Three-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Mercato has been receiving praise since its opening last summer for its casual Italian concept that first gained ground in Shanghai (read Foodie's review here). The California Tower location, the contemporary and chic design by Neri & Hu, the reasonable prices and the family-style Italian dishes crafted by Chef Anthony Burd are the reasons for its continuing status as talk of the town. With its new à la carte-style brunch menu, Mercato is continuing its reign.
We began by tucking into a spicy tuna tartare ($168) that, while tasty, fresh and a lovely combination of the complementary flavours of avocado, mint, cucumber and crackling pops of crispy rice cracker, was lacking in spice – it was actually so faint that if the 'spicy' was dropped from the moniker, we would have liked it even more.
It was impossible not to finish every bite of the spicy salami, broccolini and ricotta pizza ($188). Who knew broccolini was the ingredient I had been missing on my pizzas all these years? Although I'm sure the homemade ricotta didn't hurt with its dreamy, creamy underlayer.
The expectedly pricey lobster and shrimp ravioli ($278) wasn't our favourite dish as it was a little dry in texture, both inside and out, and could have benefited from a more flavoursome sauce, although that didn't stop us from devouring it and enjoying the excellent quality of the seafood and the freshly made pasta.
The US beef tenderloin ($268) featured glorious cubes of soft and succulent steak with gold bar squash that worked well as an interspersing veg forkful between each bite of heavenly beef. A side of crunchy potatoes came with a transformative cherry pepper aioli that I could have easily slathered on a patty of roasted camel and still joyfully devoured.
Chef Burd was featuring his Year of the Rooster egg special of the day, which consisted of a crispy soft-boiled Japanese egg surrounded by tomato confit with maitake mushrooms. It was beautifully presented, and the robust sauce was a rich kiss for the oozy egg. Although not a super-breakfasty dish, it was a savoury wonder all the same.
We learned that Chef Vongerichten discovered a love of pancakes upon moving to the US, and now hotcakes grace the brunch menu along with a few other American sweet treats. I personally thank the stars for America's cinnamon buns. I have long been a fan of sweet breakfast items, and for pure gooey indulgence, this one takes the cake. The cinnamon sticky buns ($78) are a nice big sharing size at a good price, with buns of a light texture, intense flavour and plenty of thick cream cheese icing to go around.
Mercato’s sundae ($88), with salted caramel ice cream, popcorn, whipped cream, hot fudge and candied peanuts, was a powerful mixture of sweet and salty flavours and soft and crunchy textures that we adored.
There is a big range of prices on the menu, so that means if you choose wisely, you could escape with a sleek little bill. The $250 free-flow option is exceptionally reasonable, offering beautiful Belstar brand Prosecco and carefully chosen Italian red and white wines. We enjoyed the atmosphere, with its airy high ceilings, sunshine-loving terrace and attentive service. We continue to be big fans of Mercato.
8/F, California Tower, 30–32 D’Aguilar Street, LKF, Central, 3706 8567