I found myself here with a handful of my fellow food bloggers, if it hadn’t been for the invite, I don’t think I would know to visit this newly opened restaurant. Lucky, many of them cover what’s new and happening in the food world, so I get to stay on the pulse when in their company.
Located by the water, in a less trafficked area, you wouldn’t find “M8” unless you knew where it look. As a result the restaurants that have held this space before, have come and gone in rotation. “M8” will have a challenge before them in keeping their tables full, outside of summer. During the warmer months (like it was the case today) the patio was seated with those looking for a cool glass by the marina waters. But those in the dining area were here to try their Asian fusion share plates.
The restaurant’s decor was certainly a draw in. A white marble bar with a green leafy awning serves house made cocktails and recreates the classics. Solid wooden tables offer seating for larger groups. And booths around the corner gave diners more intimacy. They were upholstered in a teal crushed velvet, set before a mirrored backslash that mimicked a city’s skyline with peaks and dips.
Our group sat under the most interesting art piece. Under the painting of a noble from ancient China, seated in a throne with overflowing robes. A radish covering his face and a celery stalk gripped in his hand like a sceptre.
Given the mixed reviews we read going into this, we played it safe, ordering a handful of dishes to see if we liked it before adding on a few more, when we decided we wanted to more fully assess their offerings. But first trying to order. The menu was aesthetically faded. Parts missing print for an intentional aged look. However we still managed to order off of it, selecting dishes that were more unique and distinct to them. A bridging of Asian flavours with French techniques.
Our group was the most excited for the “Crispy chicken skin”, that also ended up being our favourite of the night. But it set up the evening so strong, that everything after it was almost disappointed by comparison. That to come wasn’t as strong in their fusion flare. This was deep fried chicken skin seasoned in chilli oil, salty egg yolk, mustard seeds, and a balsamic glaze. The chicken skin was done right, crunchy with a snap that was like a thick cut chip. Each piece delicious and decadent with the yolk, but the whole order would be a lot for one person. And at $9 a plate this would be worth revisiting. I will be listing the rest of the prices as well, given the value in their appetizers, especially compared to the entrees. More on that later.
The Shimeiji mushroom tempura was a new way to enjoy the airy and crispy batter of tempura. A great presentation and a fun way to share. The mushrooms peeled off into sections and you were able to share it as such. Enjoyed with a burnt lemon aioli for dipping, a warm kale salad, and wakame. For $8 this is another one I would recommend.
We weren’t unanimously agreed on the “Crispy pork belly” with taro root, and pork jus. But at $7 a plate for two decent sized chunks we really couldn’t complain. The meat was slightly dry, furthered by the dry taro paste. Whereas with pork belly you want the gummy fat and a thick and sticky jus to coat it.
The “Beef cheeks” went for $11, ad one of the premium priced appetizers, comparatively. Served with aged blacked vinegar, Sichuan peanut, and lotus root. It had a very dark and and deep rich tone to it, followed by the tingling numbness from the Sichuan pepper corn.
The “Lamb belly” was the other $11 appetizer. Smoked lamb belly, mint salsa verde, and fennel carrot. This one was brighter, and rich in spice and zest. The meat was also better prepared.
“Beef and broccoli” is a Chinese classic, and “M8” elevated it with their take. 8oz ribeye steak, sautéed broccoli, fingerling potato, and beef jus. This was actually our second take on the plate. Where we asked for medium rare, the server took down “medium well”. The result, dry, overcooked steak. When corrected, the kitchen happily made us a better serving with pink centres. But you would think they would question the server and us as diners on our request for over cooked steak? Either way our second go was tender, but no better off given how salty it was. It was also flat in flavour with one note throughout. The broccoli was better prepared, but it too had too much soy. And at $38 a plate, you expect this closer to perfect.
The “Tagliatelle bolognese” was an interesting read off the menu. Asian fusion giving us something Italian in origin. Beef and pork ragu, shiitake mushroom, with a trio soy sauce. It ate like a great pasta dish, with the familiar salty and sweet pairing found in Chinese cuisine. The sweetness of the mushroom also offered a twist to the classic tomato based bolognese. But as a whole, I found the serving needed more seasoning.
I liked one half of the “Crispy duck” offering. Aged duck breast, confit duck leg, soybean, and preserved mustard greens. The duck breast was lean and juicy, not perfect but not bad compared to the dry confit, made ashy with the side of gritty beans. The Sichuan pepper made a sneak peak here too, but its mild numbing effect didn’t add anything to the mix.
The “Tiger prawn bucatini” was bland. I didn’t taste any of the pesto, and the corn only added marginal sweetness. The prawns were the best part with the most flavour, but there weren’t enough of them to go around when sharing.
We considered dessert, but after hearing it was either a slice of green tea ice cream cake or regular creme brûlée, we deemed both not exciting enough and passed. It would have been nice to have had their fusion approach to the dessert menu as well. Although their website does claims they are not fusion. I feel they should embrace it, to help market their food and make it more approachable.
Worth noting is their individual washrooms. A different tropical theme for both plastered in paper. Cheetahs on the prowl and banana leafs in full fan formation.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I wouldn’t necessarily make the effort to come back, given the overall average meal. But for a different patio idea, and a creative appetizer menu with good value, they are worth checking out. Fine dining details and dressing puts a twist on Taiwanese street food. Don’t deny your cravings.
1010 Beach Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6E 1T7