Florent Marneau and wife Amelia opened this contemporary French bistro on the third floor of ritzy South Coast Plaza in spring 2007. He handles savory; she’s in charge of sweets. Florent spent 10 years as executive chef of nearby Pinot Provence, which is part of Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group. I’ve had several respectable meals at Patina Group restaurants, but none were as remarkable as Marché Moderne.
The restaurant was an island oasis in a sea of outrageously expensive shops. The interior was like the Marneaus’ food, polished without being stuffy. There was an inviting open-air patio, but we sat inside at a prime table overlooking the packed dining room.
Blanche de Bruxelles Belgium ($9) was a spicy Belgian beer brewed with coriander and orange peel. The Hand-Crafted Martini Moderne ($15) combined Idol French vodka, elderflower and jus de citron.
We each received a house-baked baguette and cheddar roll, served warm with a dish of whipped butter. Later, we spotted a tray of gougères, but we’d already moved on to our appetizers.
Ambrosia-like fish broth contained large portions of fresh seafood flown overnight from the Med, including John Dory, rouget (a crisp-skinned fish similar to red mullet), dorade grise, dorade rosé, calamaretti (miniscule calamari), mussels, clams, rouille (garlic paste), fingerling potatoes, fennel and leeks. The dish came with a few interesting accompaniments, including a pot of additional rouille, tapenade, roasted cherry tomatoes, lemon preserve and millimeters-thin toast.
Danny our outstanding waiter, spent six years at Pinot Provence, before then a wine steward at Morton’s. He paired the bouillabaisse with a glass of rose and venison with Amarone.
We were impressed with the high quality of the ingredients, the large portions and the originality of the menu. We ordered five dishes, and would have gladly eaten ten other selections, at least. The Marneaus are operating at a high level. There isn’t another French restaurant in Los Angeles where I’d rather eat.
Note: Marché Moderne relocated to 7862 Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92657.