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.
3333 Bristol St # 3001
Costa Mesa, CA
Phone: (714) 434-7900