A report by Dana Eastland: Last week I had a chance to check out the new menu coming to LE MARAIS BISTRO AND BAKERY in August. As previously reported on tablehopper, the bakery in the Marina has expanded to include a kitchen and additional seating, and will be serving a bistro-style dinner menu starting within the next few weeks. They’ve brought on a new team in the kitchen, with Nicolette Manescalchi as executive chef, Emily Riddell on pastry, and Ty Mecozzi as head baker.
Mecozzi and Riddell have already been working with the bread and pastry at the café, while the kitchen ramps up for dinner service, which should begin in August. The menu is small and elegant, and Manescalchi is taking inspiration from the many different food traditions along the Mediterranean. She previously worked at A16, where she was immersed in the food of Southern Italy, and told me she has really enjoyed learning more about food traditions from a broader geographic region. There are touches of North African spice, as well as influence from Southern France, and, of course, it all has California’s seasonality and flair.
They’ve got an oak wood grill in the kitchen, which is allowing them to cook over open flame. You can look at the current menu here, but it will be changing regularly. Of course, the produce will change seasonally, but the meat and seafood selections will also shift constantly. Because they are butchering most of their meat in-house from whole animals (and the place is quite small), it’s likely that one protein will be featured prominently on the menu until it’s gone, and then a new animal will show up. In fact, almost everything on the menu will be made in-house, including the pastas, cured fish, and, of course, the bread.
I started my meal with the fresh fruits de mer, with house-cured anchovies and dukka (an Egyptian spice blend with nuts), smoked and fresh oysters, and a Lake Tahoe crawfish crudo. The oysters are smoked by sous chef Leslie Miller-Dancy (she’s the kitchen’s unofficial “smokemaster,” according to Manescalchi) in their liquor and at a very low temperature to preserve their delicate flavor and texture. Other starter-size dishes include the whipped burrata with fried olive, fennel pollen, and cucumber. I was skeptical about whipping burrata, since the texture is so specific and such a part of the burrata experience, but it totally worked.
There is a small selection of pasta on the menu, including the saffron scialatielli with clams, mussels, and scallops. This dish is based on the “celebration” pastas from the Amalfi coast, which are prepared for special occasions. They’ve added saffron to up the ante, too. Manescalchi has a light touch with seafood, and you’ll see it popping up all over the menu, from the fruits de mer to the anchovy croutons on the salad to the salmon en papillote.
Riddell has already been working on pastries at the bakery, as well as some ice creams and sorbets to serve with plated desserts. A plum sorbet with cardamom totally rocked, and there are delightful edible flowers sprinkled all over her creations, so pretty. Again, the focus seems to be on using bold flavors and seasonings, but with a light, delicate touch for balanced results.
Le Marais Bakery and Bistro will open for dinner sometime in August (of course we’ll let you know the exact date), and hours will be Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. The bakery, which is currently open daily 7am-7pm, will begin closing earlier once dinner service begins. 2066 Chestnut St. at Mallorca, 415-359-9801.
A peek into the new Le Marais Bistro space, which flanks the bakery (at left). Photo: © tablehopper.com.