Moderne Moves

Chefs Florent and Amelia Marneau start anew in Newport

When Marchè Moderne quietly shuttered at South Coast Plaza more than three years ago, everyone admitted to having a dish that they would miss. Some spoke of decadent plates such as Chef Florent Marneau’s roasted bone marrow that spread like butter across grilled slices of toasty baguette. Others languished about his divinely simple succulent chicken with creamy whipped potatoes. The buttery flavor transported you back to your grandma’s country kitchen–even if your Nana didn’t live in the country or step foot in a kitchen. Then, there were Amelia’s desserts. Macarons and creamy custard-filled Napoleons. Confections that sometimes outshone her husband’s savory efforts.

That was the thrill of Marchè Moderne. The cooking transcended its location. You never felt as if you were eating in a shopping center, let alone one in Orange County. The service and the food felt more like Cannes than Costa Mesa.

The Marneaus capitalized on their unique talents in the kitchen. But, Florent and Amelia needed a new beginning. They closed their South Coast Plaza perch and opened a new space last summer.

The restaurant in Newport Beach is elegant but not stuffy. It’s homey and comforting, with odes to the French countryside and Paris’ refined bistros. Here, the chefs helm the kitchen and exhibit a few techniques reminiscent of The Ritz in Paris.

An opening night soirée felt like the couple’s own housewarming party. The chefs Marneau welcomed family, friends and VIPs for a sneak peek at the restaurant. Several loyal fans rejoiced that they didn’t forget the classic favorites: Charcuterie freshly sliced with a variety of cheeses and seasonal accoutrements. A soft egg custard served warm in-shell with seared foie gras and a whisper of truffle oil delighted guests, while freshly shucked oysters and bubbly Champagne signaled that the couple is back and ready to party.

While the dishes continue to remain well executed and refined, there is still one hitch: no lunch service. At the old location, an afternoon lunch would serendipitously linger for hours. That was another charming element of Marchè Moderne. I will miss that. However, I’m looking forward to the Marneau’s next chapter.