Monday, May 6, 2013

Overbaked Christmas at Magda's Restaurant

Magda's Restaurant on UrbanspoonA genuine Venezuelan recommended this place, and in the late evening, around 8pm, it had a few tables of South Americans, so it looked like it was authentic, or at least close enough. I can't say I've been to Venezuela, but if this is the sort of food they have, I don't know if I'd be so keen on going there just for the food.

There's lots of meat involved here and plainly presented. Portion for price is OK. For example, we had an order of Tequeños (~4" long ~3/4" thick fried white cheese sticks wrapped in wheat flour dough); at $7.99, it came out to over a dollar a piece. An order of Mixed Parrilla (steak, chorizo, pork chop, chicken breast, yucca & Venezuelan guasacaca) was $25. Initially it looked like an enormous mound of meat, but it was really a layer of meat over an enormous mound of yucca.
Considering the 49th and Fraser neighbourhood, price for what you got was just okay but not really tipping over into expensive.

An interesting option at Magda's Restaurant are their made-to-order items which you need to pre-order at least a day in advance. The selection includes a $15 Plato Navideño, the traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish. I ordered this several days in advance. No one else in our dining group was interested in trying it, but the restaurant said a single order was fine.
Sadly, it turned out horribly. Not sure what happened here, but the long delay in bringing it out was a bad sign. When it did come, I was surprised they served it at all. An order of Plato Navideño includes various things:
  • Hallaca - A mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, and olives wrapped in cornmeal dough, folded within plantain leaves, tied with strings, and boiled or steamed afterwards - This seemed okay. It's interesting to try as the cornmeal dough comes out as slightly sweet. Not much in the way of fillings, and the chunks of meat were on the tough side.
  • Roasted Pork - A single large lump, slightly less than a tennis ball in volume. Rather dry and tough, which surprised me because the grilled meat on the Mixed Parilla was decently done.
  • Chicken Salad - Very much like a potato salad, but with chicken bits. About a cupful or slightly more.
  • Ham Loaf - A traditional Venezuelan Christmas bread with ham, raisin and olive - This is thin bread dough with sliced ham, raisins, and olives rolled into it. The loaf is then cut into slices. The Plato Navideño has one thick slice. Sadly, for unclear reasons, this was horrid. Either the loaf had been over-baked, or it was re-heated. Either way, the ham on the inside was extremely dry. The bread on the outside was very brown and crusty/crispy hard; on the inside, it was dry and crumbly. Why did they even bother serving this? I think I would have preferred to be told that there was a kitchen error and it was unavailable. Sure, I'd be disappointed that my pre-order wasn't available, but I think I'm more annoyed at having to pay for a badly done ham loaf.

Desserts were OK for the price, but not particularly interesting.

  • Quesillo ($3.95) - A square of rather firm crème caramel.
  • Baba ($2.50) - Not on the menu but available that day. This turned out to be just a very small piece of light cake soaked in syrup and smothered in whipped cream. At $2.50 for the portion I really expected something much more interesting, since you can get a really decent macaron for just $2.
  • Chicha ($4.95) - "Rice style drink" - This tasted like a sweet rice pudding, but it's a thick drink, almost as thick as honey. Once the ice starts melting it becomes a bit easier to suck up the straw. Instead of dessert, I recommend this tall drink instead. It's a good portion for the price, and good enough as a dessert for two.
Another option for desserts is the 24-hour Breka Bakery and Cafe close by.

Overall, service is polite but seemed inexperienced. Paying at the till was further complicated by their having to figure out whatever software they were using. Presumably this will be smoothed out in short order.

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