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Marche Moderne

EARLY BIRD

Toast fall with a modern spin on the classic Alsatian choucroute. It's an affordable entree to chef Florent Marneau's French bistro menu.

October 26, 2009|S. IRENE VIRBILA | RESTAURANT CRITIC

The weather is unpredictable but lately seems to be occasionally cooperating and behaving more like fall. On nights like that, consider celebrating the season by heading to Marche Moderne for Florent Marneau's choucroute moderne menu, $29 for two courses every night through the end of November.

No one has to twist my arm when it comes to choucroute. It's the famous Alsatian dish of sauerkraut with assorted meats and sausages to be eaten with a spunky mustard and vast quantities of crisp, minerally Riesling or Pinto Gris from Alsace. Or a beer, for that matter.

At this normally quite pricey bistro, Marneau serves up some of the best French food in Orange County or Greater Los Angeles. And I couldn't resist ordering an extra course of tarte flambee from his wood-burning oven. It's more his own interpretation than something faithful to the original. In Alsace, it's a wafer-thin crust smeared with creme fraiche and lardons and onions, so supple, you roll up a slice to eat it. At Marche Moderne, it's more pizza-like, with a thicker crust -- and cheese -- but tasty nevertheless. We ordered a lovely bibb lettuce salad too while we waited for the choucroute.

The moderne part, I guess, is that it's more meat than sauerkraut, while in Alsace, the meats sit on a virtual mountain of choucroute. But Marneau does the dish proud, with succulent braised pork cheeks, confit of short ribs and belly, sliced ham hocks and both smoked and fresh sausage, plus pig's feet. You get butterball potatoes too. Where's the mustard? Piped around the edge of the plate. I'm sorry, though. I wanted more sauerkraut than the small amount plated, so I had to order an extra side of it, which took awhile. (They had to cook it from scratch.)

To drink, he's pouring a marvelous Pinot Blanc from the respected Alsace producer Marcel Deiss, a pretty Zind-Humbrecht Riesling and even a grand cru Gewurztraminer from Steinklotz Helfrich. Or if you like, a nice little selection of beers from Alsace, Belgium and Germany.

Dessert is Marneau's wife Amelia's apple tart a la alsacienne made with new crop Gravenstein apples. Yum.

At $29, if you stick strictly to the choucroute menu, it's an affordable way to experience this modern French bistro and ring in the fall. Bring your friends: Nobody eats choucroute alone.

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irene.virbila@latimes.com

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Marche Moderne

Where: The Penthouse at South Coast Plaza, 3333 N. Bristol St., Costa Mesa.

When: Open for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sundays. Full bar. Lot parking at Nordstrom.

Price: Two-course choucroute menu, dinner only, $29 per person, daily. A flight of Alsatian wines is $23; a beer tasting is $15.

Contact: (714) 434-7900; www.marchemoderne.net.

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