Bottom line first: I wanted to like it more than I did. The cooking is executed well but the flavour combinations are a bit odd and don’t necessarily showcase the ingredients in the best light.
Now for the meat of the review…
Mamie Taylor’s is located sorta across the street from Phnom Penh on East Georgia St. in Chinatown, between Main and Gore. It’s an area undergoing quite a change (as you can tell by the construction and the closing of Ho Sung Hing Printers). Lots of newish, non-Chinese, foodie-worthy places are in the immediate area, including: Matchstick, Caffe Brixton, The Pie Shoppe, Oyster Express, The Union, The Parker and Harvest. Expand the circle a bit and you can include: Bestie, Bao Bei, Dunlevy Snackbar, Pizzeria Farina, Campagnolo, Upstairs at Campagnolo and Kobob Burger.
I’m still a sucker for sign boards. I think they really show the personality of a restaurant. It’s a promise, a lure, a part of the ephemeral nature of our ever-evolving food culture.
I’m glad they have a sense of humour.
But I was here on a mission to try their Horse Tartare.
I was here to try the horse, but I also wanted to try a mish-mash of snacks too, so finding one beer to match all three dishes was a bit of a challenge — especially because horse is very mild.
Their bottle selection.
They’ve got a taxidermy theme in here…
…and a kitschy thrift store vibe too.
I’d love you eat you…
…but not you.
I ended up getting Driftwood Fat Tug IPA, one of the top-tier IPAs on the west coast.
Weird, mismatched dishware.
Fried olives with blue cheese, currants and sherry.
Cross-section of the fried olives. You can see a bit of the blue cheese dribbling out. The flavour combinations were a bit strange. Feta and olives I get, but blue cheese and olives…not so much. I mean, I will have blue cheese and olives are part of a big cheese platter, but olives are there to provide a cleansing contrast…not necessarily to be eaten in the same mouthful. Plus eating a deep fried olive is an odd textural experience. You have the crunchy deep fried coating but you also have the firm crunchy olive inside. Deep fried things taste good because of the contrast between the crispy/crunchy outsides and the soft/moist/juicy insides. The inside did contain olive juice and runny cheese, but it was more of a “chomp chomp squirt” kind of experience which reminded me of that chewing gum from the 80s with the fruity liquid centres.
The currants and sherry also made the dish quite sweet. So you got briney, salty/blue cheesy, sweet and crunchy all going on at the same time. Did doing all this to an olive make it a better olive? I don’t think so…
Meatballs with bacon, dates and coriander. The tomato sauce was good, in that sweet, non-acidic, comforting, meatball sub sorta way. But the dishware looks like they pulled it from my grandmother’s kitchen.
I couldn’t figure out how the bacon factored into this. I didn’t see or taste any. Maybe they add bacon in the ground meat? I cut one open and saw a hunk of meat resembling beef stew inside. They went to the trouble of putting dates and a hunk of meat inside a meatball? Same as with the deep fried olives, did doing all this work result in a better meatball? It tasted good enough, slathered with the sauce, but it was a bit of an odd eating experience with the two meat textures going on.
Alright, here it is…Horse Tartare with “swiss & green onions, espelette pepper, pickled garlic, quail egg, crostini”. I wanted to like this but it just fell flat. I’ve had horse tartare two times before this — both times in Toronto. Once at Black Hoof:
and once at La Palette (great little French bistro):
In both versions, the butteriness of the horsemeat really came through and wasn’t overwhelmed by the other ingredients. The other ingredients helped the horsemeat become the star.
In Mamie Taylor’s version, I struggled to find the same enjoyable flavours and textures that I experienced before. The crostini (melba toast to me) were really well done but the addition of cheese on the crostini detracted from the meat. The espelette pepper detracted from, rather than enhanced, the meat. The shockingly acidic frisée actually reset my tongue and coaxed out a bit more sweetness from the meat, but still this was worlds away from my previous experiences with horsemeat. Maybe it was the quality of the meat? It was very pale compared to the other horse tartares, plus I got a bit of sinew that made it less enjoyable.
…this particular visit missed the target.
I got a sense that Mamie Taylor’s is doing things just because they can and that they don’t give a fuck what the naysayers say. Horse tartare for god’s sake! Aside from shark’s fin, horse is probably the most controversial ingredient you could legally serve. That’s admirable and I think more people should do what they love with conviction. But I’m really conflicted about this place. I want to love Mamie Taylor’s but this particular visit missed the target.
You might also enjoy Alexandra Gill’s 1-star review of Mamie Taylor’s.