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Mercato (12th-ish and Spruce)


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Anybody else been yet? We had dinner there a few nights after it opened. I'm a little hesitant to post a review without giving them some time to get settled in, but I'd be curious to hear if anybody else has tried them.

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Anybody else been yet?  We had dinner there a few nights after it opened.  I'm a little hesitant to post a review without giving them some time to get settled in, but I'd be curious to hear if anybody else has tried them.

I sampled some of their food for an article I've written, and so far so good; I particularly loved the steak salda and piadine.

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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Funny you should ask, I just ate there last night for the first time with some friends. I really enjoyed it. It was very busy and I thought everything was great.

CherieV

Eat well, drink better!

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Had dinner there on Saturday night and thought it was great, there were five of us ( it was my B-day dinner)

we started nibbling the olives as soon as we sat down and they were very nice, a tiny offering but I am a fan of tiny offerings.

we split the aps

Mozz/tomato/basil set in a napoleon, I have no idea where the chef got such fabulous tomatoes but he brought us a promise of summer on a nasty rainy night...so good we ordered a second

Mussels & Clams with Italian sausage- nope agian nothin wrong here nice sized portion,fat mussels & clams, geat big chunks of fennel laced sausage rich winy stock we all soaked up with the crusty rolls

Antipasto plate: Similar to valannis,attractive and ample did not try much of that as it was staitoned next to my freind Alex, he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, I did snag a marinated artichoke heart(stem on) which I quite liked...but honestly I was more interested in the mussels & clams

Cheese plate: Lovely choice of three cheeses, there was a truffled honey cherry compote? that was like god with the fresh goat cheese..my only complaint is that all the condiments were all sweet which would be awesome as a dessert course but for an app would rather a savory option

Entree wise the table was split btw soft shell crab & short ribs

I had short ribs that were horseradish crusted with I think some kind of golden oak mushroom and these big fat beans, paid no attention to the beans the meat was gorgeous flavorful, the sauce rich and mushroomy (shitakes though it seemed ), would have like to find a tangle of bitter greens some where on the plate or a lemony gremolata to cut the richness but for the weather it was perfect.

I don't really like soft shell crab, I don't like to eat a face but the taste I had was sweet & crabby the orzo salad unexciting but then again I am not a fan of orzo in a restaurant to dull and boring for me..also don't care for cold pasta salad, every one else seemed to enjoy

I brought dessert with me, the lovely and charming Bobby Bennet of Miel made a cake special for me.

As for the service they were sweet and nice and attentive one small issue, brought with me a bottle of dessert wine I had bought in Paris many years ago and had been treasuring and while I was outside on the phone..the server poured it all out as though it was regular wine, like poured out 5 oz in each glass..which none of us were ready for, and I guess I think she should know that you pour smalller portions of dessert wines..then again perhaps I should have been more vigilant...much of it was wasted but oh welll it was a lovely dinner with friends and I will go back

"sometimes I comb my hair with a fork" Eloise

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  • 2 months later...

First crack at Mercato tonight with a good friend and two wines I wanted to try. I will start by stating that it was an unequivocally wonderful meal: good food, good service, pleasant weather and witty company.

And I will start there because next I want to rave and rant: whoever told the restaurant industry that "...we will not seat you until your entire party has arrived..." was a sensible policy should be taken out back, shot, revived, drawn, quartered, tickled, made to drink mediocre wine and fed McFood for the rest of their lives. *Nothing* I have ever been told by a host/ess feels as dismissive, uncaring, impersonal, annoying and confrontational as that sentence. I don't care what the practical considerations are. Don't do it. I have written off one, and only one decent restaurant in Philadelphia, and that is the principal reason why. I cannot imagine I am the only one who feels this way.

This particular host, however, was amenable to reason when it was pointed out the restaurant wasn't even full, particularly the outside tables that were my choice in any case. The server was also reasonable when I asked him to make an exception to the policy that outdoor table get their wines poured into tumblers.

The above is mentioned in an informational spirit, so fellow 'Gulleteers know to expect these policies. They did not detract in the least from a deftly executed meal of updated Italian classics. I started with the Tuscan Bean Salad. It's hard to do it justice, because I am not entirely sure why it worked so well, but it did: the rich plump beans foiled the lean, bitter arugula, the zesty cooked tomatoes leavened the vegetal green beans, and the sliver of Parmesan and hint of shaved fennel added richness and mystery to what remained a plain simple satisfying dish.

