Connected to a busy lobby, it looks like the dullest kind of hotel restaurant. Every morning, it's full of people having a quick buffet breakfasts before they head out. The rest of the day it's uncrowded, sometimes to the point of emptiness. But behind the wall is a kitchen of surprising ability, easily able to deliver a dinner comparable to those in the city's best-known hotel establishments. This would be a four-star restaurant if it had a four-star clientele.
For most of its four-decade history, the big Marriott Hotel on Canal Street served uninteresting, corporate-dictated food. It would have been completely off the local dining map had it not been for the Sunday brunch buffet in its forty-first-floor restaurant--the loftiest in town. But after the hurricane, the hotel moved its a la carte restaurant operation to the ground floor, anointed it with the ill-advised name 5Fifty5 (only advantage: it comes up first in any alphabetical restaurant list), and brought in an ambitious chef.
The space is odd: a triangle with two lines of banquettes separated by standard four-tops, with a bar over here and a wall of wine over there. Despite those features, it feels more appropriate for those rushing breakfast-eaters than for gourmet diners in the evening. The service staff is efficient and friendly, but doesn't have a good grip on fine dining service. This is easy to understand: it's hard to pull great servers into a slow dining room.
Chef Mark Quitney and his staff rise to particular heights at special-menu times of year--notably the Reveillon and the Wine and Food Experience. Such dinners rival those in the name places, and at a better price, to boot.