When husband-and-wife chefs Florent and Amelia Marneau took over Tamarind's former location in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, the couple knew they were in for a design challenge.
For the Marneaus, who together opened the acclaimed Marché Moderne 10 years ago, the answer was simply to relocate their French restaurant's Provençal charm from Costa Mesa to their new location in Newport Coast.
Known for their high concepts, the project marked a significant new beginning for the Marneaus as they switched on the lights of their new address for a private preview on the last day of August.
"We go back to what we do best, and people are craving the flavors," said Florent Marneau, as he stood in the open kitchen that features a glass wall looking out to the dining room so guests can watch the action.
After nearly a decade in the penthouse of South Coast Plaza, the Marneaus moved their French bistro into a 4,200-square-foot space with views of the Pacific Ocean and announced the restaurant would open to the public in early September.
Marché Moderne — a regular on Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurant's list — had well-heeled foodies aflutter.
Loyal patrons, tourists and food critics inundated the Marneaus' voicemail and email inbox, prompting management to respond to nearly 100 daily messages of anticipation and inquiry.
The result: an intimate dining experience in a more-polished and modern setting with a menu highlighting a mix of old and new signature favorites.
Classic dishes like roasted wild Spanish octopus with chorizo and Lamb Couscous Royale are offered along with new entrees like Scottish cod, braised veal and crayfish. The pastry menu features wheel-shaped choux with caramelized almonds and hazelnut mousse and a strawberry tart with lemon gelato.
The team focused on renovating the structure with exposed walnut-beamed ceilings and stone walls. A separate, 11-seat bar spotlights a selection of French and California wines. Elevated banquettes and tables are lined with white cloth and set with Rosenthal porcelain chargers.
The patio is considered an ideal space to dine in good weather but Table 21 is for guests wishing for more private seating. The corner table seats four and is situated near an inconspicuous outdoor exit.
"We want guests not to feel rushed and to have the best dining experience," Amelia Marneau said on the outdoor patio. "That's what it's all about. Just look at that sunset."
The Marneaus, who met working at Aubergine's in Newport Beach and later worked at Costa Mesa's Pinot Provence (both now closed), opened Marché Moderne in April 2007 with entrees inspired by the places to which they often travel, such as Paris, New York and San Francisco.
During construction, they returned to Paris — Florent grew up in the Fontainebleau district — and dined in establishments that gave them fresh inspiration. They returned to Orange County with new ideas on how to better French dishes by changing a few details.
Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. Reservations are encouraged in the 130-seat restaurant.
The Marneaus will launch a dinner "spontanée" menu this fall, offering three courses for $38 on Mondays and Tuesdays. Brunch is planned to start later in the year.
Marché Moderne is at 7862 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach. For more information, call (714) 434-7900.