For many years now, the Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais has been a fun place to have a casual meal at stalls serving everything from Moroccan and Italian food to some of the best and biggest sandwiches you’ll find in Paris, made to order on the spot. The latest addition to this French-style food court is the Enfants du Marché, which has set out to notch up the quality of the food offered in the market. They have certainly succeeded, but at the risk of destroying the market’s “cheap and cheerful” identity.
When my friend Cathy and I arrived, we went into shock when we saw the prices on the blackboard menu, with starters ranging from €16 to €24 and main courses from €26 to €38, especially since the restaurant presumably pays less rent than it would in a normal restaurant space. And, at those prices, you might reasonably expect to have comfortable seating (rather than stools at a bar), table service and real napkins (instead of minuscule paper ones stuck into the help-yourself silverware jar on the counter).
In hopes of not exploding our bank accounts and because they looked more interesting, we ordered four starters instead of a first and main course each.
On the strong recommendation of the waiter, we ordered the ceviche. While the raw fish was super-fresh and dolled up with raspberries, radishes, red onions, tiny white flowers and three-leaf clovers, it did not taste as if it had been marinated for long and was not as exciting as the ceviche I had at La Cevicheria.
The other near-raw fish dish, however, was spectacular: tataki of bonito with stracciatella mozzarella and blackberries. While it had the same add-ons as the ceviche, it all came together in a much more interesting way, perhaps because of the stracciatella.
By far the best dish we had, however, was seemingly the simplest: a plate of girolles (chanterelles), perfectly cooked in a sublime sauce. Fantastic.
The fourth dish was a fancied-up version of that old staple, insalata caprese, or tomatoes and mozzarella. In this case, however, the tomatoes were heirlooms of many different colors and sizes (the cherry tomatoes were memorably flavorful and sweet) and the mozzarella was more of that luscious stracciatella. Very tasty but more of an example of excellent ingredients then excellent cooking skills.
That led us to dessert. We were nonplussed when we saw the apricot tart we had ordered. As Cathy said, it looked like something made at home that didn’t turn out right. It was obviously homemade, but it didn’t look appealing with its gooey filling spreading over the plate. The dark crust tasted funny, as if it had absorbed refrigerator flavors, and I enjoyed the tart much more when I avoided the crust and just ate the contents. The tart apricots contrasted nicely with the sweetish sauce.
The food is unquestionably excellent at Les Enfants du Marché, but you can get food just as good elsewhere at lower prices, with proper seating, and you won’t have cigarette smoke blowing in your face while you eat in the indoor/outdoor market (as we did the other day). If I go back, it will probably be for a snack rather than a full meal.