My bi-monthly dinner explorations with Salumi continued this month with Restaurant Marron. There has been a lot of excitement from foodies regarding this restaurant because it was supposed to be a 16-course journey. While that menu hasn’t quite come to fruition yet, a carte blanche for $98 is. Consider it their version of the tasting menu. How is it different from a tasting menu? Chef Eric Sakai makes dishes up as he goes along and it is splendid. There is no better way to get a sense of the chef’s chops than the tasting menu (the Black Knight would agree whole-heartedly with me on this) and so both Salumi and I ordered the carte blanche and waited to see what magic the kitchen could concoct.
avocado & kumquat: the amuse bouche, light refreshing with just enough acidity to make you start salivating
red beet salad – with smoke cherries and mustard green, our veggies for the night; the beets were sweet and firm pairing nicely with the crunch of the greens and light dressing; the cracker, paper thin, was full of flavor and the best part of this dish
sweetbreads – with crispy dumplings, English peas and sorrel; the sweetbreads were fried perfectly so you could still taste the flavor inside, enhanced by the fried dumplings (similar to gnocchi) and then combined with peas and sorrel to give it a refreshing flavor without resorting to acidity for balance. This dish is inventive and the best preparation of sweetbreads I’ve had in Seattle (RH in LA is first).
foie gras – with roasted meyer lemon paste, spring onions and cashews; this is a simple dish were each ingredient shines on its own as there’s no great way to combine the ingredients. While the foie was cooked perfectly, the lemon paste was a bit heavy handed and slightly bitter.
roasted wild mushroom – with garlic flan, daikon, kale; the garlic flan was the best part, a flavor enhancer with a texture that contrasted with the mushrooms; the jus it was sitting in had me wanting to lick the bowl
restaurant marron – poached egg with bone marrow bouillon; a barely cooked silky egg soaking in a savory bone marrow broth, (so rich!) topped with some crunchy bread crumbs. This was a last minute addition to the menu according to the chef, and it was amazing!
sole – with bok choy, fresh chicpeas, and a coconut lemongrass emulsion; a tender white fish with a whisper of thai and hint of the Mediterranean (fresh chic peas offer a nice earthiness to go with the lemongrass – would have never thought of the combination, but it works well)
lamb – with fish sauce, and maple sherry vinegar caramel; well, it’s sweet, it’s a little pungent, I can’t describe it, but you should try it. The lamb is fantastic and the sauce takes it into realms where you’ve never traveled – it’s on the reasons this restaurant is so inventive!
strawberry sorbet – with basil and elderflower, a nice palate cleanser, bursting with summer and a little bit of crunch, tempered by the elderflower
harbison cheese – with pine cone syrup, turnips, and walnut bread. Comparable to a less earthy camembert, but I enjoyed the pine cone syrup, an added sweetness with a slight bitterness
chocolate goat milk cremeaux – with buckwheat crumble; you won’t notice that it’s goat milk, but it’s not as oily as some ice creams are, and the buckwheat isn’t very sweet and still has that same nutty flavor of dark chocolate to add back what’s lost in milk chocolate; I finished it all even after all 10 courses
Overall, I cannot say enough wonderful things about Restaurant Marron. Everything is inventive and pairs well together, despite the somewhat strange combinations. They take risks and it’s nothing you’ve had before. The staff and chef are both so friendly and welcoming – it’s like meeting your best friends. They go outside to chat with all the interested passer-byers and their warmth is absolutely contagious. Chef Eric even came over to our table at the end of the night and signed our hand written menus for the dinner!
You may wonder how this compares to Altura, which is just down the street, and also serves high concept tasting menu. For one, it’s less trendy and not nearly as loud – this is a homey space that doesn’t have chefs bustling in an open kitchen. Two, 5 courses is $83 at Altura. Three, Altura is Italian – very classic. It is good, but there isn’t a single dish on their menu that surprises you or makes you wonder how those flavors pair together. I like Altura, but I don’t rave about it.
Do yourself a favor. Stop drooling on your keyboard and go try the carte blanche at Restaurant Marron. It’s going to be a 3 hour dinner, so bring someone whose company you enjoy and loves food. I could go on and on about the nuances and surprises about the dishes, but save yourself the reading time and try it for yourself.
Overall: Happily ever after
Highlights: Poached egg in bone marrow, lamb with fish sauce caramel, sole with coconut lemongrass reduction
Footnotes: Zerina hand selected the wine list and you are in very capable hands with her as your sommelier, this is an ambitious concept and I hope they are able to stick around for a long time – so please support them by giving them a try; they also have a normal menu, so don’t feel like you have to do the 3 hour experience (though I would highly recommend it)