Two weeks ago, I finally made it out to The Marc. At one point this year, The Marc was the “most talked about” establishment, partly due to the lineage that connects it to the dearly departed Il Portico (Patrick Saurette was the restaurant’s general manager). But in the months that followed, it had been supplanted by chatter about Tres Carnales. Even still, The Marc remained on top of the must try lists of many hungry trendsetters.
I found out why. When Jill and I arrived for our 5:30 reservation on Friday, we were among only three parties in the room. By the time we left, the place was packed, with a sizeable group in the lobby still awaiting a table. The atmosphere was lively, no doubt buoyed by the end of the work week, but also cultivated by an attentive staff that made sure diners were well taken care of and never rushed.
The room has already been described many times over, but I wanted to make mention of the mirrors that lined the top of one wall that reflected the flickering candlelight in the room. Between those and the muted earth tone colour scheme of the dining room, the space felt sophisticated and intimate.
Interior, before nightfall
Jill’s first impression was that the tables were much too close together, an eavesdropping distance. But afterwards, she recanted that comment, and said that wasn’t the case – it was a neighbourly, but comfortable, distance. What amazed me (and perhaps is the ultimate compliment about their food) is that I could smell what those next to us were eating – everything was so wonderfully fragrant in the best sense of the word, perfuming the air with the sentiment of sitting in someone’s kitchen.
Jill and I decided to share the venison cheek ($13) to start. It was a smaller serving than either of us had anticipated, but packed with flavour. It was delicate, cooked to melting perfection, and paired so well with the poached pear underneath.
Jill ordered the seafood stew ($23), which arrived in the pot! The server then spooned a serving into her bowl at the table, perfect for showcasing the intense aromatics of the bouillabaisse. She enjoyed the generous amount of seafood in the stew – hake, clams and shrimp among them – and appreciated the breadbasket refills to help mop up the liquid. Her only quibble was that she found the broth just too salty.
Though my knee-jerk reaction was to order the steak frites, I thought I should “save” that dish for an upcoming dinner here with Mack (he complains that I like to dine at new restaurants without him). So instead, I chose the pork shoulder confit ($21). It was a very large serving, reminiscent of the braised pork at Niche, and was tender as it should have been. I particularly enjoyed the well-balanced brown butter tomato sauce. The vegetables, however, could have been better – the zucchini was a tad undercooked.
Pork shoulder confit
With too-tempting dessert options, we had to try more than one. Jill’s lemon tart literally made her mouth water as she was enjoying it – how’s that for a thumbs up? The silky custard was perhaps a little too tart for me, but perfect for a citrus fiend like Jill.
The server didn’t even flinch when I ordered the beignets in addition of Jill’s tart. But the twinkle in his eye when he delivered it to us just dared us to finish the absolutely mountainous plate of doughnuts. Surprisingly, the crispy, warm beignets themselves were not overly sweet, in spite of being coated in sugar. And for an added fun factor, two sauces were provided for dipping: crème anglaise and caramel. We did finish the plate (thank goodness Jill helped me), but we had to walk off our meal at the nearby Legislature grounds afterwards!
Based on the service and the food, I wouldn’t hesitate to return. Our experience of The Marc was a very warm and welcoming one, so I’ll be back, with Mack in tow next time!