Restaurant Review: Market

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

Entrées were made of local stuff but all of it oversalted, and likely not with local salt. The best was "slowly cooked salmon" ($22), another farmed fish, cooked at 200 degrees to make it even juicier and meatier tasting than usual, without the extremes of 140-degree "sous vide" cooking used by molecular chefs. The salmon is set on a bed of German potato salad, a nicely acidic foil and a reminiscence of Alsace (or chef du cuisine Chris Damskey's continental European ancestors), with sugar snap peas. "Wild Atlantic halibut" ($26) likely was wild, with a salty crust, terrific roasted tomatoes, and nice enough summer squash, and green and yellow snap beans.

Pegging the salt meter were grilled lamb chops ($29) that were delicious but salty as potato chips, with a hideously oversalted ragout of green beans and artichokes. Perhaps it was punishment for a guest who asked the chef not to use the usual "chili crumbs." Denied too much hot pepper, some chefs will get their bam out of the salt shaker.

As part of the Market concept, there is a list of simple a la carte dishes ($18–$37), with which one can pick $7 sides. We went with "sauteed market corn" and it was good, but not close to what this writer was getting the same week at the Jamaica Plain farmer's market.

The wine list is worldbeat by the glass, but the serious bottles are French. In honor of the chef and birthdays at the table, we had Sparr's cremant d'Alsace ($10/glass; $44/bottle), a sparkler of surprising richness and length, better than much real Champagne at twice the price. No alcohol tonight? Vongerichten has joined the experimenters with house-made sodas ($4). Mint tea ($4), decaf ($4), and a single espresso ($3) were all exemplars of their kind.

Desserts were something of a recovery, Vongerichten being a pioneer of unusual ice creams. Market berries with vanilla meringues and poppy-seed ice cream ($8) featured the ripest fruit in the marketplace, and an oddball ice cream that instantly made sense. Warm chocolate cake ($8) was close to American pudding cake, with a vanilla ice cream close to gelato in richness. And almond panna cotta, although the menu didn't mention it, brought a scoop of caramel ice cream and a sprig of shiso, for the most exotic flavors of the evening.

The most traditional French thing about Market is a nearly all-male serving staff. The most American thing is the sound. The floors are slate, the trim is shiny, tables are close together, and it is louder than Boston Beer Works on game night. The salt problem can be fixed easily, possibly the day this review appears. The noise problem is built in, although I've seen it fixed a time or two elsewhere. The food-market problem, as Chef Outhier warned us, requires a lifetime of vigilance.

Nadeau can be reached at robtnadeau@aol.com.

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