Valentine’s Day was last Thursday – probably one of the busiest times of the year for restaurants. Y & I have never actually understood the appeal of dining out on the actual February 14th – what is so romantic about fighting for food and service with many other couples at a crowded and noisy restaurant?! However, such occasions really make me appreciate restaurants that accept reservations. Apparently some couples failed to show up for their reservations at various local restaurants on Valentine’s Day, the day which reservations at good restaurants are so difficult to get! That is just plain rude and inconsiderate! If you make a reservation, show up people!
Y & I actually follow the Japanese tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day and White Day instead, meaning that I’ll give Y a present on Valentine’s, and he only has to give me a present on White day. In Japan, a Valentine’s present usually consists of chocolates.
In Japan, the Valentine’s Day tradition is for girls and women to give gifts (usually chocolate or cookies) to the boyfriends, husbands, fathers, teachers, bosses, co-workers, guys they pass on the street…no, wait, it’s not quite that extreme. But the concept of “giri-choco”, or giving chocolates out of duty rather than love is common though not something most women really feel like doing. If the gift is to be seen as really heartfelt, it needs to be handmade. So department stores will do a brisk trade in the various ingredients needed to make chocolate confectionaries. With all the romantic hype in stores and the media, as well as the pressure of giri-choco, a guy who gets no chocolates on Valentine’s Day is entitled to feel like something is seriously wrong with not just his social life but also his workplace.
A lot of websites say that White Day was invented by a marshmallow company in the ’60s as a way to increase sales.
Last year, I got him truffles from Eve’s Chocolatier at Uptown. They were pretty little pieces but this year I decided to go for homemade double chocolate chip cookies. I am SO not a baker, I can barely follow recipes with more than five ingredients! However, the cookies did turn out pretty… edible. I am pretty proud of myself. Ahaha.
On White Day (March 14th), Y typically makes pie because it is pie day! (*insert Mathie joke)
So guys, if you ever forget about Valentine’s Day, just tell your partner that you are following the Japanese tradition. Roses will be so much cheaper in March! ;)
Undeniably though, Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to head out to somewhere fancier for a celebration. After reading tweets about MPC Public by Uptown 21, I was really excited to try it! Y was supposed to pick the restaurant for our belated Valentine’s dinner but I
demanded requested that we go check out Public. I’m not bossy, I’m j-j-just… okay, maybe just a little. He can pick the next one!
Maple: Hello, can I make a reservation for two?
Maple: Uhm… I have no idea where your restaurant is…
It was really hard to find!! The only signage is the mini chalk board pressed against their glass window. We circled this plaza twice before deciding to just park randomly and search in the vicinity. It is actually almost beside Krypreos, another place I want to try.
I love the woody clean and almost zen-like ambiance. Not a huge place with only five tables available. Reservations highly recommended and please remember to show up!
I appreciated how the tables are spaced appropriately apart despite the limited room. Each table has its own little hanging lamp, sweet! It makes taking food photos so much easier than all the other romantic but insanely dim restaurants! Y said that probably other than me, no one really cares about whether their light will help with photo-taking. Hmmph. Seriously, I was so happy about the light.
Their administrative desk.
MamaPapa Catering Co. started out cooking for only private functions, that is probably why they called this restaurant public. Public’s atmosphere actually made me feel like I was having dinner at someone’s home instead of a restaurant. I like it.
Plates were saucer-like and mismatched. Colourful napkins added a light flirty vibe.
This has got to be the most adorable water jug ever.
On the Table for Maple:
- Shrimp ($12)
- Chicken ($10)
- Pork belly ($10)
- Duck confit & Pork hock ($12)
- Crab salad ($7)
- Sauteed kale ($8)
I love tapas. It allows you to try a whole variety of proteins & flavours.
Brown butter sauteed gulf shrimp with piment d’espelette
Shrimps were extremely succulent, buttery smooth but not at all greasy. Y dislikes whole chunks of garlic on its own so lucky me, I ate ’em all.
Fried chicken with slaw and house hot sauce
I am not a fried chicken person, or a fried anything person actually. I cannot seem to appreciate fried foods as I feel like something fresh loses so much of its natural flavour when fried. Everything will end up tasting like a ball of dough and oil! Despite that, I did enjoy the fried chicken and Y, who has much more fried chicken experience, said it was absolutely quality fried chicken.
It was very crunchy and crisp on the outside but still tender and smooth on the inside.
Definitely my favourite dish of the night. The pork was a perfect proportion of fatty parts, crispy skin and a teeny amount of lean meat. C’mon, pork belly is appreciated for the layers of blubber! The lefse soaked up some grease from the pork and in the same bite, there were so many different textures – crispy pork skin, blubbery pork fat, chewy dough, plus a little hint of spice and creaminess from the cumin yoghurt. Wow, I loved it!
They thoughtfully gave us clean plates after 3 dishes.
Pulled duck confit and smoked pork hock white bean cassoulet with pickled asparagus
I forgot that the asparagus were pickled so on the first bite, my tastebuds were shocked by how sour it was! Luckily, it was only the asparagus; the remaining dish was mellow and comforting. The starchy bean base was slightly too heavy for tapas though. Since the portions were generous, Y & I were significantly filled up by this dish. The duck and pork had a very slight hint of smokiness, not too distinct. I told Y that this will be a dish that I would gladly order for an entree. The flavours were really charming and rustic, but slightly less adventurous than the other dishes.
Snow crab salad on crostini with caper berries and onion crisps
Y did not like this dish as much but I did. I thought the crab salad was refreshing as compared to the bean cassoulet. It was a brilliant contrasting texture with the crunchy, sharp, crisp crostini and onion crisps, together with the slightly mushy-ish crab salad. Upon first bite, this dish may not seem as spectacular as the previous ones. However, each bite kinda grew on me. The crab salad was light and not overly drenched in sauce.
We were both 210% full at this point. Greedy us regretted on how we should have ordered three dishes to start before adding more orders as the dinner progressed. There was absolutely no room for dessert, what a huge pity.
Our last dish was kale, thankfully. Something green to end off the meal.
Sauteed kale with tahini dressing and toasted walnuts, topped with Macedonian feta and hickory sticks
Oddly, very oddly, the kale was overly-salted. The feta itself was salty enough but the kale was just way too salty. We could not finish even a quarter of it and left it sitting on the table. Our server kindly offered a new dish to replace this but we were simply too stuffed by then so we just asked for the bill. Surprisingly, they took this dish off our bill. Carly apologized for the salty kale as the chef had tasted it after and agreed that it was too salty.
That was a really nice gesture – they really did not have to do that because even if they provided a new plate of kale, we were way too full to be able to finish it. Hence, I really appreciated the service although I could not figure out how it became too salty. Pretty sure it was just a blip though, I enjoyed the other five dishes so much that it did not bother me the slightest.
I definitely recommend this place for a date night. The atmosphere is cosy and personable. Soft music in the background, dim lighting, clean and bright theme. I really enjoyed our “Valentine’s Day” dinner.
MPC has done a great job – Public is elegant and gracious with detailed surprising elements in each dish. Definitely not what I would expect from the “newest restaurant in town”.
In the words of dating, I would say, “Man, MPC has got some smooooooth moves”.