Jake Dolgy, Director of Operations, ForthSpace, has developed and led numerous inventive cocktail programs around Toronto. Most recently COC | à toi and now MARKED & Corsair. Here he speaks to us about the idea behind MARKED and challenges faced due to the pandemic.
What was the main idea behind designing the indoor dining space?
MARKED is a multi-tiered dining experience inspired by mid-century South America and the halcyon days of commercial airline travel. Beginning with a sports bar concept that we call the ‘Pan Am Lounge’, we pay tribute to the Pan American Spirit of the 50s and 60s with a throwback gallery of Pan-Am Games Athletes and Pan-Am Airline Stewards, vintage trophies and athletic gear, and subtle hints towards the bygone era of airmailed postcards from afar. Our dining room, aka ‘Comedor’, is both casual, but elevated, decked out in mid-century furniture, tiled mirrors, and massive 1960s South American pop and travel art. For more intimate gatherings we built a glass-enclosed private dining room perched slightly above Comedor called ‘Tucano’ that provides an exclusive experience without removing guests from the lively energy of the restaurant. Beyond the dining room lies a brand new cocktail bar concept called ‘Corsair’, inspired by the discovery and exploration of the Southern Continent.
MARKED was designed to have multiple experiences under one roof. A venue where you can have a couple beers with some snacks while you watch the game, have an amazing dinner full of fantastic flavours courtesy of our custom wood fire grill, book your next event or private dinner, or enjoy some of the best cocktails available in Toronto. It’s a venue where guests can decide what kind of journey they feel like having and who can have a different kind of journey every time they visit.
Marc Cheng, Head Chef, MARKED, brings his understanding of elemental cooking with authentic South American flavours, ingredients, and global influences to MARKED. Here he talks about MARKED’s Signature Dish and Cocktails
Tell us a bit about MARKED’s signature dish?
The MARKED Ceviche is our take on a traditional Peruvian Ceviche, served deconstructed with Hamachi, Avocado, Sweet Potato, Canchita (Peruvian popcorn), Salsa Criollo, Cilantro, Corn Shoots, and Tiger’s Milk. We make our Tiger’s Milk fresh by blending a piece of Hamachi with ginger, celery, garlic, shallot, and lime juice. We strongly encourage guests to finish this dish by pouring a chilled shot of Peruvian Pisco into their bowl and mixing it with the leftover Tiger’s Milk to create a Panther’s Milk, which is said to act as an elixir that can cure a hangover and increase virility.
Which is MARKED’s signature cocktail that is a must-have when visiting ?
The MARKED Cocktail Menu is loaded with modern twists on tropical classics, and focuses on South American spirits like Cachaça and Pisco. Our Caipirinha is hands down the best Caipirinha we’ve ever had, made traditionally with a full lime cut into 8 pieces that’s then muddled with Cachaça, White Vermouth, and a Pandan Syrup before shaking it all with ice in order to incorporate all of the flavours of the lime (not just the juice) into the cocktail.
As the entire hospitality industry is navigating through tough times, how difficult was it to open MARKED during a pandemic?
Extremely challenging. Not only was our opening date pushed back by almost 6 months, but like everyone else we were forced to invest in infrastructure to create a safe dining environment for our staff and guests. Thankfully, the size of our space allows for plenty of social distancing. As a 300 seat venue, we’ve obviously never been able to maximize our seated capacity, so that translates into a lot of square-footage that we’re not utilizing.
The challenges you are facing due to evolving COVID19 restrictions?
We’ve recently introduced takeout and delivery models that weren’t part of our original plan offering comfort food classics like charcoal grilled chicken dinners, buckets of fried chicken, burgers, as well as some of our signature salads and desserts. We plan on expanding this menu to offer even more of our signature MARKED dishes over the coming weeks.
We’re facing the same challenges as everyone else. Introducing new revenue streams, investing in winterizing our patio, scaling back staffing levels, and keeping up and complying with an ever-changing landscape. We’re optimistic and we can’t wait for the day when we can welcome our staff and guests safely back into this space.
Which online ordering platform does MARKED use, tell us something about the changing consumer buying behaviour while ordering take-outs?
MARKED is available on UberEATS, DoorDash, and SkipTheDishes. As well we have our own online portal where people can place orders for takeout directly from our website. As much as possible, guests are supporting the restaurants they love through takeout and delivery platforms, and we’re extremely thankful for the support we’ve seen for this concept. MARKED has really connected with people, and that’s really what it’s all about.
MARKED Restaurant is located at 132 John St, Toronto, ON M5V 2E3