Last night, to celebrate my birthday (again), my parents took Henning and me out to dinner at Market Restaurant & Bar in Del Mar. In short: absolutely fabulous food, grotesquely upscale ambiance.
Living in La Jolla, I’m used to seeing excess money flaunted about like nothing, but pulling into the complementary valet parking lot at Market, the scene blew anything I’ve seen before right out of the water. There was no less than a million bucks worth of cars parked within fifteen feet of the door. I mean lordy, there were two Bentely’s. Two! This was a minor warning as to what to expect as far as clientele inside the restaurant. Looking around the dining room, it was hard to find a woman who hadn’t had plastic surgery. It was really quite impressive. The style of the dining room matched the clientele—decidedly upscale and bland. The food, however, was definitely worth enduring this painfully affluent-generic background.
We arrived early for our 8pm reservation, so we had a drink in the bar while we waited to be seated. The bar menu has ever-changing, seasonal cocktails, most of which are augmented with fresh local fruit. I chose a strawberry lemon drop and my mom picked a blackberry caipirhini, which was essentially a caipirinha with basil and blackberries rather than lime, and served in a martini glass. Both were excellent, though the bartender took a while to make them and our table was ready before they arrived. When we were seated, the waitress had our drinks transferred to our table while we perused the menu. My parents had eaten at Arterra back when Chef Schroeder was there, so they knew that the food would be outstanding. I had read a few reviews of Market and knew that the ribs and blue cheese souffles were staples of the ever-changing menu for a reason. I settled on these as my choices relatively quickly, though there were many wonderful-sounding dishes on the menu.
Here is a quick run-down of what we ordered:
- Blue cheese souffle with strawberry jam, mache salad with strawberries and candied almonds
- House-made tofu mushroom soup with tarragon and tamarind
- Duck confit with orange marmalade
- Pea soup with carrot mousseline and pea tendril salad
- Beef ribs with cipolini onions, sweet onion potato puree, root vegetables x2
- Salmon with prawn potstickers and tempura mushrooms
- Lamb with something that I can’t remember
- Rocky road brownie sundae with butterscotch ice cream and brazil nuts
- Chocolate: molten chocolate cake, bittersweet mint shake, french macaroon
Everything was excellent. The tofu mushroom soup was actually my favorite dish of the evening. It was unexpectedly delicious and entirely original. The waitress said that Chef Schroeder will never make it again, though, because it was entirely too much work. Too bad, as it was truly inspired! The duck confit was great as well, and the orange marmalade it was paired with complemented the salty-fatty duck extremely well. The blue cheese souffle and ribs did not disappoint, though they certainly won’t win any awards for originality or innovation. Before our appetizers, we were brought a little amuse-bouche of sliced strawberries with some sort of soft cheese. After our main course, we were brought a little intermezzo of the softest, silkiest raspberry sorbet I’ve ever had. The desserts were both quite good as well, though I think that Boulevard‘s “chocolate” dessert of opera cake, bonbon, and cookie wins against Chef Foran’s cake, shake, and macaroon. The rocky road brownie dessert was great, if only a brownie and ice cream. I was a bit afraid that the butterscotch ice cream would be too sweet, but it turned out to be just the right level of sweetness to balance the dark chocolate brownie.
Overall, we were all very happy with our meals at Market, but I can imagine it will be a while before I’m back. It’s just not my kind of place, as far as style is concerned. Maybe if I win the lottery, get some plastic surgery, and become a cookie cutter trophy wife it would be a different story.
Market Restaurant & Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014