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Mackie's Back in Town

[whitespace] Mackie's Supper Club
Christopher Gardner

Whistle While You Whisk: Chef Steven Helland is at the helm of Palo Alto's newest restaurant.

The millennium ends in a blaze of sophistication as a new supper club premieres on Palo Alto's gold coast of dining

By Christina Waters

LOW-KEY GLAMOUR, a flexible staff and one of the coziest bars in town make Mackie's Supper Club a stylish night-life haven. When we recently visited the former pizza parlor, now completely transformed, we slid into one of those low booths that lets you see and be seen, walking past a wall of vintage black-and-white photos of American jazz greats and atmospheric mirrors framed in heavy gold a la Parisian bistro. The view from our booth was great. Evening light spilled through skylights onto potted palms, vintage wooden booths and sleek banquettes.

But as for what achieves central shrine status at this hot new supper club, it's a tossup between the central exhibition kitchen counter, stacked high with lavishly large dinnerware, and the moody little bar. The bar--like the hallway entrance to the private dining rooms in the back--is hung with heavy velvet curtains, and blue light creates great atmosphere. By the time we'd raised a glass of luscious Storybook Mountain Zinfandel 1997 ($7.25), the bar was filled with a thirsty mixed generational crowd. Aretha's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" cast its spell while we tried to decide on our order.

Though equipped with its fair share of seafoods, Mackie's is unapologetically devoted to top-quality prime rib and Angus steaks, and tri-tip shows up all over this robust menu. Knowing that we were committed to red meat and plenty of it, we started things off with an appetizer of ahi tartare ($9) and sauté of wild mushrooms on polenta ($7). I'll swear the handsome stuffed swordfish adorning the opposite wall winked at me--Mackie's wears its stylishly retro decor without a trace of irony--as I sampled a forkful of Rosemary's ahi. The central mound of tuna, marinated in ginger and tamari, was surrounded by such spicy handmaidens as wasabi, vinegary pickles, salty taro chips and a dipping bowl of soy sauce. On my huge white plate, an avalanche of mixed mushrooms--absolutely delicious--engulfed a tiny crescent of oil-intensive polenta, and the whole thing was nicely strewn with fresh parsley and red pepper flakes.

Entrees repeated the sense of bold flavors and lavish presentation, a mood enhanced by our smart and attentive waiter. With Rosemary's generous portion (8 oz.) of prime roasted sirloin of tri-tip ($14) came luxurious chipotle-infused mashed potatoes, excellent green beans and a few sprigs of fresh watercress, always a fine companion for red meat. Done slightly on the rare side of medium-rare, as requested, a cascade of crimson sliced tri-tip bathed the potatoes in natural juices. Tri-tip is one of the most flavorful cuts of beef and this was a powerhouse example. My grilled tri-tip salad ($12) presented me with enough beef to satisfy an industrial-strength protein craving, as well as a huge salad of organic baby greens accompanied by smoked red onions and tomatoes. I liked both dishes, though I wished for less Stilton-mustard vinaigrette on my beef and salad.

I need to emphasize that while Rosemary and I take a back seat to no one in the carnivore department, Mackie's really does serve food for hungry men, and this would have been the perfect place to take a guy. Dean Martin was crooning persuasively as we zeroed in on a gorgeous dessert of barely sweet chocolate hazelnut torte ($5) served seductively warm. Graced with the wanton texture of an extremely light cheesecake and dusted with powdered sugar, it was alarmingly good. The lovely crisscross of crème Anglaise and raspberry puree decorating the plate announced the rebirth of dining as a visually thrilling occasion.

Mackie's is all about going out, eating well and having a good time. We'll drink to that.

Mackie's Supper Club
Address: 541 Ramona St., Palo Alto
Phone: 650/326-1446
Web: www.mackiessupperclub.com
Executive Chef: Steven Helland
Hours: Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner Sun.-Wed. 5:30-10pm and Thu.-Sat. 5:30-11pm. In addition, a limited menu served until midnight Thu.-Sat.
Entrees: $15-$26
Cuisine: Classic American bar and grill, with just a hint of between-the-wars Left Bank Paris

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From the July 1-7, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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