This will be the 2nd national food holiday in a month that celebrates a French soup! I didn’t think savory French soups were so in style 😉 Today is National Bouillabaisse Day, which may look like a mouthful when you’re spelling it out, but is really just a fancy French word for a seafood stew. Stemming from the Provençal French for “boil and simmer,” bouillabaisse is a fish soup served in a clear broth seasoned with traditional Provençal herbs. Bouillabaisse can include any fish or seafood you like, but a traditional Provençal version always uses seafood from the Mediterranean, like scorpionfish, sea robin, conger, and mussels. It’s also tradition to make the soup in gigantic proportions: in Marseille, where the bouillabaisse started out, it’s rare to see the soup being made for less than ten servings! Stews always seem to work best when they’re made in giant batches for a lot of people 🙂
A New York take on the traditional bouillabaisse can be found at a restaurant that doesn’t showcase Provençal cuisine, or even French food in general, but celebrates the spirit of upstate New York cuisine. (Listen, if you’re serving me a stew filled with seafood of all kinds, I don’t care what you call your cuisine, just give it to me! :D) The aptly named Upstate makes a bouillabaisse with a white wine, beer, and saffron-based broth, making the soup flavorful without being heavy or overly salty. And the seafood used in the dish changes every day with whatever the daily fresh catch may be–so you know the soup is as fresh as it can get! At any particular day you’ll find flounder, salmon, mussels, clams, prawns, shrimp, scallops…the list is almost endless, making for a different bouillabaisse every time you order! Traditionally, bouillabaisse is cooked together, but served separately: the broth in a soup tureen and the seafood on another plate. But Upstate makes sure you get the most bang for your buck, and leaves all the seafood in the stew–and trust me, it’s a lot of seafood! And a ton of Upstate’s fans cheer about their freshly baked bread, which is a must to sop up all the flavor of the bouillabaisse. Whether you’re here the first time or the hundredth, it’s always worth it to order this stew and you’ll never know what you get!
95 1st Ave
“Seafood bouillabaisse is a classic french stew. Chef Kary Goolsby prepares ours in a white wine, saffron and beer-based broth. A slow simmer with garlic, tomato and onions. Adding in mussels, clams, shrimp, fish – whatever is fresh that day (like these guys below). Topped off with beurre monte aka magic butter. And of course some good hearty bread to sop up the broth – the best part of course.”–Upstate
“On our second visit, we decided to order some of the cooked food from the kitchen. Dan got the Bouillabaisse which was one of the best looking dishes I’ve seen in quite some time: massive prawns, clams, oysters – what’s not to love?”–Eve Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“FRESH. Oysters & Clams? Wide variety, Iced & Delicious. Ceviche of the day? Yup, not served traditionally but who cares when it tastes that good. And the Bouillabaisse, which did not skimp on the seafood & had broth that was bread worthy (for dunking) is a definite must order. Our service was good & friendly, no attitudes here, really relaxed vibe. Place is small so large parties may be difficult to accommodate.”–K. C.
“My friend and I split a dozen oysters and two entrees: beer steamed clams and bouillabaisse. Clams were tasty but i preferred the latter, which included shrimp, mussels, scallops, clams, and the catch of the day – a delicious salmon. By the time I finished it, the broth was a bit cold but I can’t really fault them for that. Good flavor and they give you a hell of a lot of bread to mop it up.”–Thomas U.
Of course, by bringing the traditional bouillabaisse recipe over the pond to the United States causes changes in the ingredients and variations that really adapt to the many culinary cultures that blend here. This is more than evident in New York, where you’ll find fusion restaurants of just about any combo of cuisines in the world! Take, for just one example, Bistro Petit’s take on their bouillabaisse: like traditional bouillabaisse, it’s a fish stew, with a clear, seasoned broth. But what lurks underneath a seemingly cutely French bistro in Williamsburg is a twist that’ll keep you on your toes: kimchi! Yes, Bistro Petit isn’t just French cuisine, but a French fusion restaurant with heavy Korean influences. There’s duck confit paired with pomegranate, beef bourguignon cooked with Korean horseradish, and their signature dish, a Korean kimchi bouillabaisse. It’s a perfect blend of French and Korean flavors and cooking styles, with mussels, clams, pollock, and scallops simmering in a red chili and white wine broth. It’s a complete hit for the restaurant, and brings a uniqueness to their menu that you won’t find in many Asian fusion attempts. It’s the perfect way to warm up on a cold December night!
170 S 3rd St (between Bedford Ave & Driggs Ave), Williamsburg
“But certain dishes are transcendent. The kimchi bouillabaisse arrives in a cast-iron cauldron, its fragrant, spicy yet delicate red broth brimming with mussels, scallops, pollack, fried tofu, fermented cabbage, and chewy rice gnocchi, garnished with bright sprigs of watercress.”–The New Yorker
“Chef and owner Sung Park has married Korean cooking with modern French cuisine. Case in point: the Kimchi Bouillabaisse (pictured above, $19), Bistro Petit’s signature dish, is a rich seafood stew with kimchi, mussels, scallops, rice gnocchi, Korean chili paste, and white wine. There’s also the famously tender Kobe burger, truffle mac & cheese, and weekly meat and pasta specials.”–Maps and Raps
“The chef’s Asian background is reflected here and there, most notably in the bouillabaisse, which has an abundant amount of fresh scallops, mussels, pollock and shrimp mixed with fried tofu, rice gnocchi, kombu, Korean chili paste and kimchi.”–New York Magazine
“If the last dish didn’t have much Korean-ness, this one definitely didn’t hold back. My first impression of this dish was that Chef Park took a bouillabaisse and decided to add in kimchi hot pot with typical Asian ingredients. The broth was brilliantly savoury, with a strong umami taste from the seafood broth and the kombu (a component of dashi stock) that blended well with the chili paste, which added a mild level of spice to the mixture. All of the seafood, namely the plump mussels, flaky pollock, and seared scallop, was very fresh, although the scallop tasted a slight bit too rubbery perhaps as a result from cooking too long in the bouillabaisse stew.”–Roger Eats Like A Pig
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“We ordered the wild mushroom appetizer, the duck confit, the kimchi bouillabaisse, and the fries. All I have to say is, wow! the duck confit came out in a skillet, all sizzling and bubbling. It was THE BEST! The duck fell off the bone – the meat was tender and the skin crisp. The kimchi bouillabaisse was spectacular. It is definitely Asian-inspired with rice cake, kimchi, fish cod. Similar to Korean Jjamppong, but lighter (and tastier!) This was definitely the star dish and the two pieces of toast were a nice addition.”–S. H.
“Very pleasantly surprised by this little place just over the Williamsburg Bridge! It’s French but with some subtle Korean influences. We had the watermelon salad, the pasta, and the kimchi bouillabaisse. All were great but especially the bouillabaisse! It struck the perfect balance between French bouillabaisse and Korean seafood stew, and was very generous with the mussels. The kimchi gave it a good spice and tang. I only wish some of the other dishes had more Korean influence like the bouillabaisse did.”–Pravit C.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!