Playing With Food at the Mackenzie Room

The Mackenzie Room in Vancouver’s Railtown is notable for the casual fine dining experience they offer, and their playful Pacific Northwest menu that is ever changing. Their space on Powell Street is across from Oppenheimer Park. It’s a neighbourhood with a few other illustrious restaurants as well.

Mackenzie Room exterior sunlight

At the Mackenzie Room, new dishes grace the menu every few weeks. So, every three to four months, you’ll see a whole new menu (besides the first two items which are staples). Before launching, each new dish goes through a period of testing and fine-tuning in the kitchen.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Arguably, the most important decision made regarding a new dish at the Mackenzie Room is the name. Take a look at The Mackenzie Room’s menu. Open their website right now, or hop on the ‘Gram. In the restaurant, the menu is hand written on a chalkboard, and if you’re looking online, you will find a photograph of that chalkboard. In the restaurant, they have helpfully placed a lamp on a nearby table so you can see the names of menu items and the prices as the sunlight in the room slowly fades. Each dish at the Mackenzie Room has a playful name. The lamb tartare, for example, is Weekend at Bernaise. On the night of my visit, there was a brand new mushroom dish, The Last of Us, with maitake and king oyster mushrooms in a bright, acidic calamansi vinaigrette.

The Last of Us mushroom dish Mackenzie Room

The Mackenzie Room’s Playful Food

The first two menu items are always the same. The first is the Showstopper Salad with legumes, salsa verde, pistachio, and farmers cheese. The second is arguably Executive Chef Sean Reeve’s most famous dish: the Chicken of the Sea. He was inspired by a foie gras parfait when he developed this sea urchin dish. The urchin is poached in brown butter and then pureed smooth. The parfait is topped with hazelnuts and is served with pickled poached pears, burnt onion jam, and toasted squid ink brioche. The dish could easily be mistaken for a dessert but the mineral, ocean flavours are unmistakably savoury.

Chicken of the Sea

Chef Sean, born in Vancouver and raised in Toronto, is the Executive Chef behind the Mackenzie Room. His team, Collective Hospitality, also operate Say Mercy, B-Side, and Collective Goods. The menu decisions at the Mackenzie Room are now being guided by Chef de Cuisine Josh Stel, whose French training has influenced the newer menu items. The Mackenzie Room works directly with local producers, utilizing the long growing season in BC. The team works within the restrictions created by seasonality, availability, and cost. This is the benefit of the restaurant being a “room”. Mackenzie is not a trattoria or an izakaya or bistro.

Trout, Kraut, Sprout exemplifies the Mackenzie Room’s style with its use of salsify purée, both steamed and preserved brussel sprouts, French trout caviar and a creamy spiced coconut sauce. The dish is playful, pretty, and texturally pleasing.

The dessert I tried deserves a shout out, not just because it was delicious but because it also had a great name, God’s Flan. It is a condensed milk flan with a rich texture, that is topped with blood orange, and house-made shortbread cut to look like orange slices.

A Patina of the Past

Interior Mackenzie Room

The restaurant space was previously a diner and an office, which is why there are still two doors. The team opened up the space, and the patina on the wall behind the bar inspired the restaurant’s decor. It feels comfortable and lived in. There is a thick layer of clear lacquer on the refinished tables, showcasing rather than disguising their imperfections.

Have It All

On the evening I visited, I overheard a guest at a nearby table explain to her friends how they should order. She excitedly told them that they could “Have it All”. At the Mackenzie Room this means ordering the whole menu, ideally, as a group of four. You can also order the “Just the Two of Us” menu for a party of two. The team is, of course, accommodating of all sized parties. They will gladly customize the menu based on party number as well as dietary restrictions, as much as possible. That said, the ideal way to experience the menu is to come as a party of four. So grab three friends and check out the Mackenzie Room on Powell at Dunlevy. They’re open Monday to Sunday at 5:30 pm.

 

About Bronwyn Lewis 56 Articles
Bronwyn Lewis is a food writer for the Vancouver Guardian. She’s also a screenwriter and producer. Born and raised in Vancouver, Bronwyn lives in Mount Pleasant and you can follow all her food adventures on Instagram.