I’ve had the (inaccurate) impression that The Mackenzie Room in DTES/Japantown was like our version of The Black Hoof in Toronto. Aside from the chalkboard menu, there’s not that much that’s similar. Black Hoof does more offcuts while Mackenzie Room has more veggie-forward dishes. But both places do have a fun, loud, lively atmosphere. I went there with three other food-obsessed people and ordered the entire menu. Here’s how it went down.
(Not a huge amount of detail in this post cuz I’m writing this a week after it happened and didn’t take notes during dinner.)
The Mackenzie Room is located on Powell St., across from Oppenheimer Park (the home of the annual Powell Street Festival). Dosanko (which I reviewed recently) is located one block east. The new French-Canadian St. Lawrence and Latin American Cuchillo are one block west.
The menu, which changes slightly from season to season. The Mealshare-eligible “I Want It All” option for $59 per guest was what we were after. Minimum four people required. I believe they scale up the size of the dishes according to the size of the group. I’m assuming that for four people, you’re getting at least the regular sized portion for each course, that you all share.
Decent taplist with good range.
Yellow Dog Domesticated Sour Wild IPA ($6.50, 16oz, 6.7%).
“Is it Hot in Here?” with Cocchi Rosa, Aperol, and Averill Creek Charme de L’ile ($14).
“The Good Life” with Dickie’s Ginger, Lemon, Lime, and Black Tea Syrup ($6, zero-proof).
“Smooth Criminal” with Cachaca 51, Odd Society Vermouth, Lemon Verbena, and Fresh Orange ($14).
First course: Veggies from the Garden ($12). Seasonal veggies sitting in bagna cauda and topped with gremolata. Bagna was bangin’! You can’t see the greyish bagna cauda underneath the veggies, but think of it as a savoury dip for veggies that (usually) has garlic and anchovies in it. Very delicious and set a high bar for the rest of the meal.
The bagna cauda trendlet I saw 1.5 years ago in Calgary of all places (eg. Charbar). More places should serve it!
Second course: Zucchini Carpaccio ($14) with stuffed zucchini blossoms, verjus and pumpkin seeds. Very tasty veggie dish. My only complaint is that there should’ve been four blossoms so each of us got one instead of having to hack them apart to share.
Third course: Showstopper Salad ($14) with housemade Farmer’s cheese and pistachio vinaigrette. Really magnificent when it hits the table. Perfect amount of dressing.
After these first three courses, I thought, “this place does veggies really well!” My mental comparisons to Black Hoof went out the window.
Fourth course: Chicken of the Sea ($16) with sea urchin pate, squid ink brioche, hazelnuts, and pear. One of their classic dishes that I hope they’re never getting rid of. Sounds of joy all around the table, even from the uni-averse person. The squid ink brioche looks like jagged lava rock or coral. *Contains no chicken*.
Closeup of the sea urchin (uni) pate. I’m usually slightly disgusted by brioche (do not like the sweetness of it), but I dove right in in this case. Totally works. Super tasty. Rich, fatty, savoury, umami, all in a schmear. Pear a lovely counterpoint.
Easing into the meats with our fifth course: A Tripe Called Quest ($17) with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and kale chips on top.
Very tender slices of tripe. I was dining with all Asians on this night, and a common refrain was, “this would go great with a bowl of rice!”
My minor nitpick: the tripe could’ve used a touch more seasoning, a richer oomph. Tripe as an ingredient almost needs it.
Sixth course: Corn Porn ($15) with cayenne butter, lime aioli, and grated Alpindon cheese.
I used to be so against corn on the cob being served in restaurants. Correction — being charged good money for something I can nuke in the microwave at home. But I’m slowly coming around to it. This dish comes off tasting like cheesy corn, which is a wonderful thing. If you’ve ever had the cheesy corn at Hog Shack in Steveston, this is a bit like that flavourwise, but more classy and nuanced.
Seventh course: Octopus ($32) with fennel, tomato, shishito peppers, crispy potatoes, and caper sherry emulsion. Octopus was very tender…
…but what stood out to me were those jagged pieces of crispy fried potatoes!
Eighth course: Spring Salmon ($33) with corn succotash, sungold tomatoes, and a thin layer of pancetta wrapped around the fish. Being very laid-back in terms of flavour, this dish was a bit of a nosedive considering the progression of the meal so far. In the context of the meal it disappointed most of us but I can see why this dish is on the menu. It would work better eaten on its own with maybe one of the lighter small places. I did enjoy it more than my friends. It’s spring salmon, so by nature the dish as a whole has to be on the lighter side.
Back on track with the ninth course: Duck Breast ($33) with split pea ragu, cherry demi glace, stewed cherries, and pickled cabbage. The cooked cherries tasted wonderful with the duck.
10th course: Belly of the Boar ($34) with apple relish and horseradish hominy grits.
Closer view of the boar. Quite tender, with a lovely colour on the outside. Who knew dill and boar would taste good together?
11th course: Have Your Cake ($10) with zucchini cake, apricot gelato, and black pepper cream. Dinner was well into its third hour, and the daylight was getting dim (hence the picture quality). Not much to complain about here. I think everyone was getting super full cuz I was the one eating clean-up on this dish and I’m not even a dessert person.
12th and final course: Ice Ice Berry ($10) with seasonal berries served with cream, almond tuille, and lime & verbena granita. Lovely lighter fresh flavour to finish the meal on.
It’s not often you get to eat EVERYTHING on the menu. We had a lot of fun and if you can afford it ($59 per person isn’t that much these days) I recommend doing it.
Everything on the whole was seasoned and prepared well. Food was casual and accessible, yet still had a good level of technique and flavours that worked. Service was well-practiced and professional. I’d come back, but instead of doing the whole menu again, I’d just pick out my faves — which surprisingly come from the lighter and more veggie-forward part of the menu: Veggies from the Garden, Chicken of the Sea, Corn Porn, and go from there.