June 13, 2013

MAR: Coastal Mexican In Decatur

I finally got around to checking out MAR, the new coastal-Mexican restaurant and tequila bar in the spot that once housed Feast on East Howard Ave in Decatur. Billed as an "innovative fusion of Spanish & Mexican authentic fare," MAR is designed to make you feel as if you are dining at the beach on a coastal Mexican getaway. The new space feels and looks great, a combo of retro and modern-beach chic with weathered wood and sea-blue tones adorning the space.
 
The menu at Mar features several distinct sections including small plate starters; a cold bar featuring cebiches and raw shellfish; a selection of tacos; and a good number of entrĂ©e-sized offerings. We started with cocktails including the diabalito pictured above that features house-infused tequila with blood orange sour, jalapeno, and chili-spiked-salt rim. It's spicy. Almost too much so. With the cocktails we ordered some chips and salsa while we looked over the menu. No picture, but it was a sad basket of tortilla chips if there ever was one. White corn chips that could have come out of any non-descript bag at your local supermarket. And, they were stale. The sad chips and salsa was, unfortunately, a harbinger of things to come.
We started with a couple of choices from the Cold Bar, including the pickled oysters above. This presentation left me scratching my head a bit. It was sloppy, as you can see (sorry for blurry pic), and this may just be my personal preference, but I like my oysters served in a shell, not just strewn across an otherwise unadorned white plate. And, most problematic of all, the oysters were room temperature. Don't know about you, but I like my pickled and raw oysters ice cold. This dish just didn't work for me; any sense of pickling was overwhelmed by heat from the chili, and the fact that the oysters weren't cold made for a rather unappealing mouthful of disjointed flavors and textures.
Also from the cold bar: Tuna tartare with pickled jicama, mango, and black sesame seeds. This might have been good if not for the mayonnaise which coated everything and left a lingering taste of oily mayo above all else. No reason to coat your tuna and mango in mayo; just let it speak for itself. Unfortunately, things did not get much better from here...
Behold the $7.00 skirt steak taco. Yep, that's it. Skirt steak, nopales herb salad, and an ancho vinagrette. What's that, you want to order a side item with your taco? Sure, you can get the roasted (and burnt!) creamed corn for $6.00 (wanting something along with our tacos we ordered the sides off the menu not knowing what they cost as prices aren't listed and we didn't bother to ask).
The pork confit taco with chipotle coconut cream, black bean puree, pineapple-piquillo salad. This taco is only $6.00! Unfortunately, this missed for me as well. Flavorless pork (I got no sense of confit here) and the cloying sweetness from the coconut and pineapple just didn't work. The mix of flavors became muddled, and served blind, I wouldn't have known what it was I was eating.

This first experience at Mar was really underwhelming. I will say the wait staff was attentive, friendly, and knowledgeable, and the space looks great. However, the obvious misses in execution of dishes, coupled with some questionable pricing leaves me scratching my head. What are we trying to accomplish here? I'm left wondering who thinks that paying $13 for a taco and a side of creamed burnt corn makes any sense. There are taquerias all over town where I can get better tacos than these, and I mean way better tacos, for half the price. I just don't get the price point, nor do I get dropping one taco on a plate as presentation in this type of setting. Perhaps, if everything tasted great, I'd feel differently, but it didn't. Plus, the fact that 3 cocktails and the dishes you see above (sans the two not-pictured sides) set two of us back $100 with tip doesn't make me want to rush back for another visit. Sorry, just calling it like I see it.

MAR on Urbanspoon

June 10, 2013

Random Food & Wine Stuff

Nothing too specific this week, been too busy for much of anything too serious with food and wine.
Peruvian-style whole grilled chicken on the BGE. I follow Kenji's recipe from Serious Eats. Remove the backbone, flatten the bird out, rub with spices overnight, grill over indirect heat, then crisp the skin quickly on high, direct heat. Tasty, tasty, bird. My new favorite way to cook chicken.
 
Another idea from Kenji is the skillet-broiler method for Neapolitan pizza. My new favorite to make pizza at home. Cold-rise 00 dough for 72 hours, then knead it a bit, cook in a smoking hot skillet, top with sauce, cheese, etc. and fire under your oven broiler until blackened in spots. Delicious. The pie above was bacon and caramelized Vidalia onions.

Also got together recently with the wine wonks for some wine and food debauchery that including drinking wines that are way above my pay grade. Unfortunately, the white Burgundy above was prematurely oxidized. Yep, that's no fun. But, there were lots of other great wines, food, and company.