By Véronique F. Saiya
The Tic Toc Room brings a cosmopolitan atmosphere to Macon dining with a sleekly modern décor that has a sophisticated contemporary design and a cutting-edge cuisine to match it.
When the Tic Toc Room opened in April of 2001, in the heart of downtown Macon, it paid homage to history through both its renovation of a historic landmark and its name.
The building’s long-ago occupant, Ann’s Tic Toc, was a well known nightclub, famous for its performers. It helped Macon’s legendary singer, Little Richard kick-start his musical career, and featured other celebs, like “The Godfather of Soul,” James Brown.
Since the time of its opening, the Tic Toc Room has been busy establishing some history of its own. Owner, Cesare Mammarella has clearly put a lot of time and effort into the design, atmosphere, and food of his brainchild.
Quite the entrepreneur, Mammarella owns other Macon spots like the Déa Nightclub and Lugi’s Bistro as well as The Cabin Room in Atlanta. Not to mention his community involvement in events such as “A Vintage Affair,” a wine tasting, dinner, and auction that raised funds for the Georgia Children’s Museum this past December.
Just 39 years old, Mammarella has already racked up 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, during which he has managed several restaurants in Connecticut and Atlanta as well as a 1994–1997 ownership of Cesare’s Corner Cafe in Atlanta.
After a visit to downtown Macon, Mammarella quickly became enamored with it—seeing it as a great spot for a restaurant locale. Mammarella says that the birth of the Tic Toc Room represents the culmination of his “vision of how a restaurant should look, taste, and be perceived.”
Mammarella’s vision and taste seem to indicate a love for chic, modern décor. Copper-ribbed light fixtures can be found in the ultra-trendy bar. Iron chandeliers and black pendant lights hang from the vaulted carnelian-colored ceilings. Several abstract sculptures made of iron and glass as well as a copper sculpture of musicians adorn the dining room walls. The walls, too, are visually interesting—brick with a mustard paint applied in such a way as to allow the natural color of the brick to peak through.
A contemporary elegance continued to make its way to the table settings which include black napkins, white cloths, crystal candle holders, and fresh cut flowers nestled into vases with red glass beads.
At the time of my last visit to the restaurant, Peter Fassbender ruled the kitchen. Fassbender whipped my husband and I up a flawlessly innovative meal with tons of nouveau continental cooking appeal. My husband, Kenichi, who is Japanese, really appreciated some of the Asian influences found in Fassbender’s cooking style such as the sushi-quality seared tuna drizzled with ginger-orange teriyaki sauce, which was paired with celery salsa, papaya, and coconut-scented rice.
Trained in Spain and South America, the current chef, Julio Rosas, seems in most respects, to have continued on in the same vein of Fassbender’s bold culinary explorations, though a few of Rosas’ menu options remain rather tame in comparison.
Even though owner, Cesare Mammarella, chose to classify the current cuisine as “bold, comfortable southern,” the fried green tomatoes and cornbread are about the only two Southern items I could find. Depending on which night you dine, you’ll experience a different cornbread, as the delicious fruited cornbread rotates from night to night. On the evening my mother and I dined, mango was the fruit of choice. It no doubt contributed to the moistness and delicate sweetness of the cornbread.
Upon being seated we were presented with an impressive wine list that could satisfy even the pickiest of wine connoisseurs. However, I would have liked to have seen a few more French selections.
Appetizer selections include two sushi offerings—the tempura roll composed of salmon, mango, and scallions, and the Tic Toc roll with fried zucchini, scallions, wasabi, flying fish roe, and Sriracha hot-sauce mayo.
My mother and I decided to order two of the non-sushi appetizers. I selected the grilled duck/bacon sausage that was served in a pool of raspberry horseradish sauce. I’m a huge duck fan and though the sausage was tasty, I found that the addition of the bacon pretty much overwhelmed the duck flavor. The sweetly-flavored sauce paired well with the sausage, complementing its flavor, and would have been equally good had their been a greater duck flavor.
My mother selected one of the specials—a fried soft shell crab. She adores soft shell crab where as I do not, so in this case I left its description to her. She said she has frequently had better softshell crab, no doubt from her trips to Maryland. But she was wild about the unique mélange of vegetables that garnished her crab.
When I last visited with my husband, we tried the dip of chived lobster and crabmeat with plantain chips, which was absolutely scrumptious and still remains on the menu today. Hopefully, it is still prepared with the same expertise.
Other interesting appetizers which I’ve yet to try include fried green tomatoes in a Boursin cream sauce; and a chimichanga of crab, feta cheese, spinach, and roasted pepper, with a side of tomatillo salsa verde, and chived créme fraiche. This last one sounds great, especially when considering Rosas’ cooking background.
We ordered two salads—a spinach salad and mixed greens. Of the two, the mixed greens salad with diced tomatoes, shaved Asiago cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette was hands down the best! Ultra refreshing—this salad earns the title “out of this world!”
My mom ordered the New York Strip, which is a prime example of one of their tamer, more traditional entrée selections. It arrived medium-well as requested. Tender and well seasoned, the steak would have even been delicious on its own. It was served with a brown burgundy-mushroom sauce, a weak version of a Forestiere sauce. I would have preferred a more robust flavor, that could have complimented the steak.
The steak was accompanied by delicious, bacon-flavored homemade mashed potatoes and some perfectly-cooked buttered broccoli. I like broccoli well enough on its own, but my mom would have enjoyed at least a touch of lemon juice to jive it up a bit.
For my entrée I selected one of the specials. My scallops proved to be an excellent choice, even my mom who hates scallops liked them. The beautiful culinary presentation made the entrée highly inviting. Four large scallops formed a line, each held a sprig of chive standing boldly upright. They arrived with some well-seasoned potato wedges covered with parsley and strewn with diced red bell pepper.
A perfect texture, the scallops were stuffed with almonds, garlic, and possibly a pesto, and accompanied by avocado-green dollops of a purée topped with Asiago cheese shavings. The sauce had an unusual zing—zestfully flavored with lemon and garlic. The scallops made for a well-executed departure from the norm—both innovative and delicious!
Our desserts, a créme brûlée and a triple layered chocolate ganache cake with a side of chocolate ice cream, made for a sweet ending to our meal. My finicky mother complained that the créme brulee contained flour—but even she confessed that it was a delicious dessert. On my next visit I definitely plan to try the cherry blossom tiramisu which sounds like an interesting approach to a classic Italian dessert.
- Cuisine: “Bold Comfortable Southern”
- Price Range: Dinner entrées range from $14–$21, Appetizers range from $5–$8
- Reservations: Recommended
- Alcohol: Full bar; unique martini selections; and a vast and impressive imported and domestic wine selection. Wines are served by the glass, with bottles ranging from $22–$960.
- Child Provisions: Highchairs are available. No children’s menu.
- Special Provisions: Catering, banquets, wine dinners, and a business casual dress code.
- Hours: Tu.–Thur., 4 p.m.–10 p.m. | Fri.–Sat., 4 p.m.–11 p.m.
Tic Toc Room
408 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Macon, Georgia 31201