Once again, I have found another terrific restaurant at SoCo. This one is called Restaurant Marin, named after the chef's wife.
The chef is Noah Blom and he is the creator of Arc, which is next door to Marin. That restaurant cooks everything in a wood fired oven or a wood fired grill. Marin will also use the wood fired ovens and wood fired grill, but the cooking temperature will be lower so they can do seafood as well as other offerings.
The space is small but very attractive with 20 seats inside and 10 outside, where they have a covered patio with heaters. The decor is reminiscent of a little Parisian bistro, or a posh diner. The white walls have silvered mirrors, the booths are blue leather and the tables are blue pressed sea glass. French pendant lamps hang from the ceiling.
The ambience is very casual and the wait staff is very pleasant and accommodating. What makes this place extra special is that they are open from 7 a.m. to midnight every day and they serve breakfast all the time, as well as lunch and dinner.
We came for dinner and will definitely be back for breakfast and lunch. I ordered the house salad for starters and it was very fresh with arugula and a lovely, slightly sweet dressing. The greens were dotted with some bits of creamy, smooth goat cheese, very thin slivers of red onions, purple cabbage and slivers of almonds. It normally comes with beets but I don't care for them.
My dining companion chose to start with their house-made plump, garlicky sausages, which were charred and a bit spicy. They rested in a bowl of big brown beans. It was a very large portion with three sausages and easily enough for two people. It was listed as a side dish, which might give you an idea of how generous the portions are.
For my entrée, I selected the special of the evening, which was the sliced duck breast topped with two pieces of wonderful foie gras. The duck was juicy, with a delicious layer of fat on top and a thin gravy at the bottom. Grilled mushrooms came with the duck but they were burnt from the fire. The dish was completed with some dried blueberries on the side, which added a final note of sweetness.
Our other selection was their chicken pot pie, and in my opinion it was the best I have ever tasted. To begin with this is really a pie, big enough for two. It had a beautiful crust that was simply delicious, and a well-seasoned filling of chicken pieces, bits of mushroom, little cubes of carrot and celery, all brimming with flavor. On their menu it was listed in a section called "Pie", which doesn't begin to describe this excellent dish.
They feature a daily pie and on the night we were there it was coconut cream. Once again we were really impressed. This was as good as any I have ever tasted. The coconut cream was light and perfectly sweetened, as was the whipped cream. It almost goes without saying that the crust was perfect too.
Just to give you a hint about other selections on the breakfast and lunch menu; lobster hash with lobster butter, potato hash, green onions and scrambled eggs sound good. So does the fried chicken sandwich with warm Brie, Fresno peppers, red cabbage, and fried lemon, on the lunch menu. On the dinner menu Bouillabaisse sounds great with halibut, mussels, scallop, grilled shrimp, confit tomato, and whipped garlic oil.
I must say that the prices are a bit high but they have a "no tipping" policy and the portions are generous. I will be frequenting Restaurant Marin and inviting friends to this delightful find in SoCo.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Restaurant Marin restaurantmarin.com
WHERE: SoCo 3321 Hyland Avenue, Costa Mesa
WHEN: Daily 7 a.m.-midnight
Lunch: $ 18-$42
By the glass: $15-$16