Tastiness Factor: 8.5/10
Locavore Approved? YES- MacKenzie room is about as local as they get. Their menu changes so frequently that printed menus just don't cut it, hence the large chalkboard menu on the back wall. Most of their veg comes from local farms in Abbotsford, so is extremely fresh. They focus on sustainable meats such as game (I have not seen yak at many other places!) and subscribe to the "nose-to-tail" philosophy (we literally got a dish of pig's tails!).
Mackenzie Room is among the new hot spots to have popped up in our great food city this year. Hubby and I had already managed to check many of the others off our list including Big Trouble and Supermarine which were both quite impressive, so we were looking forward to another newbie.
Mackenzie Room is located in Chinatown where you might not want to find yourself alone at night (do not let the cab ride there scare you off!). On the plus side, it is quite near the Vancouver Urban Winery which is a great spot for a pre-dinner drink.
When we arrived at the restaurant at around 8pm, the small room was packed to the rafters and we were ushered over to the bar to squeeze in for a drink while we waited for our table. The decor is fairly rustic, with lots of wood furniture and minimalistic fixtures which nicely jives with their farm-to-table/nose to tail philosophy.
I feel the need to give a special nod to our phenomenal server for the evening, who stood out as one of the best I have had in some time. He knew the dishes inside and out and took time to explain every single element including where each main ingredient was from. Despite the busy room, he gladly answered all of our questions and stayed around to chat for a while at intervals. AWESOME!!!!!! Meanwhile, the co-owner made her way around the room, filling water glasses and ensuring everything was running smoothly, despite obviously being quite advanced in her pregnancy. She made it look easy, with a big smile all night long.
The menu items at Mackenzie Room are constantly changing depending on seasonality of ingredients, and all dishes available on any particular night are found on a large chalkboard at the back of the restaurant. There are about 5 each of small and larger plates, and a few desserts. Sharing is encouraged. Drinks are also found on the board, including a number of local beers and a small selection of cocktails.
The easiest option, perfect for the indecisive diner, is the "I Want It All". For $47 each, you get all menu items that night to share (minimum of 4 people). Our server also told us that there were a few dishes available that would appear of the next week's new menu so added a few of those as well (at an extra cost). The menu included some very unique proteins (yak, pig cheek, pig tail), as well as a nice selection of seasonal vegetable dishes. The only issue we had with the food was the quantity. For the price we paid (close to $200 just for Hubby and I, with a few drinks each), Hubby and the other men at the table were still very hungry. Although there were quite a number of dishes that arrived at our table, it really was not all that much when they were divided by the 6 of us (only a few bites of each at most).
Here are the dishes we shared on our "We Want It All" menu:
Veggies from the Garden- bagna caudal, rye bread
The Showstopper (my favourite!)- legumes, farmer's cheese, pistachio (the cheese on the dish is actually made using the buttermilk whey on the rockfish dish below. Nothing gets wasted here!)
Shrimp ceviche with edible flowers
ByCatch Crudo- rockfish, buttermilk whey (our server explained that it is called "ByCatch" because rockfish is considered an inferior fish that is usually hauled up incidentally when fishing for halibut or salmon. But here, the "waste not, want not" philosophy made them get creative and make the rockfish shine in this simple crudo).
Don't Talk Back- yak tartar, chicken skin, foie gras
Kiss My Reuben- beef tongue, horseradish cream
Mexican street corn- mayo, cheese, lime
Roger Rabbit Cacciatore- parsnip puree, wild mushrooms, peas
Octopus- sofrito, pea shoots, pickled onion
Breakfast for Dinner- pig cheeks, savoury oatmeal, salsa verde
Double Rainbow- whole trout, chorizo, walla wall onion, fennel
A Girl and her Goat- cornmeal cake, honey lavender ice cream, poached fruit
Homemade pie and ice cream
Undeniably, the Mackenzie Room has a lot going for it- a genuine eat-local and nose-to-tail philosophy, passionate staff and a pleasant environment in an up-and-coming part of town. The food was, for the most part, well-executed but I fear that the price point relative to portion size may be a deterrence to some. With a bit more time under their belt, I have confidence that they will strike a good balance of quality, quantity and price point so that diners will be lining up to come back for more. Here's hoping for a bright future ahead for The Mackenzie Room!