merrily riding lions in some sort of weird rapture scenario. The menu (a single sheet cleanly thumbtacked to a hunk of cork board) is two sided: “Marrow” – containing a carnivore’s dream line up of savory and unusual meats, and “Arrow” – an impressive list of unusual vegetarian dishes that looked good enough to sway the meat eaters. Adam and I resisted however. We ate meat. A lot of it. Five different sources in fact. Beef, pork, bison, lamb, and clam.
I feel like frickin’ Ted Nugent.
The meal kicked off with a few drinks and some appetizers. The tap list is short but impressive, and the drink menu is fantastic. Adam opted for the Pauline, which was a Pisco based drink lightly sweetened and given a nice kick in the ass with jalapeño soda. He thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, every drink at the table was well received – the Marrow drink experience was unexpectedly awesome. Marrow’s bar certainly bolsters what may have already been the cocktail hotspot of Tacoma in 6th Avenue.
For food we started with breaded gnocchi “tots” and bacon horseradish sauce($7) and the oft-talked about Marrow appetizer ($15), by which I mean beef bones sawed in half with baked marrow glistening under fresh garlic and served with lamb’s tongue, pickled veggies and toasted bread. if you haven’t heard about this before, it’s time you do. Coming into this experience, this dish was the single most talked about item on the menu. I’d read several food reviews mentioning it and spoken with some who had tried it, and this one item dug into my psyche like a salty barbed hook. Whenever I tell anyone about it they seem to undergo the same 5 step process i did: shock, disgust, curiosity, acceptance, and finally…excitement.
It just sounds so gross at first. Marrow. See?
But then…you start listening to the explanation: it’s rich, full of protein, and hell, it’s an integral part of Pho broth. Yup. We eat it all the time in soup anyway. Now, imagine that lovely fatty soup base flavor condensed into the source, baked and served with garlic. That’s what it tastes like. The only obstacle might be the texture, which is pretty much like stewed beef fat. Some might have trouble with this aspect of it. Not me. I used to delight in eating the fat off the edge of my steak as a kid. Partly because it grossed out my sister, and partly for the full rich flavor. Marrow is kinda like that, only more so.
The funny thing about this appetizer is that the lamb tongue served with it was so unbelievable amazing, it made you forget about the whole marrow thing. Sublimely tender and flavorful, the lamb tongue is good enough to be the featured protein in an entree. I would definitely buy it.
By the time the initial shock of our appetizer wore off and our drinks were little more than garnishes our meals arrived. The dishes were each presented with great care and style. No enormous white dishes with delicate sauces framing pitifully small and overpriced centerpieces, our settings were each unique to our order and contained relatively generous portions. Several people had to-go boxes afterward.
I was feeling less adventurous than some – and on the verge of going broke – so I went for the Marrow burger ($13). The patty was enormous and generously seasoned, dressed with a mild and slightly sweet pickle that didn’t overpower the tomato jelly and aioli. An excellent burger. Cyrus called it life-changingly good. It was served with lightly roasted purple potatoes and homemade ketchup.
The clams ($13) were very flavorful, topped with a homemade salsa of sun dried tomatoes, pork jowl, and marrow beans. Fresh, not overly fishy and steamed just right. I think it could have used a touch more of the secondary ingredients, especially the pork jowl.
The quinoa cakes ($9) looked adorable. They were served with sugar pumpkin puree, tomato jam, jicama, and chestnut. I guess they were filling, but this might be one of the lighter items on the menu. In fact, I heard the same about the pesto Gnocchi – also on the Arrow menu – although it’s apparently amazing.
Farrotto ($14) – Mixed with sugar pumpkin, spinach, Beechers Flagship, Passilla pepper and balsamic. The remarkable thing about this dish was the incredible balance they were able to strike. The pumpkin was at the forefront, so very fresh despite it’s naturally mellow flavor. Savory and just a touch sweet. It again looked like a lighter dish, but Sheli had leftovers.
Adam ponied up some serious coin and went with the Bison shortribs ($26). The highest priced item, the short ribs came with mascarpone yukon mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. The ribs were intimidatingly huge protruding from the sizable hunk of meat and slathered with a mild barbecue. The meat was incredibly tender and very flavorful. The potatoes and sprouts drew rave reviews as well.
We’ve been waiting some time for our Marrow trip, so we went the extra mile and got some desserts as well.
The spiced poached pear with hazelnut mascarpone ($5) was a fantastic looking dessert but almost subtle to a fault. The pear was mildly spiced, slightly sweet, and very hard to dig into with a spoon…I eventually manned up and just took bites out of the thing. Perhaps it was just under-ripe, or it wasn’t poached long enough? I don’t know. I’ve poached exactly zero pears in my life. The mascarpone was nutty and smooth, as anything hazelnut should be, but just this side underwhelming.
The other dessert, had by everyone else at the table, was a raspberry chocolate lambic mousse. People enjoyed it, but again it seemed to fly under the flavor radar a bit. The texture was not as silky as some had hoped – being a bit on the heavy side – and could have benefitted from being a touch more rich. There’s nothing like capping a long complicated meat with a simple rich dessert and a nice glass of whiskey. We did accomplish the whiskey portion of that scenario.
The funny thing about this place is that despite the somewhat shocking menu items, the food largely encompassed the same theme of subtlety. Perhaps this is to help soften the blow of the giant beef bone dripping marrow on your table, or perhaps the fine folks at Marrow have decided to instigate a change in our dining experience. It is an American obsession to take flavors to extremes. This is especially true in beer – try an American Belgian ale next to a real Trappist ale and you’ll get what I’m saying. I love flavorful food, and I have been known to sling a few epic rants about pretentiously under-seasoned fare, but this isn’t that. Marrow has found a way to present food in a way that preserves the subtlest flavors – like pumpkin – while simultaneously showcasing some seriously crazy centerpieces. Marrow has given fine dining in Tacoma a facelift. Admit it Tacoma, you’re beautiful.
Mention us and get…nothing. Just an awkward silence. Really. Our waiter was sick of us by the time we finally left.