There have been mixed reviews looming, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I booked an 8.30pm sitting at Mercado. The Australian’s John Lethlean called out co-owner and chef Nathan Sasi on the supposed woodfire oven (or lack thereof) situation. And quite a few friends of mine weren’t impressed by the food or the service.
I still find blogging or writing about food kind of weird (and yet here I am, doing it) because every individual has a different palate and a unique memory bank of the flavors they love and know. As a quick segue, check out David Chang’s article where he discusses his unified theory of deliciousness. “When you eat something amazing, you don’t just respond to the dish in front of you; you are almost always transported back to another moment in your life,” he declares. And I couldn’t agree more.
Anyway, back to why I think it’s weird. Just because I gush about my experience at Mercado doesn’t mean everyone else will, too. My concern is that people take these opinions as absolute truths, which I think is nonsensical. It goes to show that sometimes you should check it out anyway, regardless of what the reviews or your friends say. You may love the wagyu tongue brioche sandwich. You may not.
I for one get pretty excited about the smoked wagyu tongue in brioche with pickled green tomato. It’s like a warm, lingering, slightly sexual hug. Another standout dish for me is the foie gras parfait with cornichons and toast. Utterly indulgent and smooth as hell.
But it’s the Turkish ravioli of pumpkin, yogurt & burnt butter that’s my eureka moment. It’s fantastically buttery, matched with slippery pasta that reminds me of wonton skins. Especially with the sweetness of pumpkin and the tart creaminess of yogurt… Do not disturb. This needs a moment of quiet contemplation.
I’m already full at this stage – we clearly over-ordered (again – this happens a lot). Half a spit roasted chicken arrives at our table along with a side of roasted carrots, almond dukkah, and tea soaked currants. Stacked up generously in a triangle, these sweet and nutty carrots would make Bugs Bunny happy.
The only dish I’m not head over heels for is the dulce de leche ice cream with butterscotch & candied bacon. I would have preferred a salty or tangy relief, but it was sweet on top of sweet on top of sweet. Needless to say, any sweet tooth will love this.
So there. We left ridiculously full and very content. Because I didn’t really love Sasi’s first venture Nomad, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy Mercado as much as I did. I’m glad I disregarded the negative reviews – the food here suits my palate to a tee.
No.4 Ash Street Sydney
Monday to Friday 12-2.30pm, 5.30-11pm