Smash Kitchen & Bar

Thursday, April 17, 2014
When you Google "best restaurants in Markham," Smash Kitchen & Bar always pops up on the lists. I've read lots of rave reviews about the place, so Ronsee and I decided to check it out for dinner:

Firecracker Shrimp

We decided to share a bunch of dishes (my favourite way of dining), so we got a couple of appetizers to start. We had originally wanted to get the Ahi Tuna Wontons, but they were sold out of them, so we subbed it for Firecracker Shrimp instead. Big, fat prawns are wrapped in bacon, lightly battered and deep-fried, topped with chopped pepper medley and drizzled with sweet Thai chili sauce. It tastes exactly as you would imagine it. The shrimp are firm but not fleshy or plush like fresh ones would be, which makes me suspect that they get them frozen. Wrapping them in bacon does infuse a great smoky flavour, though, and saves the shrimp from being too bland on their own. We both thought the batter was well done; thin, crisp, and perfectly golden brown. The pepper medley doesn't do much in terms of flavour, but it does add a nice crunch and colour to an otherwise monotonous presentation. The Thai chili sauce adds a nice zesty tartness that I imagine would work well with many deep-fried foods. These were good, but not great. 

Seafood Cakes

For our second starter, we decided on the seafood cakes, which are made with blue crab and black tiger shrimp. The crab and shrimp were in abundance, just great big chunks of seafood fused together in a patty. We couldn't figure out whether they were housemade or not, but the texture of the seafood makes me inclined to think that it is. However, they also blend in copious amounts of bell pepper into the mix, which becomes the dominant flavour in the whole dish and doesn't let the seafood take the spotlight. It's coated in a breadcrumb batter, which is expected (like crab cakes), but it seemed to be a little too thick for my liking because the extra starch made the shell a bit too tough. The horseradish aioli and pico de gallo add a nice kick and compliment these well, though, and the portion size is generous. Again, these were good, but not great.

Margherita Coal Fired Oven Pizza

I like to think that the quality of coal oven pizza is best judged by trying the simplest offering, and this is usually the Margherita. There is only four ingredients atop the crust: tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. First up, the crust. The crust is actually really good here. Thin, crisp, a nice slightly charred flavour, and holds up well. It's as you would expect from a good coal fired oven pizza. However, I found that there was way too much tomato sauce on here, and it seemed unbalanced to the rest of the toppings. Like, the sauce was dripping off the sides and adding far too much tartness, almost negating all other flavours. Moreover, a true Margherita pizza has massive plops of fresh mozzarella, and it seemed like this one had regular packaged mozzarella and then a few teeny tiny pieces of buffalo mozzarella thrown in to make it seem more authentic. But it didn't have the same creamy, plush consistency as I would expect from buffalo mozzarella. With the addition of big, thick slices of tomato that I felt made the pizza too "wet," it just seemed overwhelmingly tomato-y. Will it satisfy your pizza craving? Yes. But there are definitely better Margherita pizzas out there.

Smash Mini Donuts

After some contemplation, we decided to get the mini donuts for dessert, 'cause it seemed like it would be the easiest to share. They are dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with warm caramel and chocolate sauces. We originally thought they'd be more akin to Tiny Tom's doughnuts, but I'm sorry to say that these were sorely lacking. These were almost like... dough nuggets. Like, imagine a chicken nugget. Except with dough inside. They ended up being way too dry and hard. And even though the cinnamon and icing sugars and the sauces do help make them tastier, it's just the texture of them that I can't get over. It says on their website that these are homemade, but the quality of them makes me think they were frozen and thrown in the deep-fryer upon ordering. Overall, a major disappointment, and way too overpriced at $7.

What gives me conflicting feelings about this place is that everything else is fantastic: the decor, the service, the ambience. It looks sleek, clean, and modern, but somehow cozy and intimate at the same time. There's a great big patio in the back, too, which I imagine would be lovely on summer days. All the servers are pleasant, friendly, helpful, attentive, and efficient. But the food is just so... mediocre. At least, the dishes we ordered seemed just like glorified bar food. For the price, I would much rather go a little further to JOEY Markville when dining in Markham, and I hate to say that I'd rather go to a chain restaurant than an independent joint like Smash, but at least I know the quality of the food and service is great (and consistent) at JOEY. I would probably be inclined to go again and order different dishes just to see if our first visit was just a fluke, and they actually have some amazing hidden gems in their menu. There's just too many rave reviews for me to believe that there isn't. In any case, though, it is a beautiful space and a great relaxing hang-out spot. So if the food doesn't excite me, I can still see myself returning with friends to chill on the patio.

Smash Kitchen & Bar
4261 Highway 7 East
Unionville, ON L3R 1L5
(905) 940-2000
2 comments on "Smash Kitchen & Bar"
  1. Wow, I've never heard you feel so meh about food before, LOL! I feel like now you have to go back and try everything on their menu systematically and then write a long Yelp review if everything else turns out to be just as subpar.

    1. I know, right?! I think I just expected better for the pricing, especially given that there's so many good restaurants out there! I think I do need to go back and try other things. Maybe this visit was just a fluke.


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