The 124 Street area in Edmonton is one to watch, given the number of exciting restaurant happenings over the past three months, something that will continue into the new year. The Makk on 124, Chef Simin’s first solo offering, opened in November, injecting life back into the space vacated by D’Lish. Canteen, lovingly known as Red Ox Inn’s “little sister”, opened in mid-December. And of course, the biggest news of all – Chef Blair Lebsack’s Rge Rd is set to open in the spring of 2013 in place of The Blue Pear.
Last week, May and I decided to meet up at The Makk for a pre-Christmas dinner. Neither of us had been to the restaurant yet, so I wasn’t able to gauge how busy it might be, and made a reservation just to be safe. It turned out to be a rather quiet evening, with just a few other tables by the end of our visit, which ended up being a blessing, given the last-minute shopping frenzy I had participated in that morning.
A post-Christmas shopping cocktail
The interior remains similar to D’Lish, with the eye-catching tiled bar anchoring the space, but the palette has changed to a rich grey and red. The room has a very sophisticated feel, suitable for a drink with the girls or date night.
We perused the menu, which included the selections available at lunch. Many of the daytime items caught my eye (warm tomato tartlet, beef cheek), which I wished were available on the dinner menu. May and I ended up ordering the smoked duck breast ($29) and lamb loin ($30) to share.
I have to commend Chef Simin on his excellent memory. Before our meal he came out of the kitchen to say he remembered cooking for my family two years ago when we had dined at ZINC to celebrate my parents’ anniversary. He had said he was busy in the kitchen, otherwise, would have offered well wishes personally. Particularly because I had never met Chef Simin in person, I was astounded that he remembered our meal!
The duck was our favourite of the two plates. The fat had been rendered out, and though the skin wasn’t crisp, the meat was cooked to a perfect medium, retaining much of its moisture. We also enjoyed the sweet cassis jus.
Smoked duck breast
Although the lamb had been prepared to its promised medium rare, both May and I weren’t fans of its thyme bread casing – the crunchy texture distracted from the lamb, if anything.
What most impressed us about both dishes were the sides. Instead of the standard mashed potato and roasted vegetables, we found variations on these preparations that rivalled the proteins on the plates. The macaire potatoes served alongside the duck were tasty potato cakes, while the gnocchi accompaniment to the lamb were light and fluffy. Similarly, the ratatouille was a burst of summer next to the lamb, while the braised red cabbage underneath the duck made me rethink a dish I’ve typically avoided – this version was sweet and almost melted away on my tongue.
We were pretty content with our meal (knowing the Christmas indulgence to come), but Chef Simin wanted to end our experience on a sweet note, and generously provided us with a sampling of dessert. I was glad he did, because otherwise, we would have left without trying the chocolate flourless cake. Served with a red coulis and sorbet, it was even more rich and dense than we expected. Packed with chocolate flavour, it was a memorable way to finish the evening.
Chocolate flourless cake
Service was attentive but friendly, professional without being too formal. As a result, I’d feel comfortable returning to The Makk again for dinner, lunch, or brunch. It’s a great addition to the burgeoning neighbourhood, and a welcome one to Edmonton’s food scene overall.
10418 124 Street