Snoot Camp

Crisp-skinned sea bass propped over parsnip mash was excellent as well. A flat fillet, the bass was flaky and white, with one side still attached to crunchy pan-fried skin. Chopped calaloo salad, jewel-green and kale-like, edged the plate. A sorrel flower sauce was a light and unobtrusive complement, more aroma than added-on fancy.

Rack of lamb with grilled aubergine, goat cheese mash, French beans, and a picholine-merlot sauce sounded enticing, as did a grilled veal chop with truffled George Blanc potatoes, asparagus, and a cognac-hazelnut sauce, but at $38 and $37 respectively, too rich. For those of you who don't make a habit of carrying Larousse's Gastronomique with you, here's the translation: lamb chop with eggplant and olive-red wine sauce, and a veal chop with Idaho potatoes named after the famous but misspelled chef Georges Blanc. A great alternative for the game lover was a five-spice duck breast and confit duck leg. Medium rare and buttery as filet mignon, the breast was presented sliced and fanned out, rimmed by a small and tasty layer of fat. The duck leg was stunning, chunks of falling-apart dark meat held together by a skin of deep-fried coating; not only was the duck breast rare, so was the novelty of enjoying all parts of the bird equally. Pearly Egyptian couscous, larger and rounder than the Moroccan variety, was a pretty centerpiece, and a drizzle of Asian pear sauce was again a sweet but not overpowering layer of flavor.

Entree portions are generous enough so that dessert is not a necessity, but a silky chocolate crepe layer cake, like tiramisu in texture and Boston cream pie in taste, was too hard to resist.

Going to bed after such a fruitful meal is a recipe for REM sleep. After both meals I had at Mark's in the Grove, I spent the night in rapt moving-picture attention, reliving the complex fare over and over again. But given the management's pompous disregard for the clientele, and the false sophistication of those same customers, a great dinner at Mark's is one thing to dream about and quite another to actually experience.

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