Marching On

Jamie Gwen | October 24, 2017 | Feature

Back and better than ever, Marché Moderne stirs up la belle cuisine in Crystal Cove.
The wild Monterey Bay calamari gets an added punch of sweetness from tomatoes on the vine and a lemon-basil emulsion

NEW YORK HAS Daniel Boulud; Napa Valley has Thomas Keller; and we have Florent Marneau. Yes, the new Marché Moderne, in all of its fresh and fabulous glory, is open for indulgence. We’re now a bona fide culinary mecca here in O.C., with innovative hot spots, ethnic greats and thriving Top Chef talents—and the bar has been raised once more to impressive heights.

Brilliantly talented husband-and-wife duo Florent and Amelia (a pastry chef) are once again delighting palates with fantastic French fare. After a seven-month hiatus to taste the globe, the Marneaus have taken their storied Parisian-chic dining concept to the coast in Newport Beach’s Crystal Cove Shopping Center. The bar delights with a bistro feel. The dining room is decked out in style and sophistication, with velvet, leather seating and crisp white tablecloths. And outdoors, the patio is refined yet casual.

But the focal point of the brasserie is the unadulterated view of the heart and soul of Marché—the kitchen. Enclosed in glass, with a Berkel slicer that delivers charcuterie excellence, the scene is a divine exhibition of art and dedication to the craft. Copper pots clank and chefs bustle about as culinary talents pour their hearts into every dish, while their perfectionist leader orchestrates the symphony. Decadent desserts adorn the backdrop, tempting you to skip dinner entrees and move straight to the mille-feuille. But pause to drool over the just-cultivated sea snails or fresh Baja sea bass and you’ll reconsider.

Commence with an aperitif or a crafted cocktail to entice the palate. The Basilique Yuzu martini refreshes with citrus notes and an herbaceous finish of microbasil. For an unexpected pairing, try the Fraise Romarin, which amuses with smoky rosemary layered on strawberry fields and a cut of Scottish gin. For oenophiles, the wine list delivers with splendid French selections, including the chef’s favorite—a shareable half-bottle of Billecart-Salmon, a brut rosé of French family fame. Then prepare your taste buds for a culinary masterpiece.


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