n the hospitality industry, it is difficult enough to launch a new concept. Now imagine the kind of expectations built when an established name decides to relocate. Most restaurateurs might worry. Then again, Amelia and Florent Marneau aren’t most restaurateurs. A decade of loyal clientele was as patient as could be, while everyone awaited the return of a familiar name.
Marche Moderne’s new residence anchors one end of Crystal Cove’s dining and retail plaza. Peering through bi-folding windows provides a perfect view into the dining room. A handful of plush mohair booths can accommodate intimate groups. Yet we prefer an area just beyond the doorway, on the other side of a partition. These seating arrangements strategically face the kitchen, allowing voyeur-like access to the heart and soul of this establishment, amidst the copper cookware and pristine counters.
As a result of the more open layout, service staff is at an advantage to observe tables and efficiently anticipate the need to clear dishes or refill a beverage with ease. While the din of guests at the bar behind us was enticing, our current patio seats offered warmth from the late afternoon sun as well as a slight breeze, courtesy of the neighboring Pacific.
The ambitious menu is smartly edited to showcase both familiar and brand new components. Under the leadership of Chef Florent, sections dedicated to savory charcuterie, in the beginning, are complemented by optional fromage at the conclusion of our meal. For those who yearn for the tastes Marche is best known for, guests need not fret. Many of their signature selections are featured, with corresponding years to refresh one’s memory. From Hokkaido scallops over charred leeks to Iceland cod with a chorizo and saffron chicken demi, we found a thorough representation of everything we’ve come to associate with modern French cuisine.
Front-of-the-house operations were under the thoughtful eye of Amelia. From greeting patrons to visiting tables to presenting one of her sought-after desserts (Get the macarons!), she epitomized the gracious hostess. It may have taken longer than initially estimated to reopen, but the time away from day-to-day operations and change of address breathed new life into this dining experience. Perhaps Marche Moderne’s temporary absence made our heart grow fonder? Whatever it was, dinner exceeded our expectations, and we’re already daydreaming about future visits.