They say California is a more laid back scene, particularly with regard to dining. Jeans have come to be acceptable apparel at the most notable restaurants in LA, and even San Diego’s top spots are quite laid back. However, even California might not be ready for the king of casual – my father. He’s the only professor I’ve ever heard of being mistaken for a homeless man in his own office. Well, that’s aside from his brother (also an academic and in the restaurant business himself) who was gifted a PB+J, socks, and gloves by some mistaken humanitarian last Thanksgiving.
So when my parents came to visit a few weeks back, and I told them I wanted to try out the ever so popular Market, I gave them a bit of background and mentioned it was a nicer spot. Congratulations Chef Schroeder, the acclaim of your restaurant got my dad into a pair of khakis, that’s damn near a Michelin star. But was the experience good enough to knock my socks, or better yet, his sneakers off?
After a mandatory valet, we were seated in the main dining room. The area can be a tad cramped during peak hours, but we never felt uncomfortable. After hearing the evening’s specials we each ordered an appetizer. I was hoping to sample a few items from the sushi menu as well, but was told they were only available at the bar area. Given that the bar is adjacent to the main dining room, making an exception didn’t strike me as that difficult.
That aside, service was satisfactory. Attentive and knowledgeable without being overbearing or rushing. The bread selection was fine but not particularly memorable, though I did like finding full kernels in the cornbread muffins. The amuse arrived next, fresh melon and a tart mizuna ice.
My mother’s choice. Prosciutto, Parmesan Reggiano, arugula, grissini, curry vingaigrette. A great example of a classic combo, everything tasted incredibly fresh, though the combination wasn’t exciting enough to order myself.
My father’s choice. Beet salads seem to be everywhere these days, but this was a particularly good one. Sweet beets contrasted by the gentle tang of goat cheese and tart grapefruit, the honey glazed walnuts highlighted the sweetness and provided texture.
My appetizer was a duo of seafood presentations. The yellowtail tartare served with coriander crackers was pleasant, but definitely the lesser of the two offerings. I was a much bigger fan spiced salmon served atop a cucumber-soba salad which countered the spice, and lightened the heft from the fattier fish.
Another round of bread and we were on to the mains.
My mother’s choice, and thanks to her dainty-dining, my second entree. A duo of beef shortribs served with sweet Corn Saute, haricots vert, onion-potato. On the side was a confit tomato in a phyllo dough shell. This is how a James Beard nominee does comfort food, a deconstructed shepards pie and one of the best beef preparations I’ve had in recent memory. Forget cutting through these with a spoon, I could have cut them with a wet noodle.
My father’s entree. “Eggplant Pamesan”, corn stuffed tomato, and quinoa-couscous rolls, with burrata cheese. I didn’t taste this, but was given a good report. I can’t help but feel this was the classic vegetarian option cop-out of mixed appetizers. I would have liked to see a more substantial vegetarian protein option for a main.
My own. The citrus glaze was gentle enough that I could barely tell the sweetness was coming from something other than the scallops themselves. Paired with dragon’s tongue beans, a sweet corn roast, gai lan, and a yellow taxi tomato emulsion. The emulsion showed the sweeter side of the tomato, and paired well with the inherently sweet scallops. However, the beans felt out of place to me – I think a starchier component would have made the dish a real standout.
The a la carte portions were sizable enough for us to pass on dessert, but even our waiter mentioned those were a distant second to the mains. My parents were very pleased, and I was able to both enjoy the food and their company.
As for a more cuisine focused review, the execution of each dish was up there with the best. With such strong fish and meat based proteins, I would have liked to see a more substantial vegetarian option. The menu struck me as safe, inventive enough to be exciting, but traditional enough to cater to the area’s clientele. Like the type of place you might bring your parents, wait a minute..