Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mercat a la Planxa - Chicago, IL

I've been a fan of  Jose Garces on Iron Chef and especially from his food demonstration at the Chicago Gourmet this past summer. He was very approachable and down to earth. I've been itching to try his Chicago restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa, but for one reason or another, it kept eluding me.  

So number two on my list for Restaurant Week was Garces' Mercat.  I got a bunch of us together on a Friday night for some tapas.  It's a beautiful space right on Michigan Ave near the Art Institute.  Here was what was great and not so great about Mercat for Restaurant Week.

The good news: the food is excellent, it's so flavorful and everything we had was delicious

The bad news: you do not get your money's worth if you come in a big group for Restaurant Week.  Typically for Restaurant Week, you get a choice of three items as a three course meal, which usually ends up being more than enough food.  I thought it was a bit odd that the waiter encouraged us to order additional plates on top of the restaurant week menu.  We thought a few additional tapas would be enough, but even with those additions, we totally felt stiffed.  We got some items taken off the final bill, but it didn't leave us with a good impression.  

Because everything is served family style, the portions weren't adequately thought out.  We were often times presented with one dish to share among the six of us, even though we were each paying a prix fixe price.  Tables of two next to us were getting the same exact dish that we were, except they were only sharing amongst the two of them.  

I do think it's worth it if you come in pairs.  If you do decide to come with a bigger group, you're better off ordering off the regular menu instead of doing the set menu.  

Our waiter highly recommended the bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds.  Each order comes with 2 skewers so for the five of us, we ordered 2.5 orders.  These were amazing. If you've never had bacon wrapped dates before, you need to get on it.  

This was Mercat's version of Spanish tomato bread.  

We each got one sliver of Spanish Style Omelette with Spinach, Potatoes, and Saffron Aioli.  Delicious, but again, not enough food. I kept thinking, are we at a cocktail party here? 

This was the Serrano Ham and Fig Salad with Baby Spinach, La Peral, Bacon and Spiced Almonds with Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette.  What an ingenious way to wrap a salad and vegetables in bacon.  Could you imagine if your sushi rolls were wrapped in proscuitto instead of nori?

Our waiter recommended that we get some additional sides to share.  He suggested the dates and the mushroom risotto.  This was so delicious, but tiny!  I think we all got to try one bite each and that was it.  Great recommendation for the food, but horrible in terms of portion size. 

We ordered a pitcher of white sangria with apples and rosemary ... oh so tasty. 

This was their flatbread.  A  Catalan Sausage and Porcini Flatbread with Tomato-Basil Sauce, Roasted Garlic and Manchego.  This was when it started to irk us a bit.  We noticed tables of two next to us get a whole flatbread to share and we were serve one to share between the five of us.        

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night: Catalan Spinach, Raisins, Pine Nuts & Apples.  It was unexpectedly great mix of flavors. 

We also got to try their Mussel Gratin with Confit Artichokes and Tomato with Saffron Hollandaise with some toasted bread. 

They somehow miraculously gave us two orders of the Butifarra con Judias: House Smoked Lamb Sausage, Ham Hock Tomato Stew & Black Eyed Peas. 

Some weren't huge fans of the lamb, but they did like the Calamari a la Planxa, baby squid with lemon, garlic and parsley.  In my opinion, this was the least interesting of the dishes that night.  

For dessert, we were served Croquetas de Xocolata: Milk Chocolate Croquettes with Banana Marshmallow, Rosemary Caramel & Arbequina Olive Oil.  This was so tasty.  It was like eating a donut smores with bananas and caramel.  What is there not to like about this dish?  I probably could have eaten that whole thing all by myself, but you see ... we got one plate of six to share amongst the five of us.  What did the couple next to us get, you ask?  The same plate of six mini croquetas.  We should have gotten at least two of these, in my opinion.  

I hear their brunch offerings are great and I am sure I will be back at some point, but definitely not for Restaurant Week unless it's with only one other person.  That or we'll all sit in tables of two next time.  :)  

Mercat a la Planxa
638 Michagan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

No comments:

Post a Comment