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The Gossiping Gourmet: Marché Moderne still measures up

November 22, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Roasted octopus with saffron eulsion, celery, potato, chorizo, jus de citron and huile d'olive at Marché Moderne inside South Coast Plaza on Tuesday.
Roasted octopus with saffron eulsion, celery, potato,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Year after year Marché Moderne has won accolades as the best restaurant in Orange County. Sometimes restaurants glide by on their reputations while the food slides downhill. Not so at Marché Moderne.

We hadn't reviewed this restaurant since 2008 and wanted to see if it still measured up. Indeed it does! Everything from the quiet ambience to the impeccable service to the superb food is as good as ever. With careful attention to detail, using only the best seasonal ingredients, chef Florent Marneau and with his wife, pastry chef Amelia, continue to turn out impeccable cuisine.

The attractive room is composed of rich dark woods, stone elements, mirrored pillars, beautiful hardwood floors, etched glass French doors, comfortable upholstered chairs and banquettes. There is also a delightful covered outdoor patio made possible by Marché's secluded location on the topmost floor of South Coast Plaza.

A beautiful and delightful amuse bouche hinted at more good things to come. Resting on top of a narrow glass of coral colored soup was a buttery round of crostini topped with yuzu marinated, silky salmon tartar, covered with a dab of crème fraîche and flecked with micro-greens. The potage beneath was Thai inspired, spicy coconut milk lobster bisque. Vibrant with the essence of lobster and rich with coconut creaminess, it was just divine.

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We wanted to order the grilled octopus, but our waiter informed us that the chef felt it needed more tenderizing and wasn't quite ready to serve, so we chose instead the seppia French calamari Grenobloise. (Seppia is the largest of the cuttlefish.)

The tender grilled seafood rested on an herb puree and was sauced with lemon caper butter dotted with a few sweet whole roasted garlic cloves and a sprinkling of croutons for crunch. The lemony notes, the hint of garlic and the salty overtones of the capers provided a luscious layering of flavors, making a perfect sauce for the calamari.

The Dungeness crab salad was really more of an avocado salad mixed with slivers of pickled green papaya and some shredded crab. Cubes of tomato water gelée added a salty accent (perhaps a bit too salty). The mixture was lightly spiced and nicely textured with the crispy papaya balancing the creamy avocado. A scattering of micro-greens created a pretty picture atop this tasty salad.

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