Welcome to Inside the Dishes, where Eater takes an in-depth look at the dishes that are defining hot new restaurants around town.
There’s no steak on the tasting menu at Marrow, West Village’s Eater Award-winning neighborhood butcher shop and restaurant. Just a few months into its residency on Kercheval Avenue, the restaurant has gained a following for beef — mostly steak — despite the team’s ongoing efforts to push other less coveted cuts. Chef Sarah Welch is perfectly happy to accommodate her customers’ appetites for red meat. “If you want us to be a steakhouse, we can be. We have potatoes on the menu. We have a steak on the menu. We’re not gonna put them on the same plate, but we can be that for you,” she says. Just don’t expect to see beef during a multi-course meal. “The steak isn’t on the tasting menu, because we’re not a steakhouse,” she says.
Instead, Marrow’s customers can more often expect to see lamb and pork showcased in their courses. “That’s what makes the butcher shop happen,” she says. Whereas the restaurant can find ways to use all of a smaller animal such as lamb or pork, Welch notes that it’s far more difficult to completely utilize a whole cow. “Beef is challenging as a butcher shop ingredient because you have this huge animal and 50 percent of it is ground beef,” something the restaurant doesn’t use all that much.
It’s that efficient, “let nothing go to waste” philosophy that drives Marrow’s menu. Offal and underappreciated cuts that are a hard sell in the butcher shop, find their way onto the menu in intriguing and unexpected ways. The result is dishes that look nothing like those served at a typical steakhouse. Navel and heart are grilled on yakitori skewers. Pork skin is boiled and fried for crunchy, seasoned chicharrón “popcorn.” Cured tongue is sliced thin and served in a sea of golden carrots.
Not every item at is an instant hit with customers, but Marrow’s patrons are rarely ever bored with their meal. “I want people to feel passionately about our food one way or the other,” Welch says. “The worst reviews we can ever get is when people come and say that it’s just okay.”
Here are the foundational dishes at Marrow:
Corned Tongue: The corned tongue is perhaps the most divisive plate at Marrow, and in Welch’s opinion it’s the closest thing the restaurant has to a signature dish. Braised tongue is paired with creamy carrot butter as well as raw and roasted carrots. There’s also mochi, puffed rice, dill, and mustard seeds for a bit of acidity. The source of the tongue — be it beef, lamb, or pork — changes regularly. Some of the meat served in the dishes is from animals butchered in-house, but the restaurant also works closely with local suppliers to source the key ingredient. “I would say that the people that get us the most are the people that dig this dish,” she says.
Pork Skin Popcorn: Marrow’s butcher shop breaks down six whole pigs a week, which generates quite a bit of pork skin. The kitchen boils and fries the excess skin to make chicharrónes. The broken up snack-sized pieces of chicharrón are then mixed with crunchy chunks of candied peanuts. Each bowl is showered in a 17-spice seasoning that tastes strongly of dried shiitake mushrooms and cardamom. “I like the idea of people eating it and then trying to figure out what the rub is and then coming back to it,” Welsh says. “It’s sweet and salty, but there’s these aromatic qualities that I think make it taste different every time you bite into it.”
Pickled Shrimp: Welch grew up eating her grandma’s pickled shrimp out of big mason jars in her family’s fridge and it’s a recipe that’s grown with her as a chef. During her tenure at Republic, Welch showcased pickled shrimp on the menu and has now carried the pleasingly tart shellfish dish over to a new home in the charcuterie and cheese section of Marrow’s menu. The plump shrimp sourced from Okemos are served in squat glass jars with oil, hot chilis, herbs, and champagne vinegar that “gives the liquid a delicate pink hue. On the side, there’s always a selection of pickles, toast, and plenty of corn butter to cut the acidity of the shrimp. “I’m allergic to shrimp and I still eat it all the time,” Welch says.
Glutinous Rice Dumplings: Marrow’s menu is full of examples of dishes that creatively package trim. One of the best examples is the gluten-free glutinous rice dumplings. Each dumpling features a filling such as ground beef stuffed in a rice wrapper. While its one of the more popular items among customers, Welch says it feels like a different product each day. The humidity in the air has a big impact on the texture of the wrappers, she notes. Likewise, the sugar content in the tallow that Marrow uses for frying varies widely depending on the animal, meaning that sometimes the dumplings come out “bright white” and other times they’re a darker golden brown. Each dumpling is topped with shreds of pickled radishes, fresh herbs, and dollops of local fish roe for an added bit of texture.
Bone Marrow: When Marrow first opened in October, some customers were surprised to find that there wasn’t a marrow roasted bone on the menu. Instead customers seeking out the warm, gelatinous beef marrow could order it on crostinis with caramelized onion jam. The idea was to give people something a little unexpected, Welch says. “I think people have this idea in their head about coming to a place named Marrow and wanting to see a marrow bone and we fought it in the beginning because we’re contrarian,” she says. Ultimately, the restaurant gave into the requests of customers and reworked the dish. The marrow bone is served with a layer of the original caramelized onion jam with capers for acidity, herbs, and a row of airy, beef tallow-scented gougères.
• Detroit’s 2018 Eater Awards Winners [ED]
• All Marrow Coverage [ED]
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