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Monday 16 May 2011

Mrkt Edmonton - Soup and sandwiches inside a barrel?

Rating 7.5/10
After opening for a year as a lunch spot downtown for soup and sandwiches, Mrkt recently expanded to do dinner as well, with some of the lunch items expanded into the dinner menu.  So after hearing some positive things about Mrkt, we drop on by for lunch.  After feeding the parking meters as we saw the dreaded yellow vested traffic ticking cop a block away, we head off to search for Mrkt so we could feed our tummies. 

The signage for Mrkt is as understated as its name, so thankfully, they have placed a blackboard with their daily specials on the side walk or we would have missed it entirely.  Set upstairs into what used to be a travel agency, the renovations have transformed it - you feel like you're walking into a sunlit upended oak barrel, or some golden wood interior of a boat, with a wall to ceiling blackboard of specials at the end of the barrel shaped room.  Decor is funky with bright red water glasses, chrome seating, what appears to be a large log glowing with embers disguised as a light on the left side and shiny round brass drop lights on the right.  A tinny blue bar and cash register counter is set into the far left.  Service is polite and minimal during the lunch hour as its cafeteria style - order, pay, grab a ticket and pick up your food when it shows up on the counter with your # affixed to it 10-15min later.

the FOOD
With staff that have migrated over from Soul Soup, Mrkt is known for having similar hearty and satisfying soups.  The special was Jerk chicken with yam and mint - Chicken broth was thickened slightly with some pureed yam, seasoned with some Cajun spices and a hint of mint.  I was hoping for a bit more yam in my soup - I like my soups thicker and less watery, but the small amount of pureed yam added a bit of sweetness that balanced out the heat building up from the spices.  A small breath of mint is found at the end of the palate, but you really have to look for it.  Unfortunately, the spicy peppers used in the soup overwhelm the balance of the complex flavors after a few bites and the soup becomes one-noted very quickly.  If they pulled back on the Cajun spices and added in a dollop more pureed yam, this would have been quite an excellent soup.

Braised Beef Sandwich Tender pulled Alberta beef braised in a tangy spicy thin ketchupy-tomato sauce is served on a freshly baked flour dusted baguette spread with a generous blob of pesto and sweet caramelized onions mixed into the meat mixture.  The pulled braised beef is moist and falls aprt quite readily, so you have to eat quickly before the braising sauce completely soaks through the bun. I'd ask for extra napkins, as the single napkin provided isn't usually enough - the sandwich drips all over the place.  Strangely, the sandwich is served with a handful of ruffled potato chips - with Mrkt stating they use locally sourced ingredients and striving to set themselves apart, frying up their own potato crisps or potato straws would seem more in line with their philosophy than potato chips from a non-descript commercial package.

Spicy calabrese and prosciutto sandwich Layers of spicy and slightly waxy textured calabrese marry well with paper thin layers of slightly sweet and rich prosciutto that sit atop a pile of shredded smoked Gouda.  A small bit of roasted tomato, arugula and spring greens add some moisture, texture and tartness that balances out all the salty savory cured meats, all sandwiched inside a slightly chewy flour dusted  bun.  The smoked Gouda is a lost as the cured meats overpower it - I initially thought they had substituted mozzarella.  A tasty and satisfying sandwich.  It didn't pair well with the jerk yam and mint soup - too many spicy notes = only heat, and the sandwich could be improved with an additional acidic element - more tomatoes, or a squirt of lemon based vinaigrette on the greens to give it a refreshing punch it was missing.

Concept is good, but still requires a bit of work for Mrkt to achieve the overall feel, taste and philosophy it aspires to.  There is a small winelist, but I echo others in that the list should include more local vintages and local breweries. And along the same vein, use and identify that they use local cheese, meats, breads, produce etc to attract the type of crowd that they want.  If you claim its locally sourced, great - but from where? Which local businesses am I supporting when I'm paying a premium for the fare at Mrkt ?  Just make sure you put plenty of coinage into the meter when you stop by unless you're the lucky few that work downtown and can saunter down to Mrkt - its not a grab and go place, orders typically take 10-15min minimum for a sandwich order.

Address 10542 Jasper Avenue Northwest, Edmonton, AB
Phone (780) 757-6758 
Hours Open Tues-Saturday for lunch and dinner
Mrkt on Urbanspoon


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