Mercat, a faux-rustic tapas bar on Bond street in Noho, serves Catalonian-style dishes that manage to be both exotic and comforting. While the food here is quite good, it also can be a cursory tale in what I like to call the small plate red herring: just because the dishes are small and meant for sharing doesn't mean that they're going to be the best value.
We started with an order of the Coliflor ($8), fried florets of cauliflower topped with strips of crispy fried leeks and toasted pumpkin seeds. The cauliflower was not overcooked, as it so often can be, while the leeks added a nice crunch. The dish was "topped" with the pumpkin seeds, though they mostly collected in the bottom of the dish with the excess frying oil. We weren't quite sure what to do with them. The dish came with a hazelnut aioli, an addictive dip to be sure, though we didn't quite figure out what additional pumpkin seeds added to it.
Next up was the Tonyina amb Escabetx ($11), tuna tartar—one of the loudest versions of the dish I've ever had. The fish sat on a bed of avocado that had been spiked with lemon juice, the acidity nicely cutting the richness of the tuna. A few cucumber slices on top added crunch, and crispy yucca chips accompanied the tartar. The only complaint here? The menu suggested there'd be pork rinds involved in this dish, and we couldn't detect so much as a porky crumb.
We weren't going to leave without having some chorizo. For that we turned to the Truita ($13), a light, fluffy egg omelet with bits of chorizo and topped with a drizzle of aioli. About six inches in diameter, this omelet was perfectly cooked, with the dominant flavor throughout being pimenton, the main spice that flavors Spanish chorizo.
Already past our price range but still hungry, we turned to that always reliable, usually cheap menu item: potatoes! Marcat's Patates Braves ($8) are chunks of potatoes, deep fried until crispy and topped with what the menu ambiguously refers to as "spicy sauce," but which we'll call spicy aioli.
Our aioli-heavy meal at Mercat was (like most things aioli-filled) delicious, but the restaurant had us in the tapas trap. A restaurant specializing in small plates is no guarantee that it's going to be budget friendly—in fact, it's often the other way around. The food was delicious, but between the two of us, we spent $40 before tax and tip on what turned out to be a pretty light meal. I'd recommend Mercat, but it's a splurge.
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