In last weekend's Dine Out Maine review, critic James Schwartz gave Marché Kitchen and Wine Bar two stars out of five, based on dinner and brunch disappointments. Bar manager Tom Ardia's drinks program was the highlight of the experience. His advice for owners Susan and Gary Hall, who also own popular nearby wine and beer store The Vault: "Stick to the charcuterie and cheesecake. Nix the more elaborate plates. And flip the restaurant's name: Currently, it's Marché Kitchen and Wine Bar; Marché Wine Bar (and Kitchen) might be a better recipe for success."
To their credit, the Halls didn't get defensive, but rather took to Facebook to solicit feedback from diners. Feedback they got, with plenty of suggested improvements in the food department, as well as positive comments from those who said they disagreed with the review. The thread has since been removed, but a more recent post promises those responses "will help steer us in our future planning for the restaurant." The restaurant could not be immediately reached about what changes might be in store.
On the other end of the spectrum, Marché got nothing but love from George and Linda Smith in their recent Travelin' Maine(rs) column. The couple praised the dinner experience from start to finish, from the service to the panna cotta, about which Linda explained, "We fought for every bite and I held my own, much to George's dismay." Once again, the restaurant posted the review to its Facebook page with the request, "Let us know what you think." Perhaps the most entertaining comment thus far: "Let the truth be told! Stop the bullying Portland."
Update, 4/10/15: Chef and restaurant manager Kevin Cunningham shared some of the food changes Marché will be making: "A lot of people want just a snack, so we'll add more small plates, like our crepes. We pulled the marsala. We never had any complaints on it, it was one of our better pieces, but we're not going to deal with the constant critique of it after [Schwartz's] review. We changed to a blackened chicken pasta."
Cunningham also said he'd be more hands-on with the cooks, who "sometimes seem to get swamped on weekends." He promised to continue with the campaign of transparency: "All the cards are on the table. We'll put it out there if it's good or bad."
The chef did air a grievance that many customers shared with him: that Schwartz's reviews seem to be biased against non-Portland restaurants. "One resounding feedback was when you're reading the review, it starts with almost a negative outlook of coming up to Lewiston. His reviews seem not to be great if he had to leave Portland."