Jan. 17, 2013 - Issue #900: The ongoing musical evolution of Hannah Georgas
The bar has been set
The Makk on 124 starts 2013 off with dining success
In this spirit, the co-diner and I decided that making it through the first week of 2013 called for some kind of celebration. Not only had we (as a civilization) outstripped the Mayans' expectations in somehow forestalling our doom, we (as spoiled, post-everything materialists) had completely avoided making any new year's resolutions, thus obviating the despair that comes with failing at the merest gestures toward self-improvement. Even better, we had a fancy new restaurant in which to toast these not-failures.
The Makk on 124 opened its doors on 124 Street late last year, just slightly ahead of the similarly niched Red Ox Inn satellite operation Canteen, and seems to be humming along quite nicely, the conventional wisdom that a new resto needs a few months to find its feet notwithstanding. Could be the cumulative experience of Chef Kasiran Simin, who has ties to vegan mecca Padmanadi, as well as Culina and Zinc, has served him well in establishing a hip new eatery on Edmonton's perennially up-and-coming strip. His varied background certainly explains a menu that's fluent in vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, as well as locally-sourced and decadently omnivorous.
Austerity is reserved for the handsome interior, split roughly between red and grey, with tall windows, exposed fixtures, tastefully dispersed art and a central bar. High ceilings create an illusion of spaciousness, meaning you should probably consider a reservation most nights. This particular night was not so bustling, but we were still seated in near proximity to another pair of diners, to whom I apologize not only for eavesdropping, but then taking up their topic of conversation with my date. You folks were fascinating!
And so is the menu. As noted, there's something for every dietary predilection and a good range of price-tags, but the terse descriptions are almost Hemingwavian in their evocation of the food—enough detail to tantalize, but none of the purple prose that often distinguishes foodie-porn. It's all to the good, as you're not even sure what to expect when your food arrives.
The co-diner had scouted out the menu online and pre-decided that we would be having the lobster-avocado salad ($14). It was a minor struggle to settle on main courses, but she eventually opted for the smoked duck breast ($29), which left it to me to order the seared lamb loin ($30). Since we missed an opportunity to indulge in MRKT's fabulous flourless chocolate cake the week before, it was a foregone conclusion we'd be trying The Makk's version ($8), no matter what.
Presentation is a big part of The Makk experience, and each plate featured artfully arranged food staged, swirled and dotted with infused oils and sauces. The lobster-avocado salad, for example, dressed up a plump half-lobster tail with crushed avocado, fresh microgreens, a colourful concoction of diced mango, tomato and red onion, and bright dribs of mango syrup. The eponymous ingredients were an inspired pairing heightened by the sweet and savoury blandishments, and we quickly regretted having to share a portion.
Two possibilities are implied by a $20-plus entrée. One is that you get so much food you'll go home with a tinfoil swan under your arm; the other is that the meal is smaller, but so thoughtfully assembled that you're practically obliged to savour every chew. The latter was certainly the case with the seared lamb loin, cooked an exacting medium rare, encased in a crisped slice of the house-made bread lined with thyme, and accompanied by a small pool of jus. The preparation allowed the tender lamb to shine, but the sides of ratatouille—stewed eggplant, peppers and tomatoes bound with iridescent ajvar—and dumpling-like potato pasta were an astute complement and a pretty slick way to present a starch.
Likewise, my co-diner's succulent smoked duck breast, showing just a seam of pink at its delicious core, rested against twin servings of Macaire potatoes topped with slow-braised red cabbage. This was a starch-style I hadn't previously encountered, but which I would wager is exactly the opposite of vegan given its texture and flavour.
Having indulged in one too many groan-inducing meals over the holidays, I was relieved to find room for my share of flourless chocolate cake which, despite the menu's promises, didn't come sided with red coulis or fresh fruit confit (not that I would necessarily recognize those things if I saw them). It did come with a serving of the house-made sorbet which, in this case, was intensely flavoured with orange, the tartness of which proved apt for offsetting the deep, dense richness of the cake itself. The house sorbet also comes in lobster, beet or yam if you have something to prove about your appetite for novelty.
Thus was the first week of January successfully celebrated—abetted by attentive, helpful service, might I add. Whichever venue we choose to celebrate the success of this celebration had better bring their A-game, as The Makk on 124 has set the bar dauntingly high.
The Makk on 124
10418 – 124 St
themakkon124.ca vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy