It seems that Mercat sporadically invites guest chefs from restaurants in Catalonia. I’ve never paid much attention but the latest crew, Paula Casanovas and Felip Planas, compelled me to pay a visit for no other reason than I’ve been on a Spanish food kick this week (I know, I was just obsessed with visiting the Yucatan, and now I thinking about a March trip to Madrid).
Unfortunately, there was no prix fixe as advertised; instead everything was listed a la carte. I don’t know if this was just poor execution or a genuine switch and bait (as a miffed Grub Street commenter double posted). For instance, our server obviously had been instructed to tell diners about the chefs and to explain what El Bulli to the unknowing, but didn’t seem prepared for anyone to actually order from the special menu.
We picked two items from the diy tasting menu and supplemented what I assumed would be small portions with cheese and cured meats. Yes, the canelons de rabo de toro/oxtail-stuffed pasta with langoustine was tiny. So fleeting, I can scarcely remember my few shared bites.
The coca was more substantial. I liked this a lot. Four slices of rare duck were served atop puff pastry with a pear compote tinged with cinnamon. I initially assumed the creamy crown was melted cheese but now that I think about it, it may have been aioli. Duck with pears is a traditional Catalan combination and definitely less candied than the l’orange style fruitiness that ducks seems to get saddled with here.
This was quite a bounty of charcuterie, or rather embotits. The selection included—morcilla, jamon serrano, lomo, sobrassada, xoriç, llonganissa—everything Mercat has at their disposal minus jamon Iberico. They throw you off with all of the Catalan, it's all those Ks and Xs. At first I was puzzled by xoriç until I deduced that it was simply chorizo. Sautéed to oily, crispy perfection and mounded on a slice of bread, it was my favorite cured meat of all. I’m also still convinced that Americans would love the lush, also cinnamonny, morcilla, as long as no one told them it was blood sausage. It’s not even in the same league as other Bizarre Foods fodder.
Garrotxa, la peral and idizabal, goat cow+sheep and sheep. I wasn’t expecting la peral to be a blue, though I’m glad it was. The flavor was strong and salty with a creamy texture. Not overpowering at all.
Ok, produce. Doesn’t Spanish food get knocked for the seeming absence of vegetables? I love Brussels sprouts, especially this charred version that I imagine was meant to mimic calçots. The vegetable is grilled to blackened sweetness and served with a rich, nutty romesco for dipping.
And dessert: simple churros and chocolate.
Mercat * 45 Bond St., New York, NY