Monday, November 9, 2009

Marché Moderne: Simply mahvelous, darling!

The perfect lunch is not qualifiable by food alone. Yes, food is important, but there’s more to it than that. Little seemingly inconsequential details like cloth napkins. And comfortable chairs that don’t turn one’s backside numb. And table scrapers that collect up the bread crumbs from a warm, fragrant piece of French baguette.
Are these formal restaurant conveniences a requirement for the perfect midday meal? Not necessarily – my lunch at Ricky’s Fish Tacos was wonderful even without the proper utensils and products for wiping my mouth – but sometimes a lady needs to be treated as such. Especially if she spends any time in a Los Angeles bar.

When my mom and I arrived at Marché Moderne, a refined French bistro at South Coast Plaza in Orange County that many consider on par with the top restaurants in Los Angeles, my soul was haggard from a tough week up north. Despite the late hour – nearly 1:30 pm on Saturday – the restaurant still had a 15 minute wait time for a table. I felt bad making my already starving mother delay her lunch any further (I caught her sneaking a fun size Snicker’s bar before we left home), but my heart was set on dining at the highly-acclaimed restaurant.

Fortunately, I was able to lure my mom in with a promise to check out the Nordstrom’s sale next door while we waited. She was game. (Of course, she’s pretty much always game when it comes to pleasing her children.)

The sale proved to be a bust, so we quickly retreated back to the restaurant to gawk over the plates coming out of the kitchen instead. Oh how times have changed since my days of post-pubescent clothesession. On-sale Joe’s Jeans no longer thrill me like the sight of a scallop and shrimp salad with expertly sliced Persian cucumbers and avocado. My heart’s pitter patter continued to increase five-fold when my eyes fell upon pastry chef Ameliz Marneau’s prix fixe menu dessert – a dainty sliver of espresso cheesecake with a chocolate macaron crust.

“We may have to get dessert.” I whispered to my mom, my lips already parting with great gastronomical expectation.

As soon as we were seated at a corner cabana on the covered patio outside, all the concerns that had plagued me during the week finally weaned themselves from my body. The tranquil setting, the ambient background noise from our fellow diners’ quiet conversations, and the personable service tempered the neurotic whirring in my head.

Or at least the neurotic whirring as it relates to my social and professional life. (No amount of tranquility can keep me from fretting over what I’m going to order.)

At our exceedingly pleasant server’s recommendation, it –shockingly—didn’t take me long to decide upon the Santa Monica McGrath Family Farm beet salad with pinenuts, orange, goat cheese, and petit basil ($11). My mother opted for the light Market Greens with red wine vinaigrette, toasted walnut oil, cucumbers, and avocado ($7); and then we requested the Alsatian Tart Flambee with caramelized onion, smoke ham, crème fraiche, and cave aged Gruyere ($13) to share.

The time that lapsed between ordering and biting allowed my mom and I plenty of time to discuss my week’s affairs – the lame pick-up lines I received at my friend’s birthday party the night before (“Have you been here before?”), and my sitcom-worthy experience driving out to Intelligentsia Venice specifically for a cup of chai only to discover that they were out.

We enjoyed the pause – the time we were gifted to share a special moment with each other, but our lips were quickly silenced upon receipt of our meal.

While my beet salad with its creamy streaks of mild goat cheese was the type of affair that reminds me that I actually do like beets (apparently the chef marinates them immediately after they’ve been roasted), the Alsatian Tart Flambee is worth a repeat drive down the 405 from LA. The tender yeasty crust (essentially pizza dough), the sweet caramelized onions, and decadent comforter of crème fraiche and Gruyere were transformative for my bad mood.

“I want to take really small bites to make it last longer,” My mom confided. “The onions are so good.”

I nodded in agreement – also taking my time to cut each of my two slices into the smallest pieces possible. It was far too delicious to scarf down like my Amy’s frozen pizzas.

My mom and I concluded the meal just as I had hoped we would – with the espresso cheesecake ($8) from the 3-course lunch tasting menu that changes daily. Paired with a cup of the restaurant’s custom blend of coffee for my mom, and a pot of green tea for me, it was the perfect ending for our perfect indulgent ladies lunch. I can’t wait to have another bad week so I have an excuse to go back.

Marché Moderne
3333 Bristol St # 3001
Costa Mesa, CA‎

Phone: (714) 434-7900‎


Jenn said...

Wow that cheesecake looks lovely. Sometimes we just got to pamper ourselves just a teeny little bit for a nice meal. ;-D

Gastronomer said...

Nice, D! By the way, Trader Joe's sells a really fantastic Alsatian Tart with caramelized onion, ham, crème fraiche, and Gruyere! They're located next to the frozen pizzas and are my FAVE TJ product. Kinda pricy at $5, but very much worth it!

Esi said...

Oooh, what Cathy said re: the tart from TJs. It's so good! Sounds like a really great decadent lunch.

Anna A. said...

Mmmmmm I'll have to make my rounds here once I become an OC cat again. Who knows, maybe we'll be doing lunch here as the OC TALFs.

Diana said...

Jenn - Yes, totally agree! Though I probably pamper myself a little more than just a teeny bit. ;)

Cathy, Esi - I feel like a fool thinking this was some crazy new deliciousness! I'll have to check out the tart at TJ's the next time I go!

Anna - Done! Would love to do a lunch or dinner date with you here!

yutjangsah said...

I never know what to eat down south. This looks like a must eat. Yum yum.

The Duo Dishes said...

That beet salad looks perfect. Far surpasses the usual goat cheese crumbles. This may be something to try.

weezermonkey said...

If I were a Lady Who Lunches, I'd lunch here.

travelcostamesa said...

Hi Diana,

I'm with and I came across your great blog on Marche Moderne and was wondering if we could include it on the blog on our site. We'll give you full credit as the author and can link back to your site as well. Please email me at and let me know. Thanks!

Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ said...

What a heavenly looking tart! Actually everything looks scrumptious! So worth the drive - and the wait!

Melissa Good Taste said...

Pizza! Oh my gosh, that looks amazing!