Mercat, located in the Blackstone Hotel
, is reason enough to never leave your hotel. This is one of those rare times when service, ambiance and food all tie seamlessly together. And Mercat makes it look effortless. The sly little staff headsets might have something to do with that, but when you're seated promptly, given the low-down on (Next Iron Chef winner) Jose Garces's menu in one flawless breath and presented with dishes that look even better than they sound, does it really matter how it happens?
Park it in one of the cushy floral dining chairs and start with a little something to whet your whistle. Three signature martinis skirt the sweeter side of cocktails while the sangria selection keeps it real with your choice of red or white (plus one that changes seasonally). The deep red and orange hues coalescing in your glass of fruity wine just may have been the inspiration for the festive dining room. An open kitchen overlooks eager diners and a downstairs bar and lounge is a quiet escape from the delicious commotion upstairs.
A complimentary flatbread topped with tomato, garlic and basil is served in two long strips on a narrow white plate. This stuff is like bruschetta with a twist; instead of thin and crunchy, the dough is thick and fluffy. You’d think room for dessert would be a no-brainer when the portions are as small as tea cups (which some choices, like the bacon-wrapped dates, are literally served in). But the menu is packed with so many intriguing choices; it's hard to stop at just a few.
In the event that you're not already popping that top button on the jeans, go for something sweet, salty and chocolaty. Bite-size pieces of intense milk chocolate shaped like Worthers, crammed with bits of pine nuts and served over a rectangular, salty slab of lemon-infused gelatin, make for a tasty little dessert. Is it sweet or savory? Forget it and allow your palate to relish in the happy confusion.
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Stacy Warden