One restaurant group's misfortune turns into another's opportunity. It did not take long after Jeff Stinco-backed Shinji's mysterious folding before its coveted Little Burgundy locale was boarded up in preparation of a new tenant.
Posters of neighboring Grinder's mustached "mascot" and a fish logo seemed to indicate the meat-centric brand – also behind its own butcher shop and Hachoir – was testing the waters of the seafood business.
Opened just over two months ago, Makro boasts a spacious dining room featuring wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows and a central wrap-around bar. Much like grinder, the setting is hip; although the exposed wooden beams, light earth tones and scattered fish/oyster displays give off more of a classical, Mediterranean feel.
A mature, semi-quiet dinner crowd at eight PM was slowly replaced by a younger, louder horde as the night progressed. Lights dimmed down while the music turned louder, shifting the focus to the bar; where a coterie of men were trying their luck with the primarily-female clientele.
The newcomer's strictly-seafood menu does not subscribe to any particular regional cuisine, although international – Latin and Asian – touches are noticeable throughout. Also on offer is a concise list of signature cocktails with marine-themed names.
A bright, refreshing concoction of Bombay Sapphire East gin and kaffir lime syrup played the perfect opener for what was yet to come.
This "ceviche" balanced citrusy flavours with mild jalapeno and crunchy fennel; alas the kumquat's sweetness overpowered the mollusc.
Crispy bite-sized "crackers" were topped with the tasty fish mixture; again though, the whole thing was masked by a spicy/sugary drizzle.
This dish was a beast! Almost impossible to finish and high priced, it featured popping seafood, chorizo and a nice addition of breadcrumbs.
Tender and beautifully-charred, these octopus arms were complete with a squirt of lemon. The chimichurri was superfluous here and the dish was lukewarm when received.
A pair of doughnuts with an oozing blueberry jam/cream cheese filling were a little dense for my taste. I was also looking for a teeny inkling of grease; the dough was dry-ish.
tagged: ORIGINAL DRINKS
This is where amateur hour kicked in. A request to change our table upon walking in took over ten minutes before being granted. Next up, our waiter was being borderline snappy and impatient when asked a few questions about the menu – excuse ME for having a breastfeeding friend with dietary restrictions!
Finally, our side dishes never even made an appearance. At this point, I wasn't entirely sure if the two drinks missing from my bill were waived as a gesture of pardon or merely forgotten as well.
tagged: WHY THE ATTITUDE?
Between the Grinder group's track record, the prime location and the buzzy chef brought in (Hvor's S'Arto Chartier Otis), Makro seems destined for success. And while not everything these guys touch turns to gold – remember Lea anyone? – their latest venture sticks closer to their tried, tested and true formula.
Personally, I thought the food showed promise; but it did not let the focal ingredient – the seafood – speak for itself due to heavy-handed saucing and dressing. Add to that the paltry service, and I'm not exactly enthused to dive back in. To be fair, the place is spanking new and deserves a chance to find its rhythm.
With its expanded collection and upcoming projects – a basement bar called King Crab and more in the works – the group is slowly solidifying its hold on this stretch of Notre-Dame Street West.
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $50
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.