The other appetizer at the table was the Crab and Shrimp Pyramid, an awkward name for three large seafood ravioli. Not that you will mind, since the briny pasta pockets, filled with fresh lumps of sauteed seafood folded into a ricotta base, enriched by a brown butter and garlic sauce, were delightful.

Lest anyone think three ravioli don't sound like much... portion size won't be your complaint. Both appetizers were generously portioned, maybe needlessly so, but then generosity has never been, and will never be, a vice by my reckoning.

For an entree I ordered the braised goat, which I expected to resemble in some aspect an ossobucco. The dish I got was, finally, closer to a goulash, a rich goat ragu served over fetuccini. Rich, gamy and delicious, it reminded me that goat somehow remains wild while venison has been sadly tamed. Go figure.

The second entree at the table was sea scallops over an English pea risotto. Opinions on the risotto varied: of the various takes on the dish, it shaded towards the gummy, rather than runny, variety. I am fond of both, but my friend did not enjoy this iteration very much. There was unanimity about the scallops, four large, sweet, lightly pan-seared morsels of sea-kissed delight, about which I challenge anyone to speak ill.

For dessert, we shared what is called on the menu a mascarpone cheesecake. It was, to my mind, closer to a panna cotta than any cheesecake I've met, but semantics aside it was really nice, rich and creamy, with just a burnt-sugar hint of caramel. The cookie it rested on needed to be somehow further integrated with the dish: it remained crisp and made each spoonful a bit of a shatter-prone adventure. Not a big deal, just a detail to address.

Cost, before tip, was $73 for two people.

For a rundown of the wines, an '02 Artesa Pinot Noir and '01 Foxen Syrah, see the PLCB thread.

Edited by Capaneus (log)
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And I will start there because next I want to rave and rant: whoever told the restaurant industry that "...we will not seat you until your entire party has arrived..." was a sensible policy should be taken out back, shot, revived, drawn, quartered, tickled, made to drink mediocre wine and fed McFood for the rest of their lives. *Nothing* I have ever been told by a host/ess feels as dismissive, uncaring, impersonal, annoying and confrontational as that sentence. I don't care what the practical considerations are. Don't do it. I have written off one, and only one decent restaurant in Philadelphia, and that is the principal reason why. I cannot imagine I am the only one who feels this way.

Agree, agree, agree. I can understand the temptation to attempt this "policy," but it mostly serves to piss off the good customers. The type of customers that the policy is presumably designed to thwart will find some other way to screw up the restaurant's ability to make a profit. I won't ever take my folks back to Chloë for this reason -- no, my seventy-year-old folks do not understand why they have to hover in the doorway for ten minutes while waiting for my companion to arrive, and I almost wished I'd let my mother ask for an explanation.

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  • 9 months later...

apparently they're having a 1 year anniversary dinner. Mmm, roast pig. Mmm, roast boar.

I'm not affiliated with them in any way, although I live close to Gusto, which is owned by the same family.

Text of the dinner details thingy follows:

We're Throwing A Party...

You're invited to celebrate

Mercato's one year anniversary!

Join us on Monday, May 22nd, from 5-10 p.m.as Chef de Cuisine Mackenzie Hilton skillfully spit roasts a pig and wild boar.

Enjoy a buffet of Italian favorites including

an antipasti assortment of meats and cheeses,

marinated and grilled vegetables,

savory bruschetta, flavorful lasagna,

and sinful desserts.

We'll supply the champagne,

but you B.Y.O.B!

Call now for tickets to this event.

$30 per person

AFTER PARTY AT VALANNI

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  • 1 year later...

Had an absurdly good meal last night at Mercato. Four of us, and not a bad dish on the table. Started with the mussels/clams and a big plate of antipasti, both were well-received. Pappardelle with pine nuts, orechiette with meatballs, ricotta gnocchi with short rib ragu (!), and "pyramid pasta" with lobster and shrimp, every one more delicious than the next. The "flight of olive oils", two oils and a vinegar for $5, was fun once, but in future I'll stick with the addictive whipped butter. We just moved into the neighborhood and it is going to be dangerous living so close to somewhere this tasty -- not to mention the second outpost of Tria the next block over.

Passed up dessert so as to introduce our visitors to Capogiro.

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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I was recently back at Mercato after an unimpressive first meal there a year or so ago, I was impressed this time. I had the gnocchi w/ short rib ragu as well, it was fantastic. We did have dessert, but I wish we had gone to Capogiro instead..

