Crow Bar or Marche Moderne or ? (in OC)
So it's going to be my birthday next month and my family always takes me out anywhere I'd like. Last year I had a very disappointing meal at Parke Ave in Stanton and I really don't want to be disappointed again this year. I have my options narrowed down to Crow Bar and Marche Moderne (but I am open to other suggestions!!) after searching through these boards (the Ultimate OC) and elmo's blog I thought that those two restaurants best fit what I was looking for and were within my family's budget. Marche Moderne seems like to be the better restaurant according to the ultimate oc poll but it seems very safe. Crow Bar seems very interesting and fun but I heard the portion size may be a bit small. Does anyone have recommendations and can anyone help with which I should choose and what dishes are a must try? (right now i'm leaning a bit more towards crow bar's gastro-pub thing)
Thanks for any help! I really don't want to disappoint my family again this year.
I haven't been to Crow Bar yet, but have been to Marche Moderne five times, twice within the past two months. I didn't think it lived up to its reputation when it first opened, but the inconsistencies in the food are gone. its great (but not perfect) and only getting better. Its only a safe menu in the sense that it is difficult to go wrong with any choice that you make. Its perfect for a smaller party occasion dinner. And ausfrench is right -- ask to be on the patio. Enjoy and report back!
Thanks everyone for your help. We did end up going to Marche Moderne tonight and it was absolutely wonderful here it is:
We were given a complimentary amuse which was absolutely delicious: it was some roasted beet, goat cheese, mandarin orange, olive oil and perhaps something else. It was really simple, clean forward flavors with just and absolutely silky smooth texture: all going doing nicely as it was served in a spoon. Truly a one-bite.
Artichoke soup, ok this was just lousy like it was really bad. Underseasoned and overwhelmed by the cream, so much so that it barely had any taste of asparagus. Huge disappointment, luckily the only one.
Hot fois gras- ok this was the best dish of the night. My first time having hot fois gras and it was seared well so that it was slightly molten but retained a nice firm texture in the center. It was served with this amazingly light foamy mango emulsion that had a nice acidity to combat the richness of the fois gras. I love that, he uses wonderful Asian ingredients like mango, combining it with French ingredients. It's far from safe i don't know why i ever said that.
Cold cuts. I don't know what it is in French but it's their housemade chorizo, salame, prosciutto, and duck terrine. All were really ok, prosciutto and duck terrine were good but I don't think I'd order this again.
Sweetbreads: This was my first time having sweet breads and they were really good. Nice smooth texture throughout, delightfully crispy exterior. served with onions confit i believe and an orange based sauce, sort of like a gastrique. It was also served with something they called Nemtes carrots or something like that but they tasted like regular carrots, and I really don't know why they were there. Great dish nonetheless, my favorite of the night.
Braise of Shortribs and beef: This was quite good as well served with a pommes puree. Yea that's all I'll say about, really simple and direct one could wish that they would have made it a bit more interesting but that's being picky.
Lamb Ribeye: A great dish. The lamb was cooked perfectly and served with a horseradish emulsion that was just absolutely amazing. It took the dish over the edge, the emulsion was great and well just great.
Skate wing: This was the fish of the day, it was supposedly brown butter roasted but I really didn't detect any brown butter. It could have used some acid and could have used less salt but overall it was cooked very well and was just great.
Tazmanian Trout: Ok so is tazmanian trout supposed to be orange like salmon? Is it supposed to have the texture of salmon? Is it supposed to taste like salmon? If so then I guess tazmanian trout is very similar to salmon. This dish was served with a saffron sauce, truffled haricot verts and topped with a fried quail egg. This dish was sort of boring really mostly because salmon, or a fish very similar to salmon is boring.
Strawberry Muilfuille: This was just great served with strawberry and vanilla gelato, a vanilla sabayon, it was just great. It was refreshing and surprisingly not at all heavy. I really loved this dessert.
Macaron: An almond macaron filled with gran marnier ice cream and served with like this pistachio puree. The macaron was done well, nice and chewy hard to tell its true texture since it was filled with ice cream and could not be bitten into; thus, no teeth-sinking test. The gran marnier was a bit heavy handed so that there was a slight sharp alcohol taste but that's a minor quibble. The pistachio emulsion thing though, that was amazing. I scraped that stuff off the plate: it was sooo good.
So Marche Moderne was absolutely great. Despite some minor flaws I really like this restaurant. Total with 2 glasses of wine and tip came to $320 so it really is a special occasion sort of place unless you're like nouveaus-riche or something. I highly reccommend this place: I absolutely loved it moreso than my lunch at Bouchon. Great place. Thanks for the recs guys!!
I, too, had a very disappointing meal at Park Avenue a few months ago. And I wrote maybe the third or fourth positive review here of the place when it opened a few years ago. Something was definitely off that night, and it wasn't just one dish...it was every dish. Even the salmon I once liked was mealy, pasty and just plain bad.
For your family, I'd agree with ausfrench: Marche Moderne. Crow Bar is great! One of my faves right now. But it can be loud and rowdy, especially on Fri./Sat. nights.
With family I would go for MM and with friends Crow Bar. Ask to be outside on the patio at MM in a cabana if you are 4 people or less or at a table if more. You will not be disappointed. A friend of mine waited more than an hour for her reserved table at Crow Bar last week. They were comped free appetizers but I sure wouldn't want to be doing that with my family.
June of last year, I picked MM for my bday meal with my SO. Other more recent meals there have been stellar. It's top of the new heap in OC in many respects.
But I also really like Crow Bar. It is more casual, impossibly loud when busy (which is often)... but the menu is fun and the quality is there.
As ausfrench says, genteel MM might be better suited for (adult) family dining. Crow Bar is looser, still tasty, but perhaps best with peers who have a wide tolerance. I suppose it depends on who's entertaining (and therefore pleasing) whom.
If it matters, Crow Bar is usually considerably cheaper. Though you can spend alot there if you wish... and you can choose carefully at MM and get plenty for your $$. That said, they are really two different animals.
Good menu bets for Crow Bar include burgers, fish and chips, flatbreads and duck fat fries. Their Irish Car Bombe is a wicked good dessert.
At MM, the charcuterie, mussels, skate wing, pork belly, lobster salad, savory tartes, any salad and almost any dessert. BTW, I've never considered their menu as 'safe', though the service is reliably attentive.
Crow Bar and Marche Moderne to me are two completely different
As the name Crow Bar suggests it is first and foremost a bar. The food at Crow Bar was good but not out of this world. It can get quite loud and it is definitely not a family oriented environment. I wouldn't take my parents there.
Marche Moderne on the other hand much more of a place where you can have a nice conversation without having to shout at each other. I have been there on two occasions and thought the food was great both times.
I would have to pick Marche Moderne hands down. But this all depends on what you are looking for.
I have to agree about Park Avenue, I went there for my birthday last year too and none of my family members enjoyed the food much.