After hyper-seasonal fine dining restaurant AQ closed in 2017, chef/partner Mark Liberman took a break from the kitchen to regroup. Now the chef is back in the kitchen and opening his first solo project, Mago, on Piedmont Avenue.
Like the chef’s menu at AQ, which changed its menu with each of the four seasons, Mago will keep a close eye on those seasonal shifts, all 52 of what he describes as “micro-seasons.” That means a weekly rotating menu of snacks, pastas, larger plates, and shareable, large format dishes. A large, wood-fired grill is the centerpiece of the dining room, and the main cooking method for Liberman’s dishes, another reminder of the chef’s time at AQ and its sister restaurant, TBD.
There are also hints of the chef’s own background: he’s half Latin-American, but his cooking background is French and Italian, and his wife’s Korean background has influenced the chef’s cooking at home and at the restaurant.
“[Mago] is a different direction [than AQ] but obviously my background is my background,” says Liberman. “I think over the past two years my food has gotten simpler, at least presentation-wise. The flavors are still complex.”
A smoked cabbage okonomiyaki and macadamia nut salsa seca, grilled chicken livers with sorrel and sesame, spring garlic soup, and duck agnolotti are all great examples. There’s also a shrimp toast sandwich , a play on the classic dim sum dish and part of Liberman’s desire to include a sandwich on the menu at all times (rather than the predictable fancy burger). This version will feature shrimp with wild ramps, lemon and chilis cooked on the plancha on buttered pan de mie, and served with fresh herbs and hoisin.
Keep an eye out for a kid’s menu as well, inspired by Liberman’s experiences feeding his three-year-old daughter when dining out. Thing chicken matzo ball soup, some kind of noodle or cheese stuffed pasta, or chicken croquettes.
Check out the menu below. When it opens on May 28, the restaurant will serve dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m.- 10 p.m.