I realize there is already a thread on the new Mars........ but I wanted to start a new one...a more current one.
No one has posted about the new mars since early May. It's been 3 months since it opened. Is anyone going there and loving it? Loving it like the old one? I hate to waste my money.....as I am a poor poor artist.
I haven't gone yet and I suppose I should. I'm missing the old one and have been too pouty to go to the new one. It looks soooo......er......uh......south congressy..........
I was a fan of the old Mars. I know the food wasn't stellar and was kinda stuck in the 90's, but I did enjoy most of the appetizers and loved the little old house. So, last month I decided to give the new Mars a try. I was not impressed. Gone is the intimate atmosphere and the new place is very loud. Additionally, there were a ton of flies inside. Annoying to have them buzz by your face every two minutes during a dinner conversation.
The food was mediocre. I started with the beef carpaccio which was overly chewy and stringy. My husband ordered the green curry with prawns and we agreed that we make better curry at home. I ordered the stir fry with fried prawns and, again, found it worse than what I might whip up at home on any given Tuesday night.
Regarding price, I thought it was expensive for what we got and the quality of the ingredients. I will happily pay top dollar for a well-crafted dish made with fresh ingredients, but this was some veggies, a little seafood, and rice. The portions were not very big and I wasn't really full when I was finished...merely not hungry. For $16 an entree I wanted a little more stir fry. Rice and vegetables are not expensive and a few more slices of bell pepper would have helped beef the dish up a bit. Again, it is not that it was expensive, it was just the satisfaction to cost ratio was off. If you are on a limited budget, I would go somewhere else.
BTW- Does anyone know what will happen to the old Mars location. I wonder if a new restaurant will go in there.
Never tried the old one, so can't offer any perspective there ... but I did end up at Mars recently. The decision to eat there was not mine, and despite my skepticism, it wasn't all that bad. In fact, the sea bass was actually one of the more memorable versions of sea bass that I've had in years (it's always been a bore, for some reason). It was a nice coupla inch thick chunk of fish that had been rubbed with chinese 5-spice and expertly cooked. I find more often than not, that this fish and others of its type are always paper-thin fillets with a crispy crust, and have sauce drizzled all over them. I'm kinda burnt out on that. This fish was big and thick, and oily and flavourful. Accompanied by a side of couscous and some asparagus that were both good. Only thing is, for such a simple dish, it's pretty spendy -- I think this was like $28, which was more than I planned on spending for an easy dinner at the bar. I basically re-created the meal at home the other night for next to nothing, but I realize that's a moot point b/c we're talking about the hip-factor on South Congress and cool red lights and stuff, which is fine.
Also had an app of negamaki, which is described as "marinated ribeye with goat cheese, portobello mushrooms and a blueberry-mirin demi-glace." This was actually quite tasty, although I didn't detect any blueberry aspect to it. And I think they might've mangled the presentation of one of the rolls, but whatever.
Anyways, I'm not rushing back there, but the fact that I finally had a decent sea bass makes me happy. Not as much for Mars, as it is for renewing my own personal interest in sea bass.
I went to the new location a couple of weeks ago. It's been of years since I went to the old one so I can't really compare old and new as far as food goes.
It's definitely trendy and very loud. We ate inside because it was fairly hot out, but I imagine the patio out front will be nice for people watching when the weather cools off.
For our dinner, we started with 2 apps. The first was the scallops and gyoza. This was the best dish of the night. Very tasty. I thought the sauce matched well with the scallop's sweetness. The only downside was the $12 price. The second was the Mars charcuterie. This plate consisted of some pate, 3 different cheeses(a smoked gouda, a blue cheese, and a Boursin like cheese), some olives, bread, 2 pieces of salami, and some dark chocolate. Even though it sounds like a lot, I thought the quantity was a little small especially considering the price(~$12). Nothing on the plate really stood out. I doubt I would order this again.
For our entrees, I had the Pork Tenderlion from the Tandoori oven section of the menu. The pork had a faint citrus and sweet glaze. It came with mashed potatoes and some steamed green beans. Overall, it was pretty good. I would describe it as a mild dish with an earthy flavor. My wife had the Tandoori steak which was a flank steak. It came with wasabi mashed potatoes and some vegetables. The steak was heavily marinated and had a nice heat level(medium I would say). The potatoes were also had some kick due to the wasabi. Both entrees were about $20.
We passed on dessert as we were full, but some of the other tables around had some interesting looking ones.
Overall, I'd say it's a little pricey for the quantity and quality. Also, there's no doubt that it's "south congressy" as you say.
I went to Mars recently for lunch. The atmosphere was generally nice. I didn't experience the loud crowds, I'm assuming mostly because there weren't many people around. I liked the decor -- very modern-asian inspired. The menu was all over the place with dishes inspired by Vietnam, India, China, Japan. I balked at the $10 Vietnamese sandwich...mostly because I'm used to paying $2.50 at most for Banh Mi (by the way -- any good Banh Mi joints in Austin?) in my old neighborhood in Chicago. My dining partner and I ordered the Tuna Tartar for an appetizer. We didn't even finish it. It was okay, tender and fresh, but not mind-blowing. I ordered the Beef Tenderloin Salad -- the beef was overcooked (medium to medium-well!), and the dressing was mostly just oil. There was very little flavor to anything I ate.
I can't recommend it -- even if it were 50% less expensive.
All that I can remember from the original location was that I had a panic attack in the bathroom and after stuffing myself with lamb.
I live in the neighborhood and from my few visits so far I'd have to say Mars is best for people-watching, cocktails and appetizers (in that order). Beyond that, not so much.