Monday, July 1, 2013

The Makk on 124 - Edmonton, AB

Lately, Edmonton's food scene has really blossomed. New restaurants seem to pop up monthly and I can hardly keep up. The Makk on 124 opened in November 2012, garnering a lot of praise and rave reviews. I meant to give it a try early on, but the buzz seemed to die down quickly and it fell off my radar. It wasn't until The Makk began to pop up on sites such as TeamBuy and Dealfind that it crossed my mind again. I was shocked to see that ratings on Urbanspoon had fallen to 68%, and wondered if perhaps the group buys were a sign that business wasn't going so well. Nonetheless, I jumped at the chance to try The Makk and quickly snapped up a TeamBuy for myself.
I made reservations for 6:30 on a Sunday, anticipating a busy dinner hour. To my surprise, we were the only ones in the restaurant when we arrived. The Makk has a modern feel to its decor, with red walls and bright lights illuminating a clean, open space. The hostess doubled as our waitress, and was friendly and attentive.

Pomegranate and Lychee Soho Twist

Tortellini Symphony
To start our meal, we chose to share the Tortellini Symphony and the Ravioli. The Symphony consisted of three different tortellinis: lobster with truffle beurre fondue, goat cheese and scallion in almond pesto, and duck in Chardonnay cream. My favorite was easily the lobster, as the filling was heavy on the lobster and the truffle beurre sauce almost had me licking the plate. I found the mound of goat cheese overwhelming, although the pesto had good flavor. The duck filling was a bit dry, and very salty. The ravioli seemed to be filled with the same duck mixture as the tortellini, although it was larger and plated with leeks, mushrooms, and a parmesan sauce. The sauce itself was quite flavourful, combining a buttery cream sauce and freshness of grape tomatoes. Though the appetizers, were quite tasty, they were definitely on the pricey side - literally $4 for each tortellini, and $10 for the single duck ravioli. If I were to return, I would not order either of these appetizers again for this reason.

Duck Ravioli
I chose the Chef's Signature Makk'n Cheese as my main and added scallops. I am a lover of all things cheese (see The Grilled Cheese and Say Cheese!) so I was highly anticipating this one. I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't blown away either. The sauce had good flavor, and the hint of white truffle oil added a nice dimension, but the cheese hadn't been fully incorporated into the sauce so there were visible chunks of cheese baked onto every noodle. My favorite part of the dish was actually the added scallops - three large scallops seared perfectly, a steal at only an additional $5.
Chef's Signature Makk'n Cheese with Scallop
As usual with forgiving friends, I stole a bite from the other dishes. The risotto (sauteed mushrooms, charred leeks, shaved parmesan, and poached egg) was creamy, flavourful, and enhanced by the goodness of the poached egg. The scallop was cooked nicely and were a little less haphazardly arranged than with the Makk'n Cheese. The dish overall, however, quite salty and I don't think I would have been able to eat a whole dish of it.

The schnitzel dish came out a few minutes after the rest of the dishes, wish apologies from the kitchen, as the cook forgot to make the accompanying spatzle noodles. I found the presentation of the dish quite interesting and it reminded me a little of a marsh with the tuffs of green garnish sticking out of an otherwise brown plate. The Spatzle noodles, which is an egg-based noodle now served primarily in Germany, were slightly fried. As it was my first time having spatzle noodles, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, though I found them quite heavy, starchy, and a little chewy. The mushroom sauce had a nice flavour and paired well with the schnitzel, though I found there was not quite enough of the sauce to go around. The schnitzel itself was pounded quite thin and was breaded and fried to a nice crisp. The pork itself also had good flavouring. However, with the breading and lack of sauce, the dish overall became dry quite quickly.

German Style Pork Jaeger Schnitzel
The lamb shank was fall-off-the-bone tender, and I particularly enjoyed the polenta it was served with. Though well prepared, there was nothing particularly special about the lamb dish even at a price of $29.

Lamb Shank
The only real disappointment was the spicy vermicelli curry bowl, which looked bland at first appearance and tasted about the same. Without adding a protein I can't imagine anyone being satisfied with such a substance-less dish, as it seemed to consist mainly of overcooked vermicelli noodles and watery broth, which was supposed to be a yellow curry coconut broth but lacked either curry or coconut flavour. There was no amount of heat whatsoever, which was deceiving considering it was supposed to be a "spicy vermicelli." To pay $18 for a dish like this is definitely disappointing.
Spicy Vermicelli Curry Bowl
Curiously, the lemongrass curry chicken fared much better - the coconut curry sauce was full of flavour (at least in comparison) and the beer battered onion rings were an interesting twist. However, for a curry dish, it lacked any element of heat and there was just a hint of coconut in the broth. Overall, I would have preferred a slightly less watery broth with a bit more heat.
Lemongrass Curry Chicken
We were all quite full, but I couldn't turn down the matcha creme brulee. I actually quite enjoyed the creme brulee itself, which had a strong matcha flavor, but the rhubarb compote was chunky and tasted rather odd.

Matcha Crème Brulee
Reading some of the more recent Urbanspoon reviews had lowered my expectations considerably, but I  thought The Makk offered above-average food. The ratings on Urbanspoon are a little harsh and I have definitely had worse experiences elsewhere in Edmonton. There seems to be a bit of a mismatch between the standard of food offered up and the menu prices, however, and I can understand why diners might opt to eat elsewhere for this reason. The mac and cheese, risotto, and vermicelli bowl were all priced ~$20, without a protein included, which I thought was asking a bit much (especially for the underwhelming vermicelli bowl). At a time when so many enticing new restaurants with similar price ranges are opening up, The Makk would not be my first choice for a nice evening out.

Top Pick of the Night: Chef's Signature Makk'n Cheese, Lobster Tortillini


3/5 Erics
The Makk on 124 on Urbanspoon

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