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  • 6 months later...

Had a truly delicious dinner at Mercato this evening prior to seeing Pink Martini at the Kimmel Center (OT note - amazing concert!!). Shared the Market Salad of poached pears, mixed greens, piave & spiced pecans, w/rosemary honey balsamic vinaigrette and a Butterbean, Radicchio & Wild Mushroom Salad w/pine nuts, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, chianti vinegar to start. For our entrees my dining companion had the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp w/black & white orzo, winter squash, arugula, scallions, parmesan basil lemon butter and I had the Braised Duck served over chestnut pappardelle, roasted root vegetables and grana padano. Salads were both top notch and I really loved my pasta dish. Service was very informed and pleasant save for a bit of hovering to remove plates before I was done eating. I'm a slow eater by nature and hate that "Are you done with that??" thing that some places do. There were several other empty tables for two still available, so I didn't feel there was any need to rush us along.

I have to agree with Rich that this place is quite under the radar. They also will accept reservations Sunday-Friday from 5:00-6:30PM for anyone that might have theater or orchestra tickets. Also a very extensive collection of olive oils has its own menu if one wishes to sample some different oils. I saw a flight of olive oils go by in tiny martini glasses and the presentation was quite cute. I was just too full for bread and oil or dessert. I saved myself for Naked Chocolate Cafe after the show.... :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Not sure what can be meant by "under the radar", given the crowds they get. Personally, I've given up on them: tables are impossible to get anywhere near prime time - on one occasion I was told at 6:30 that the wait was three hours; and when I tried once to go early, they sprung that "We don't take reservations, except when we do, and no, I don't care if there's no hint of that policy anywhere" thing on me. On top of their no-decent-stemware-outside policy, and a general poor hosting attitood (though their servers are always gracious, in my experience), the whole place has just become way, way, way too much trouble for the (undeniably good) food.

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By "under the radar" I suspect Rich is implying the same surprise I feel that they aren't getting more press for the caliber of food they're serving. I helped judge the Philly Cooks competition two weeks ago. One of the desserts that came to my table was a Rosemary Olive Oil cake with Fleur de Sel ice cream. It screamed Vetri to me and I was certain it was from either Vetri or Osteria. I was stunned to discover it was Mercato that had made this delicious sweet/savory treat. Neither of Vetri's restaurants were even participating that evening.

As for the difficulty in securing a table, I suspect that Mercato will be much like Dmitri's is for me. I'll never ever go on a weekend night and I'll either go early or go late on weeknights or Sunday evenings. The early reservations thing works if you don't mind starting dinner by 6:30. That worked for us tonight because of our performance tickets.

I had dinner at Dmitri's last Tuesday night and had no problem walking in at around 7:15PM and getting a table immediately.

There are some places that just aren't meant for prime time consumption on weekend nights. That works for me because I'm working then anyway... :smile:

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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YM definitely MV, I suppose. The food is good. The trouble I've had have been weekday issues - prime time, but not weekend. And really, it is not, in the end, the difficulties themselves that have soured me: it is the maddening arrogance with which the hosts have handled them that have put me off the whole place. I also never go to Dmitri's, for much the same reasons.

As to the reservation/no reservation thing... Yeah, I imagine it would be an advantage now that I know about it. But that sort of hybrid... idiocy, to be kind, is going to create a lot of problems, if you don't a) announce it prominently, and b) show some flexibility when someone somehow presumes you may actually be consistent. And "flexibility" seems to be an issue for their front-of-house staff.

Anyway, that's as much spleen as I want to waste on them. The food is good, yes.

Edited by Capaneus (log)
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Never had a bad meal at Mercato. Just goes to show DeCecco pasta goes a long way!

Not sure if you're joking or not, but the chestnut pappardelle with my duck dish was most certainly not out of a box.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I guess I'll be seeking out those pasta dishes that I know must certainly be handmade in the future. I'd never really given it much thought before, but I guess certain things are more easily detectable as not "boxed". I suppose those descriptions always sound more appetizing to me so I think/hope the issue resolves itself.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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There's nothing wrong with dried pasta; it always comes out of a box, and you use it for different sorts of dishes than you would fresh. Don't see why anybody would turn their nose up at it. And De Cecco is a perfectly good brand; it's not the best, but it's solid.

Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)
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It's been a little while since I was there, but had an amazing pappardelle with wild boar ragu. The pasta was fresh. This thread reminds me that I need to go back before it gets too warm for such a hearty dish.

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