24 June 2010

Restaurant Review: Marché (Lewiston, ME)

I know of at least one friend of mine who does not agree with my opinion of Marché at all-- and normally we agree on lots of food-related topics (King Arthur Flour, chocolate as a food group, etc.). I think, however, that I just feel really strongly about Marché and its owners-- but I think that's more than obvious as you read along. This is the review I submitted to Google, so it's the same one you'll see if you Google the restaurant:

My husband and I were excited to try this place, despite our lukewarm experience at the same owner's upscale restaurant Fuel (located just across the street). We should have known better.

We ordered the "Frenchie" sandwich which allegedly consists of tomato compote, pulled pork, a burger, and brie cheese. The name and the cheese were the only thing French about this sandwich, but it sounded intriguing-- I wanted to know if it would work. It didn't. The tomato compote was simply some cherry tomatoes (2 of which were not fully ripe-- half yellow/green, half red) which had been barely mushed and sautéed. The pulled pork was bland. There were TWO thick (I mean over an inch thick each), bland, overcooked, dry burgers which overpowered the entire sandwich (and did not come close to filling the diameter of the bun-- why would you do that?). And the brie was a tiny piece perched on the top that was barely noticeable. I opted for the "fruit cup" instead of the potato chips and got 5 small chunks of what was probably canned pineapple. Thanks for the hint of fruit in my fruit 1/8-of-a-cup! My husband didn't even finish his half of the burger-- I think I've seen him leave behind only one other meal in our entire relationship because he abhores wasting money.

My husband ordered a crêpe dish-- chicken, spinach and béchamel sauce. This came unassembled with the mush of filling looking like it had been vomited up on top of the folded crêpes. Both crêpes were thick and had been overcooked, looking more like Indian nan bread than crêpes. And I can't tell you how lovely it was to spend half our lunch time scraping the filling off to the side so we could assemble our own crêpes. (Was this too hard for the chef to do? We saw employees darting back and forth between Marché and Fuel. Maybe our chef was on a break from his real job and that was why our crêpes were thrown on the plate in a disassembled heap?) This would have been forgivable, however, had it not been for the taste. We only noticed that there was spinach in the filling because of the green swirls deep within the sauce. And the chicken declared its presence only through its texture-- we sensed chewy chunks and figured (hoped?) they were chicken. Very bland béchamel sauce rounded out the unpleasant experience.

As two individuals who have lived in France, we can verify that these items would inflame any Frenchman or -woman into suing Marché for slander. As two individuals who have been fortunate to eat in some very fantastic restaurants around the country and even around the world-- we would assert that this food was not worth our trip around the corner. Save your money and your time-- whoever's running Marché certainly doesn't expend any on the food or the service! Why should you?

1 comment:

  1. This is Eric Agren, the owner of Fuel and Marché.

    I responded to your post on TheNest.com, but wanted to respond here, as this reviews the actual food.

    I would also like to thank you for your frank review. I scour the Internet to make sure I am watching everything I can for my restaurants. As I mentioned before, they are my life. I live upstairs at Fuel, and I am at Marché at 7:00 every morning trussing our chickens by hand, etc... I care very much about our product, and try to do everything I can to make it better.

    Now, there are never any excuses in the food business, but I will say that we had been open less than two months when you visited. And, the labor pool in Lewiston is very challenging, to say the least.

    All of my employees had not cooked a crepe before, and it has taken up to today to make sure they get them right. Thin with small brown spots throughout. We are finally there.

    The crepe presentation was decided upon by me personally. I did not want to roll the crepes, or simply fold them, as I thought they looked too bland. So we fold the crepe on the plate and put the filling on top. I am sorry to hear about your unpleasant experience with both the crepe and the filling. I check almost every day and this is the first negative comment I have heard on the chicken crepe.

    The chicken came from the rotisserie chickens we cook every day, and they are picked every morning before service.

    I hope we have improved our execution so they are more consistent and properly done.

    The burger. Agreed. We used our NY sirloin trimmings for the burger from Fuel when we first started, however we found that there was just not enough fat. So, we now buy chuck primals and grind them in our kitchen. Much better. And, with a few months of training our staff, they now know how to cook them and assemble them properly. We changed the bun, changed the meat of the burger, and I feel things have improved dramatically.

    The market also demands certain actions on my part. The burger needs to be 'big', to offer value to many of our customers. And, our pricing structure needs to be such that we simply cannot offer a product you have experienced in France. We have to work within a very tight food cost budget to meet the demands of the market.

    We also deal with the same demand at Fuel. We tried to use grass fed, local beef for example. However, the increase in the price sent our sales tumbling. We must work in the confines of the market, and produce a product that is the very best it can be for the pricing structure we need to work within.

    As I said, no excuses. If you had a bad experience, none of the above matters. However, I wanted to at least let you know I saw several things you did, and have made the appropriate changes.

    Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts. Without this type of information it is much more difficult to improve our businesses.

    Eric Agren
    Owner, Fuel and Marché