Restaurant Review: Market

Chef Outhier's spiritual son misses the point
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  September 29, 2010
2.0 2.0 Stars

1010_market_main
GRILLED LAMB chops were delicious, but — like much of the menu at Market — suffered from being too salty.

Market | 100 Stuart Street, Boston 617.310.6790 | Open monday–THURSDAY, 7–11 am, 11:30 am–2 pm, and 5–10 pm; Friday, 7–11 am, 11:30 am–2 pm, and 5–11 pm; Saturday, 8–11 am, 11:45 am–2:30 pm, and 5–11 pm; and Sunday, 8–11 am, 11:45 am–2:30 pm, and 5–10 pm | AE, MC, VI | Beer and wine | Validated valet parking: $15 | Street level access
As the auteur of multiple restaurants on three continents, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has avoided many of the traps for unwary superstar chefs, such as overpriced pizza, videos of himself at the front of the restaurant, or a signature line of frozen entrées. He has remained grounded in his birthplace in Alsace, and by his teachers Haeberlin, Bocuse, and Outhier — giants of the French nouvelle cuisine movement when it mattered.

Outhier and Bocuse were among the last apprentices to the legendary Fernand Point, a chef so determined to serve everything fresh that he would personally inspect the kitchen of his restaurant twice a day, throwing out every vestige of a ready-made dough or vegetable that he found. Outhier sent Vongerichten to Boston in 1985 to open what was then the Marquis de Lafayette, and told me in a Phoenix interview at the time that he viewed Vongerichten as a "spiritual son" and their collaboration as "a dialogue." Outhier had been cautious in limiting himself to six such relationships. Vongerichten is a profligate by comparison, and his "children" at Market are not so spiritual. The restaurant has some wonderful moments, but my lingering impression is that for what one pays, it is too loud and the food is too salty. Not so salty as at the disastrous opening of the unlamented Todd English's Bonfire in Park Square, but too salty in the way inexperienced sub-chefs oversalt after a day of nervous tasting, while the boss is in Shanghai or Vancouver.

Vongerichten has also let his children make him a liar. Prior to opening Market, he told a rapt Boston Globe reporter the restaurant would serve only seafood so local and fresh it had not touched ice. The current menu as you will see below includes farmed salmon and non-local shrimp, not to mention hybrid striped bass which are never local and seldom wild. Fortunately, Chef Outhier no longer visits Boston and Fernand Point has been dead for almost 60 years. They needn't see or taste the devolution of their ideals.

On to the good news. Vongerichten knows bread and has secured wonderful sourdough white and multi-grain slices and serves them with superb butter. He has learned about American food, and the "crispy clams" ($14) are exquisite fried belly clams. The menu describes them with basil salt but ours came with what must have been habanero mayonnaise. Vongerichten's children worked the farmer's markets well for tomato gazpacho ($9), poured at table as done in pretentious restaurants, but losing nothing in the experience as it is already cold. The flavor of heirloom tomatoes is enhanced with a morsel of peach here, an almond there, possibly a bit of strawberry. Crunchy shrimp ($12) — another nose-grower since the only local commercial catch of wild shrimp are tiny rock shrimp from Maine, in the winter — lacked the sweetness of fresh seafood, and their crunch came primarily from breadcrumb topping. The garnish of genuine black and yellow cherry tomatoes only underlined the lie.

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