Marcus Samuelsson is a household name near and far. The latest from the owner of Red Rooster in Harlem and Marcus at the Four Seasons Hotel Montreal, among others, just landed in Chelsea.
“I really wanted to think about the restaurant in Chelsea as being part of the iconic creative community that makes up the neighborhood,” the 51-year-old chef, who hasn’t opened a restaurant in town in over a decade, tells us. “I love being in Harlem so I wanted my other New York City restaurant to feel special as well.”
Hav & Mar is also reflective of the neighborhood’s famed galleries.
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant at 245 11th Avenue is in the the landmark Starrett-Lehigh Building. It’s a joint effort between Samuelsson, chef Rose Noël (previously of D.C.’s Maialino Mare), artist Derrick Adams and Studio Museum director Thelma Golden.
“Derrick, Thelma and I are great friends and when we sat down together we discussed how the restaurant should be,” Samuelsson says. “We thought of people of color and women and decided to focus on female leadership. We also talked about fine dining and how it’s hard for Black people to sell to restaurants, so we made a commitment to create a wine list focused on Black makers.”
The result of all the planning is a seafood-focused menu featuring dishes like a corn-wrapped snapper, a hamachi with black ceviche, a crispy rainbow trout for two and a roasted green garden curry, among many others.
Images of Black mermaids are a focal point. “We spoke about sustainability and I told Derrick that I wanted to create a platform for women of color through this restaurant because they have been so pivotal to me in my career,” says Samuelsson. “That’s when he said that we should have Black mermaids all around, and that helped us shape how we built the bar and tables.”
“Hav & Mar is nautical, too”. “Hav” means ocean in Swedish and “mar” is honey in Amharic, Samuelsson says, which is the official language of Ethiopia, where Samuelsson was born. He was raised in Sweden. His latest is representative of the chef’s personal history, the city of New York, Black culture, the power of women, the necessity of art and, of course, the importance of food.
“Art and food bring people together and they’re a great way to show your culture, who you are and what you’ve gone through,” Samuelsson says. “The experience in America is not monolithic. It’s very layered and, through art and food, we can share those stories. That is what has been such a joy here: one can be from Ethiopia or Baltimore or elsewhere but peacefully co-exist.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.