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REVIEW: Marché Moderne, Costa Mesa

We were wandering around South Coast Plaza (we were actually shopping for a murse for me to carry my laptop in, but we won't dwell on how a formerly football- and rugby-playing man ended up in a position to be shopping for a friggin' pocketbook) and got hungry. We've been to Boudin, I'm done with Champagne, we didn't have enough money for Hamamori and what would the baby eat anyway, so we ended up at Marché Moderne.

Picture this: two people in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops, with a baby in a stroller, walking into a nice French restaurant for Sunday lunch. If you answered, "Only in Orange County", you're right!

I had the menu ($25 prix fixe), which was a leek-and-bacon quiche with onion salad and olive tapenade; my choice of pork loin with braised cabbage and truffle mousseline or fish meunière with celery mousseline and potatoes, and then almond crème caramel. I also had a glass of Sancerre ($13, which is really what Mario "I'm too Italian for you" Batali would call a "quarto" -- they have "tastes" which is about 3-4 oz. of wine). The quiche was very good, the onion salad not overwhelmingly oniony. The tapenade was excellent but I'm not sure it went with the food. It didn't matter, we used it for bread spread because it was very good. The pork was delicious -- slightly salty but when eaten with the mousseline it was just perfect. The cabbage was great -- wilted and softened but not overcooked, with nice smoky chunks of pork and some sweetness -- apple, probably -- to it. The dessert was deeeeeelicious. Small, but delicious.

My daughter had a pissaladière to which was added Bayonne ham and gruyère and ate two pieces of it. My wife ate the remainder and also had a very large plate of wagyu carpaccio with a big monolith of Dungeness crab atop it (seriously, I was looking for apes worshipping around it). She was blown away by it -- certainly the meat was very good, I wasn't so into the crab itself and I wanted some vegetables somewhere. The pissaladière was very good -- the cheese was soft, the crust was crackly and had that burnt-bubble thing that makes New York pizza so great.

A note for those who may have mobility issues: it is on the third floor of the main mall, near Nordstrom, but there is only an escalator. If you have mobility issues that prevent you using stairs (whether it's a stroller, crutches, a wheelchair, a Rascal, what have you), you will need to use the elevator in Nordstrom -- it is directly opposite the mall entrance, as far away from the mall entrance as you can go. If Nordstrom closes while you're out, you may need to find an elevator in the attached parking structure and that may not be ideal for you.

Lunch was $77 plus tip. The service was very good (but Brandon, please just talk normally -- I speak French with native fluency and your "French" accent was jarring to my ears) and the food was excellent. We'll be back, but not too often because, wow, expensive. Worth it though. Sit on the patio.

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Marche Moderne
3333 Bristol St 3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

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  1. Just an FYI, that part of the mall use to be the old Nordstrom building. Instead of remodeling, they just built another store next to the existing and then let the mall turn the old store into several smaller shops. I want to go there, so maybe soon.

    1. I had my first MM experience last month. While I enjoyed the food, the service left a lot to be desired. We too sat on the patio on a hot afternoon and I had no idea the overhead shades could be drawn out all the way...until our lunch was practically over. Lunch for 3 (3 prix fixe, 1/2 doz oysters & a bottle of wine was $120 or so).

      Sounds like maybe our service may have been a one-off and I should make a trek back.

      Hope you found & purchased a nice man-purse. hehehehe...man purse.

      1. I was just thinking about going there, but wasn't sure if they still had the prix fixe lunch. Does anyone know how long this is going to last?

        1 Reply
        1. re: cookee

          The prix fixe is always on their lunch menu....

        2. MM is one of the best restaurants in OC and hopefully will continue to receive the support it has so far.
          The Spotinee (pre-fixe) Menu is a small sampler of 3 items not to be confused with several of the best ala carte items.
          Our favorites are the Oysters on the half, Herring (Gustave Anders style) , Steak Tartar (best anywhere), Short Rib, Sliders, Fish (any style) and wonderful desserts. The $10- corkage is a fair deal also.

