I’d been reluctant to try Marmalade Cafe because in my mind I thought it would be like a Mimi’s Cafe or something similar. However, when I was invited to join in on the Dine Around Tustin with Holly (Savored), along with a host of travel writers, I definitely was pleasantly surprised by everything I tried that night, so pleased that I decided to return again this week for dinner with some friends.
The restaurant itself is warm and inviting, but it is a casual atmosphere where families with kids would be welcomed. For me that’s important on days where I want to bring my son for a meal, maybe with his friends, and where a bit of ruckus by the boys won’t be considered a faux pas in any way.
There were a lot of items I tried on the menu. Appetizers included ahi tuna tartare tower, which is served with wonton chips and Japanese pickled ginger. The ahi needed a little more seasoning, perhaps a touch more sea salt or soy sauce, but overall, the fish is very fresh and flavorful. Accompanying the tartare is an avocado and seaweed salad.
Pesto steamed clams and mussels is another item you might like if you’re into seafood. I don’t like mussels so I asked if they could give me just clams. I’m not sure I liked the pesto since I kinda like my steamed clams the traditional way, with just a garlic wine sauce. The clams were fresh and tasty though.
The crispy calamari was very nicely fried, crispy on the outside and not rubbery on the inside. I would totally order this dish again. Served with two sauces: chipotle aioli and marinara. Portions are large enough to share.
There are many entrees to choose from and it really depends on what you’re in the mood for. There are simple items such as halibut tacos, which are wraps rather than the traditional tacos. Fish was fresh and moist and was a generous portion! Or, if you’re in the mood for something more hearty and traditional, you can try the chicken meatloaf. It was topped with a chipotle sauce enhancing the already delicious taste of the chicken.
Braised boneless beef short ribs were one of my favorites! Braised in red wine and herbs, the beef was fork-tender and tasted very home-made. The 7oz filet mignon is also a great choice if you’re a meat lover. The beef is nicely cooked medium rare (well, that’s how I like it, you can opt for whatever you wish) and served with two sides of your choice. The selections are generous ranging from mashed potatoes, rosemary parmesan french fries, sweet potato fries to sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic and shallots.
One of my friends ordered the pork chop with roasted apples — I’m not a huge fan of pork chops but he liked it. Another friend ordered the pan-seared halibut which was absolutely delicious. I suggest swapping out the mashed potatoes for something simple like spinach, and at Marmalade Cafe, you can do that. They are so lenient about switching out the regular sides for whatever you want which works well for me because I was able to exchange my mashed potatoes to sweet potato fries.
Right now until the end of the year, Marmalade Cafe is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a special $39 menu for two. You can choose an appetizer to share, two entrees and finish off with a dessert also to share. The best part is, you can choose anything off the menu, there is no restriction!
The New York cheese cake with strawberry sauce and the molten chocolate cake were definitely the dessert favorites of the night. I was really impressed by how this supposed chain managed to offer us a far better meal than our 1-star Michelin experience at Ortolan in Los Angeles. Service was attentive and we all left very full and highly satisfied.
***Photography by Mahesh***
Marmalade Cafe, 2667 Park Ave, Tustin, CA 92782. Tel: 714-566-0100