after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Mercato keeps the dream alive

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t says:  g and I have a confession to make.  We’re “over” Restaurant Week.  Back in the day, when it was $30pp, we were all over it like white on rice.  But nowadays, with that $5 price increase (actually, I think the increase is a couple years old now), we’re just not so optimistic.  The restaurants are crowded.  The servers are overworked.  Chefs whine/complain in the blogosphere left and right.  Of course, there are some exceptions out there (looking at you, Amada!), but all-too-often, the food just isn’t a good representation of what the restaurant can do (which is kinda-sorta-the-fault of the restaurant – if you can’t deal with the RW crowd, then don’t participate!  Go on vacation, like Kanella used to!).  But … this season … g and I got back into it RW.  Why?  Well – we had some wine to taste from our Napa trip and people to taste it with (a and v) but nowhere to eat!  As we looked at BYOs to go to, g remembered one we hadn’t been to in a while: Mercato!  AND – because they did a great RW some years ago,  g tasked a to set it up.  a got the job done (he’s dependable like that) ,and we showed up, ready to eat and drink …

October 2012, Tuesday Restaurant Week Dinner, Party of 4.  g and I met a and v at the restaurant.  I pulled out the wine selections for the evening (I caught a with his pants down: his Philly wine stash was low, so he was happy to leave the choosing up to me this time):

wines for the evening … the sauvignon blanc is from a rising young-gun, while the red [covered to conceal its identity] is a lesser-known varietal by life-saving winery Ehlers Estate

Both of these wines are small[er]-production bottles from California (Massican is small-production is general, while Ehlers produces quite a bit more, but only limited quantities of its non-Cabernet Sauvignon bottles like the mystery bottle above).  Is it pointless for me to put these here?  Kinda.  It’s super-hard to find these, especially in PA.  Does it drive you crazy that I haven’t revealed the identity of the mystery wine?  This allows me to introduce our new resident tweeter: TallGlassOfVino.  If you have any questions about these wines, send ’em our way!  The short story for these two particular wines: both delicious, both “interesting”, both worth getting again.

Ok, so back to the food …

meet [nearly] the best antipasto in the city!

The antipasti at Mercato is off-the-hook.  When we saw it on the RW menu, g and I knew that we just had to get it.  It looks like a cluster on a plate, but I assure you that every single thing on this plate is worth eating.  The crostinis, the cheese, the artichoke, the tomato, the pickled red onion (!! surprise awesomeness !!), the cured meat, the lentils, the eggplant, the olives … the sour-savory balance is done so well!  It just doesn’t get any better than this!  Well … except maybe Vetri … but come on – does that really count?  I say no …

Here are shots of a’s and v’s appetizers and food.

a’s app: soup of some sort

v’s app: artichoke – v didn’t seem to really take to it – I guess she was imagining something a little more interesting than artichoke and some aioli

v’s main:  chestnut fettucini – it smelled wonderful – and I liked how it tasted like fall on a plate!

a’s main: blurry picture of veal: a’s was absolutely delicious!  that veal was so succulent, so well-prepared, and the sauce was impeccably seasoned.  i loved it!  (and I only had one bite!)

t’s main: gnocchi with braised beef and broccoli rabe

I remembered the gnocchi dish from the last time we went to Mercato, so I felt the need to revisit it.  And, to be honest, it wasn’t quite as good as I remember.  So instead of “in-the-running-for-the-best-gnocchi-in-the-city”, it’s going to settle in as “better-than-La-Viola”.  As you might gather, there were some issues.  I think the biggest had to do with the sauce consistency – it was just a little too thin for my taste – it didn’t really cling to the gnocchi at all, so in the end, I had some gnocchi that didn’t have a lot of taste due to lack of coverage by the sauce.  The beef was also a little lackluster – it just wasn’t “loved” with the intensity during cooking that I wanted my cow to be loved (I realize that this sentence makes no sense – but I’m sticking with it).

pyramid pasta stuffed with lobster shrimp and cheese

g felt that she won dinner.  I’m not sure I agree, because a’s dish was so wonderful.  However, g was in the mood for something a bit “lighter”, and so she was very satisfied with the surprisingly-light brown butter sauce, the sweet sweet shellfish/crustaceans, and the fresh veggie flavors.  Between this and the super-citrus of the Massican sauvignon blanc, she was in heaven …

The desserts … hmmm … to be honest, I can’t find the pictures of dessert.  I suspect that the lack of pictures and the lack of memory means that they were unremarkable.  g and v had some kind of apple pie thing with cinnamon ice cream (g loves-loves-LOVES cinnamon ice cream).  a had panna cotta (that unfortunately failed the “woman’s-breast-test”).  I had a molten chocolate cake (that fortunately passed the “I-hope-this-doesn’t-suck-test”).   The desserts solid overall – I’m not sure they’d be worth $8ish dollars, but the way we see it – RW is kind of like “you-pay-for-two-courses-and-get-dessert-for-free”, so we couldn’t complain.

In all, 2 of 3 appetizers and 2 of 4 mains were exceptional.  The remaining dishes ranged anywhere from “good” to “could-probably-be-great-with-some-execution-details”.  With better menu selection on our part, we could have probably assembled a flawless dinner (each of us was deciding between at least two options for every course, so I guess we just got a little “unlucky” for the less-than-exceptional choices).  The four of us felt that this was a big win for Mercato.  We’ll have to keep it in mind for future RW when we want to sling some wine.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 October 2012 at 10:03pm

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