There was a deluge of new restaurants this past year and for this eater, it’s been hard to keep up. I certainly have my favorite haunts, but I can’t help but try a new restaurant when I’m actually able to get out (read: escape from children). But I admit that eating out at a new place every time I’m out is a little schizophrenic. Every dish is unknown and sort of a gamble (will I like nettle panisse? Is stir-fried kohlrabi going to be as gratifying as regular ol’ bok choy? Why are there so many desserts in jars now?). And if you know me — or don’t — I’m not a gambler at heart.
I drove the same Honda through college, law school, and even the first few years of working as a lawyer. While everyone else cashed in on their new six figure salaries with new BMWs, I simply made sure to put a percentage away every single paycheck for not only my retirement, but my nieces and nephew’s college funds. Let’s just say that I appreciate squirrels storing their nuts for the winter.
So I’m really going against my natural instinct when I get in my car to drive to a restaurant near the ballpark, as opposed to just walking over to Clement Street. But I heard that Marlowe was worth it. I knew little about the restaurant, but hey, I was willing to try and so I made a date with a friend from my son’s preschool, who by happenstance, also was a food writer, blogger, and friend to many of the chefs I hold in high esteem. It’s always more fun to try a new place with a friend, but with a friend who loves, adores, obsesses over food? That’s a friggin’ party!
Marlowe is intended to be a neighborhood bistro, and the feel of the restaurant attests to that intention. While not miniscule, the restaurant is not large or vast (like it’s down the street neighbor, Twenty Five Lusk — where incidentally, you can valet your car and just tell them you’re going to Marlowe). The tables are close, almost communal, and the service effusive and helpful. Evening specials are written on a chalkboard, which is well-worth the gander.
That evening, I was led (willingly) into an evening of decadence. First up, the deviled eggs. I’m sorry, let me be exact. Warm deviled eggs with aged provolone, pickled jalapeño, and bacon. Ohhhh, yeahhhh.
Spiced jumbo gulf shrimp was recommended as a not-to-miss by our waitress and she was oh-so-right. The cocktail sauce had a spicy kick to the juicy shrimp. I love when the heads are left on, allowing me to suck up all the juices; any good Chinese girl likes chicken on the bone and heads on her shellfish. That’s a fact.
I went for a chalkboard special, the duck liver mousse (meat in a pot) with honeyed dijon, cherries. This was creamy decadence served in a jar. Seriously, I disgusted myself by eating 2/3s of it. The next day, I was pissed off at myself for not finishing it completely.
My dinner companion ordered the diced mussels and squid in a pot. She gave me a taste, and everything about this was right. From the bite of citrus, the mellow mayonnaise, to the fine dice on the mussels and squid. What a glorious bite.And then, I finally ordered light — the poulet vert. Ha! Light my ass, this bird was bathed in a plethora of herbs and vat of butter. The meat glistened with moistness, enveloped by its salty, slighty crisped skin. I don’t usually order chicken when I go out (that theory — if I make it at home, why order it out?), but this was a good call on my part. It was the gift that kept on giving (as I ate it for lunch the next day, too). My friend’s stuffed sole with crab.
And then, of course, dessert. We ordered both the lemon souffle cake (in a jar) and a TCHO chocolate cream pie (in a jar). Yes, there was a pot and jar theme here (as well as many other places these days). The lemon souffle cake was airy and mellow. It didn’t have a strong lemony bite, in favor of a light hint of citrus. The chocolate cream pie was the exact opposite; it totally embraced its chocolate essence and I especially loved the textural contrast (and flavor!) of the graham cracker and chocolate cookie crust at the bottom.
I loved everything about Marlowe. I loved the casual vibe of the restaurant, the accessible and decadent menu, the friendly guidance of the service…everything. Ok, wait. I hated the parking, as I forgot there was a Giants game that night and found myself fighting for parking (but I did love Marlowe’s helpful hostess, who told me where to park when I called telling her I would be late for my reservation). But the food made up for those 15 minutes of hell, delivering delightful bursts of flavor in every dish. And for anyone with a jar or pot fetish, this place is definitely for you.
As I mentioned, my dinner companion was a fellow preschool mom. So in honor of our sons’ preschool, I thought I’d share a diddy about my son, as it relates to his preschool. One day, I was talking to my 4 year old and I was telling him how cute he was, how cute his little 3 year old brother was, and how cute his little 10 month old brother was. Then, I asked him who was cute. He said “I don’t know.” So I changed the adjective, and said, “Well, then, who do you think is pretty?” Being the ever dutiful son (and knowing I’d spank him into submission if he said otherwise — kidding!), he patted my leg and said “You.” I do tend to dig for compliments every once in a while, but this was not one of those times, and so I asked him a follow up. ”Is there any one who is pretty at your school?,” to which he replied “All the girls, Mommy.” Bless that little soul — I wish I could capture his spirit in a bottle right now and spray it out like perfume every once in a while when I’m old and grey and he’s married to some bitchy daughter-in-law (you know, karma being a bitch and all…). Sigh…
Bauer’s two cents here.