I’d like to think that when it comes to good food, I’m willing to travel. I don’t have to think twice about driving 20 or 40 miles away to eat a good meal. Having said that, I still don’t get out to some of the more outlying suburbs (like Powell, Canal Winchester, etc.) as often as I’d like. But if I’m up at Polaris or the Sawmill Rd. area on an errand anyway, making the side trip to Powell is almost a given.
So even though Maca Cafe has been on our list of places to try for quite a while ago, it wasn’t until last weekend that I actually had the impetus to go. Since we approached it from Liberty Street rather than from the way we usually do (on Olentangy St.), we easily found parking behind the restaurant.
The restaurant was almost empty when we went (as is to be expected on a Saturday mid-afternoon), so the owner directed us to pick a seat in the cozy front area of the restaurant (the lounge is closed off during non-dinner hours). We picked a nice little table by the window, and perused the menu.
Maca Cafe is a traditional tapas cafe, with virtually all of the menu items being small plates of traditional Spanish cuisine. We chose a bunch to split between us, and got to ordering. The owner was more than happy to answer any particular questions we had about the dishes, and brought them out personally one at a time as they were made.
First up were the Croquettes ($6.00). The flavors of the croquettes change from day to day, and on this particular day the fillings were Jamon Serrano and Beef Tenderloin. Beneath the thin and crunchy shell was a creamy concoction with distinct pieces of meat that basically just added a bit of saltiness and texture to the filling. Both were especially delicous when paired with the Romesco sauce, which had a nice thick texture and smoky and nutty notes.
Next were the Empanadillas ($6.50), whose flavors also change daily – on our trip they were Pork & Apple, Spinach/Raisin, Cod/Red Pepper ($6.50). I think my husband must’ve got the half with the filling, because with the exception of the cod empanadillas, mine tasted mostly of the puff pastry shell surrounding them. My husband said his were slightly better, but honestly, we just weren’t as enamoured with these.
We also went with the Tortilla Espanola ($6.50), a thick potato and onion omelet, and an extremely traditional Spanish mainstay. While prepared correctly, we felt it lacked a distinction in flavor between the ingredients – they mostly melded together and most of the flavor came from the olive oil it was cooked in.
We both love rice, so we didn’t think twice about ordering the Paella ($8.00), which in this case is a combination of rice, shrimp, chicken and sausage. Although this paella was much drier and less saffrony than any I’ve had previously, it definitely didn’t lack flavor. So we reached a consensus that this dish was good, but not exactly what we expected.
We both agreed that the next dish was hands down our favorite – Seared Sea Scallops with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomato Jam ($8.50). The scallops were seared perfectly, and the sweetness of the tomato jam contrasted beautifully with the creaminess of the garlic cream sauce. This dish caused my husband’s own scallop epiphany, and we both agreed that this is a dish we’d return for. It’s an especially good value considering it uses fresh dayboat scallops, of which you get three fairly large ones.
For dessert, we shared their signature dish, Chocolate Ganache ($6.50), a dollop of dark, rich chocolate ganache served with extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel. Although dark chocolate is normally thought of a dessert, this one kind of straddles the line between sweet and savory, and does so extremely well.
Overall, we enjoyed our experience at Maca Cafe. All food was prepared well, delivered to us quickly, and the service was wonderful. We did think the portion sizes, as a general rule, were a bit small for the price, so it was necessary to order 5 or 6 between us to feel satisfied but not full. So while individual dishes may be low-priced, it can add up quickly, and may be too expensive a proposition for an everyday lunch. Having said that, compared to other tapas/small plates restaurants in the city, prices were quite reasonable and portions were quite generous. I think it’s just a matter of walking in the restaurant knowing what to expect.
Owner Norman Carmichael was nice enough to spend a few minutes chatting with us, and we found out that he’s working on a concept for the lounge where one can indulge in tapas bites (think Spanish amuse bouche on a toothpick), where one pays for as many toothpicks as they take.
Either way, we’re eager to return to try other dishes on the menu as well. Although it may be a bit out of the way for most, it definitely is worth the trip, at least for us. And since they’re a member of Dine Originals Columbus, we’re really looking forward to see what they’re putting together for Restaurant Week.
If you’d like to go: Maca Cafe, 9 Olentangy St., Powell. 614.436.1212