          2 Replies
          1. re: russkar

            I had a Business Lunch there last Wednesday. Both of us had the spontanee ($20 What a low price for the quality, I thought that there is inflation going on these days..) nice salad with frisee and blue cheese and some other things going on, fish ( some grilled white fish ) on a bed of puree vegtables and a side of wilted brocilini.. desert was a small chocolate brownie with ice cream.. All in all a great lunch. Now on to the service. It was great!!, a reddish haired OC type gal made the lunch even more special and was very on cue. I think my dining companion liked her so much he slipped his card in the check holder (lol) Next time Im in the area I will stop in for Lunch again. Menu Spontanee changes daily..

            1. re: russkar

              Russ, I definitely agree that it's one of the top places in OC.

              In addition to the lunch, they also have a spontaneous tasting menu for dinner. I was there recently and it was five courses for $79. See: http://www.kevineats.com/2008/08/marc...

            2. Hi Das,

              Great review as usual. :) We were lucky not to have the fake-accent waiter as our server the 3 times we went (phew :). I enjoyed the food as well; like you, some hits, some misses, but enjoyable and nice to have something like MM in a mall of all places.

              1. As usual another great review. We went during restaurant week and while it was a good experience it didn't live up to the reviews I had read up to that point. We had the Pork belly and the Halibut w/chorizo. Appetizer was the heirloom salad and desert was a berry tart, if I remember correctly. Everything was pretty good but the only outstanding thing was the desert. Unfortunately we did not sit on the patio where it does look much more roomy as inside it feels a bit cramped. Service was also something to be desired. I did chalk it up a bit to the "restaurant week" feel and plan on giving it another shot on the patio and more of a menu to wrestle with.

                http://octongue.blogspot.com/

                1. I've been wanting to make a date with my OC-dwelling brother-in-law and his wife at this place, and now I have an even better motive: he and my wife are both perfectly fluent in French, and his wife IS French (and barely speaks English). Wouldn't it be a hoot to get the fake-accent guy as a waiter? And find out he doesn't really speak French?

                  I'm saving up my money now...

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      excellent idea! can't wait to hear what happens.

                    2. One of our favorites. We were sad when Troquet closed (Tim & Liza Goodell's restaurant the formerly occupied the space) but have since become addicts of Marche Moderne. The lunch prix fixe is one of the best deals around.

                      1. I was just there and had a terrific cod in a soy-flavored broth with foie, cabbage and bacon. I note that, starting on September 18th, Marche Moderne will be offering "Bouilla Thursdays"--Bouillabaise with fish imported from France. Looking forward to trying it!

                        In terms of access, if you park on Level 4 of the garage, at the St. John end, there is a skybridge directly across to Marche Moderne so no need for elevator or escalator.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: New Trial

                          Oops, I mean Level 5 of the garage.

                        2. Any problem if I showed up for dinner in jeans?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rob.nolen

                            Not a prob. Even at the *best* OC restaurants, you can show up in jeans....

                          2. I am a big fan of the prix fixe $20 weekday lunch. Sunday brunch is $5 more or have they raised the price since I was there 2 months ago?

                            1. Went there when they first opened. The Foie Gras and Duck were quite good. Definitely one of my favorite places in the OC.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: martiniman

                                My wife and I had dinner on Sat. at MM. It was easily the best meal that we've had this year, which has included pilgrimmages to Melisse and Providence, for less than half the price. I won't give a play by play, but a few comments: (i) I wore blue jeans and a black t-short, and no eye brows were raised; (ii) we sat on the patio, which we enjoy more than inside and (iii) although not listed on the menu, there is a tasting menu option if you call in advance.

                                This place justs gets better. At this point, its only real competition is previous meals there...

                              2. This place is our favorite place in the area. we love the pre fixe lunch, but the dessert is never as good as the first two courses.