Four of us went to Marche for the first time yesterday. Nancy Leson recently wrote a restaurant needs about 6 months to become a fully smooth operation. Marche has been open only about a month and a half, and it's close. Located near the Bainbridge farmers market, behind the main drag in downtown Winslow, it's an easy walk from the ferry terminal. The exterior is very attractive with lovely wood siding and some outdoor patio seating (no heating lamps, however). The interior has a high ceiling, with a light and airy feeling.
We had a table by the window. For a restaurant that has large windows along its front, it has no view to speak of. Just the backs of stores on Winslow Way and a little plaza filled with tables and chairs. Our table was right next to a filled table on the outdoor patio. So every time we glanced over to the window, we saw the people right next to us, just inches away. A little weird.
The food we had was all expertly prepared and delicious. Warm crusty rolls with a nice butter were a welcome beginning for hungry people who had just come in from tromping around Bloedel Reserve. The amuse bouche was a tuna tartar served on a homemade potato chip. Very nice! The soup of the day was a light halibut broth, infused with tomato and saffron with a halibut quenelle. Yummy.
I had a market salad (presumably made with whatever was good at the market on a given day). This time it was baby spinach with beets, caramelized walnuts and bleu cheese. This salad fairly shouted out its freshness. Nicely done!
The real star of the appetizers, however, was the pate, so said the pate eaters at the table. Although billed as an appetizer, the portion was huge--would easily feed four, possibly more, as a starter. Served with cornichons, onions, and toasted bread rounds. With a salad, one person could easily make this a meal, albeit very rich.
The salade nicoise was also superb. Seared tuna with tender-crisp green beans and fried? (maybe roasted) fingerling potatoes, that were so golden they looked like gold coins. My husband is very particular about his salade nicoise, but he pronounced this one a winner.
Mussels and frites! This is billed as a petite plate, but you get plenty of golden brown fries, served with a garlic aioli. The mussels were declared very tasty (the person who had this did not share them, so I don't know). The fries were good, but while not limp, could have been a bit crispier, I thought.
My brother thoroughly enjoyed his salmon (again, no sharing!). My stepmother loved her trout meuniere, served with sauteed greens enlivened with a hint of maybe balsamic vinegar. My duck was perfectly cooked with crispy skin, served on a bed of lentils with broccolini (at least I thought it was broccolini--wasn't bitter enough, I didn't think, to be broccoli rabe), with a yummy sauce. I thought the duck was a bit underseasoned, but it was otherwise very good.
The creme brulee freak at our table enjoyed his immensely. The Queen of Sheba torte was very chocolatey and good. We were interested to see what a grapefruit tart would be--there was no actual fruit visible. Instead it appeared to be a grapefruit infused thin custard on a tasty tart crust, served with a crunchy rhubarb compote. Very light and nice ending to a meal.
Service is still working out the kinks, as is to be expected with a new restaurant. The entire staff is very friendly and eager to please, but nevertheless, a few things fall through the cracks. Because one of our party has lost hearing in one ear, I called early and asked for a quiet table and also asked that a birthday candle get placed in one of the desserts for our birthday guest. We got the quiet table (next to a window), but no candle or other birthday acknowledgement ever appeared. There is no bread basket; the waiter simply gives each diner a roll, which is fine. However, we asked for more bread and butter; the butter materialized after several minutes; the bread never did (which ended up being just as well, since we had plenty of food).
Our waiter told us that the market salad would have goat cheese; instead it was bleu. He apologized. ( He was otherwise very knowledgeable about the menu.) It took quite a while to get the bill.
Coffee was a bit strange. We had 3 decafs and one regular. The three decafs all tasted a bit sour or acidic--like Latin American coffee. We all prefer Indonesian type coffee. When our cups were filled a second time, we all thought that the coffee was much more Indonesian like.
I'm certain that as Marche matures, the service will too. It is pretty close to being good now, which is remarkable given how new the restaurant is and how difficult it has been historically for fine dining restaurants on the Island to get good front of the house staff . The food is great--we look forward to trying more of the menu.
My hometown, Winslow, which used to be a culinary wasteland, now has at least 3 destination restaurants--Marche, Hitchcock, and Four Swallows (haven't tried Local Harvest yet), all within walking distance to the ferry. The ferry ride over is definitely worth it.