Saturday, December 4, 2010

Restaurant Review: Mercat

Restaurant Name: Mercat
Restaurant Location: 45 Bond Street, NYC

As someone who always wants to eat widely across a menu but can't pack in too much chow before getting full, I am in love with the 'small plates' concept. I am even more in love with the Spanish version of small plates: tapas. I've reviewed a number of New York City tapas restaurants on this blog (see reviews of Boqueria, Casa Mono, and Tia Pol). Today I add one more to that tally.

Mercat specializes in Catalan cuisine. Centered around Barcelona, the Catalan region focuses on it's local abundance of great seafood, cured meats, and cheeses. All of these are featured on the menu at Mercat, and they have fabulous wines, too.

My favorite tapas dish, hands down, is patatas bravas (fried potatoes kissed with spicy pimenton and garlic, often in the form of an aioli). I always order them and I judge a tapas restaurant by the awesomeness (or lack of awesomeness) of their patatas bravas. On this score, Mercat passed with flying colors. The potatoes were light and crispy and the sauce was creamy and spicy. While my fellow diners weren't looking, I slid the dish over to my side of the table and ate them all.

Other offerings at Mercat were equally sublime. The piquillo peppers stuffed with short rib and served with caramelized beans were oh-so-good, as were the mushrooms with fried egg and salsa verde (though not quite as fabulous as a similar dish we had in Madrid this Fall...but close).

My biggest gripe with Mercat, however, would be it's lack of consistency. While some dishes were standouts and very memorable, others were just...blah--not bad, not great, and not very flavorful.

For instance, the grilled hanger steak with cipollini onions and crispy sweet potatoes should have hummed with meaty, salty, onion-y goodness, but it was under-seasoned. The short noodles with sepia and ink (pushed by our server) was downright too fishy and generally ick. Other dishes, like the Cod with artichokes and Romanesco, were well-enough prepared but forgotten soon after we finished eating them.

We asked our server for a wine recommendation and he selected a very full-bodied, blended red that we couldn't stop drinking. It was goooood. I drank too much of it to remember what it was called.

Service was attentive and friendly and the restaurant dark and cozy, lit with lots of candles. It was very convivial and we had a wonderful time eating there. Go with friends, get lots of wine, and accept that some dishes will blow your mind and others will...not.

Bon Appetit!

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