John Besh's Marsh House
With Marsh House, New Orleans chef John Besh sets anchor in Nashville.
Written By: Erin B. Murray
Photographers: Jacob Blount
In New Orleans, chef John Besh and his small empire of restaurants have become a juggernaut, producing not only a range of stellar dining experiences—refined luxury at Restaurant August, ethereal pizza from Domenica, and a rustic brasserie with Lüke—but also a growing legion of superb young talent. The chefs who helm his kitchens have gone on to open a cadre of fun and exceptional concepts, both within the Besh sphere and outside of it, which regularly get recognized on national best-restaurant lists.
Now, Nashville gets to experience the brilliance of Besh with his new outpost, Marsh House, which opened inside the chic, new Thompson Hotel in the Gulch last fall.
What to order:
Oysters on the half shell, $3 each
Momma’s Gumbo, $12
Shrimp Toast, $14
Panéed Swordfish, $28
Mississippi Rabbit, $22
Set inside a mod and sexy dining room, complete with low seating and Mid-century Modern décor, Marsh House offers a bar and lounge, as well as a small and comfortable dining room. The Southern-inspired, seafood-driven menu extends from breakfast to lunch and dinner; it seems to be filled regularly with a mix of both out-of-town visitors and locals looking for a taste of the Besh experience. The bar would be a fine spot to settle in, with a cocktail or a glass of something sparkling. General manager Tim Rawding, who moved to town originally to open Le Sel, appoints the wine list at Marsh House and finds good footing with a fun, and mostly American, selection of wines.
But, to savor the full scope of the menu, the dining room feels equally filled with action, especially surrounded as it is by floor-to-ceiling windows that connect diners to what has become the bustling epicenter of the city. The culinary team brings New Orleanian’s expertise to a menu filled with options sourced from the Gulf and on up the Eastern seaboard—and the best way to start exploring is with a plate of oysters on the half shell. The selection changes regularly, but you can usually find five or six varieties hailing from all parts of the Southern seashore, such as the Gulf, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland.
An immediate hit, after the oysters, is the shrimp toast, which arrives as a plate of well-sized triangles of fried bread that incorporate hefty chunks of shrimp and get a drizzle of sweet chili and ginger sauce. Also under appetizers, there might be Florida stone crab claws or a yellowfin tuna served on shrimp crackers. And, being a product of the Crescent City, Marsh House serves a fine gumbo, founded on a deeply brown and satisfying roux base that offers a dose of peppery heat.
Depending on what’s in season, you may find a mix up among the dishes, including the “Garden” section. So, while the trout might remain the main protein of a dish, the squash currently alongside it might transition to something lighter once the season changes. Rely on the restaurant’s signature dishes, like panéed swordfish served with a sweet and chunky tomato jam or the Mississippi rabbit that’s twisted into a heap of fresh pappardelle and laced with porcini. There is also a ribeye with crispy sweet potatoes and pork, sourced from Porter Road Butcher served with “dirty” rice and a Southern spin on kimchi. To round out the meal, try a bite of the pot de crème, which is made using chocolate sourced from Olive and Sinclair and served with a mound of buttermilk ice cream on the side.
Wrapping up the seafood theme, you’ll find your check presented in “A Field Guide to Gulf Coast Oysters,” which is a small booklet that offers a brief primer on what was hopefully the start of your Marsh House journey. If not, that just means you’ll have to make another trip back soon.
401 11th Ave. S.; 615-262-6001; marshhouserestaurant.com