Farm to Table restaurants are all the rage, but it’s rare to find one where fresh ingredients are paired with culinary curiosity to devise unique and exciting new flavours.
The Mackenzie Room is one such shining example where the chef takes a proactive approach in shaping how all the flavours in a dish come together to create a memorable dining experience. The restaurant is participating in the upcoming Travelzoo Restaurant Month, starting April 1st, a virtual food festival featuring special prix fixe menu deals at Canada’s top restaurants. They have partnered with Mijune Pak, “Top Chef Canada” judge and Travelzoo’s new Global Food Correspondent, to host this epicurean event for the month of April. Make sure to make your reservation today to enjoy a 3-course, $70 Prix Fixe menu at The Mackenzie Room, as the restaurant gets quite busy even on weekday evenings.
The Mackenzie Room is the brainchild of Chef Sean Reeve and his partners Andrew Jameson and his wife, Katie. Each felt that they were at a point in their lives where they wanted to start something of their own and thus The Mackenzie Room was born. The team were all born in British Columbia so local knowledge made it an easy choice for them to start the business in Vancouver. Sean chose to return to Vancouver after having worked the international culinary circuit in Italy, Spain, France, Montreal and Toronto, because of the abundance of fresh ingredients available from farms all year round due to shorter winters freezing out the crops.
Andrew’s wife Katie took the lead on designing the cozy interior space. Bright blue chairs with uniquely patterned seats contrast against the exposed walls. A fully stocked bar lines one side of the restaurant where a bartender prepares for dinner service. The interiors eloquently blend the industrial and rustic vibes of the up and coming Railtown neighbourhood with the friendly and intimate dining experience. Tables are placed close together for a cozy setup, with guests peering over at each other’s tables to decide on their next dish.
We had the pleasure of visiting before the dinner rush to experience the restaurant’s set menu titled ‘Just The Two Of Us’. In our opinion, the five-course meal will be plenty and you will want to invest ample time to savour the taste and thoughtfulness behind each dish, so we suggest making it a date night occasion.
Instead of the usual route of starting off with a small salad, the menu invites you to dive into a sea of flavour with the first dish - Chicken of the Sea. Those who have frequented The Mackenzie Room fondly refer to it as the signature dish, and it is likely due to how the dish gives sea urchin a more approachable flavour so more people can enjoy its taste.
Sean shares that the sea urchin is ‘done in a way that is approachable to some people that find the flavour of sea urchin too potent. We played with the idea of making it into a parfait or mousse. We found the flavour to be similar to a chicken liver mousse, so then we though of the different ingredients that go into a chicken liver mousse; there’s always a fruit component, we added some nuttiness with hazelnuts and charred onion nectar for a bit of bitterness.’
The other highlight of the dish is the brioche. Instead of a normal brioche the team created a cuttle ink brioche, which ties in with the ocean flavours. Hazelnut butter, candied lemon peel and pear tossed with nori add additional taste layers to this inventive dish. Sean says of this creation that it ‘showcases the uni in a way that you honour it, but it’s also done in a way that, if you are intimidated by it, it is approachable.’
We can confirm that this approach works, as we usually do not eat sea urchin, but heartily and eagerly cleared the plate that evening.
Next up was Pumping Iron - a refreshing take on ravioli, which usually delivers a more intense flavour profile. The abundance of greens piled high on the dish along with sunchokes and a myer lemon beurre blanc sauce rounds out the flavours of the dish, delivering a surprising take on the pasta.
Dirty Diana is a great shared main because a meat like the bison is best experienced in smaller portions with its stronger, gamey flavours. The supporting elements of the dish are also very well done, from the broccoli to the tater tots to the cognac sauce, this dish exemplifies how sometimes ‘more is more’ is the better way to go.
If you have made it this far on the menu, we encourage you to leave space for the tasty dessert coming up.
We wrapped our meal with a classic creme caramel paired with innovative ingredients - lemon, coronation grapes and fennel biscotti. When we say the menu emphasizes takes a ‘more is more’ approach, it is how the team pairs flavours on opposite ends of the spectrum to discover something entirely new. Lemon and the tanginess of preserved coronation grapes change up the otherwise entirely sweet profile of a creme caramel to make it more interesting. A lemon-based pasta sauce and crispy greens on ravioli adds a new layer of texture and flavour to a usually heavier dish bathed in a cream sauce.
In summary, The Mackenzie Room is the place to go when you want to shake up what you thought you knew about flavours and how things are supposed to taste; we guarantee you will find a new flavour or texture pairing you did not expect.
Discover all the restaurants taking part in the Travelzoo Restaurant Month here.