I am continually heartened by the proliferation of new and notable restaurants in downtown; they spring from the hardened earth like so many crocuses after the snows of winter have melted away. The Marc leads a trend of restaurants setting up shop in the area just surrounding downtown. Their cuisine may be described as French, but without the air of pretense that typically accompanies our thoughts about all things Gallic.
I venture to The Marc for my birthday supper and find myself in a room characterized by clean lines, diffuse light, and a muted palette of black and white. I sip a crisp, tart glass of pinot grigio and nibble on a crusty slice of baguette caressed with butter.
Next up: Diver scallops with peas a la francais. Here is an intersection of earth and sea. Vibrant green chlorophyll meets sweet, understated salinity. Tender scallops, toothsome peas. Beautiful to the eye and to the palate.
Owner Patrick Saurette brings two surprises: fries with garlic aioli and steak tartare. The fries put fast food offerings firmly in their place. Crispy exterior, tender and steaming interior. The velvety aioli sings - but does not assault - with garlic. The steak tartare is beef in its purest form, untouched by heat and spice. A tiny cornichon is the only accompaniment necessary.
Tonight's special is Mahi-Mahi with barley risotto, asparagus and tomato jam. The mild, meaty fish is elevated by the summery tomatoes. The barley is studded with crisp walnuts and tangy cranberries and the asparagus, like the tomatoes, hints of impending summer.
Dessert is a perenially difficult decision and, stuck in a characteristic bout of indecision, I choose chocolate cake with sour cherries (no photo, alas) and beignets. The latter is a French-Cajun spherical doughnut. The Marc, I believe, has cornered the market on these deep-fried confections. They are hot, dusted with sugar, impossibly tender, and served with caramel sauce and creme fraiche for dipping. I am satiated, impressed and anticipating the opening of Marc's patio to further savour these victuals. I will return. Marc my words.