Culture in the 312: Mercat a la Planxa

    If you come to Mercat a la Planxa for lunch, definitely take advantage of the Catalan Express. This lunch special allows you to pick one first course and one second course for $18, soft drink or iced tea included. This is a great deal considering that the priciest second course, tuna, is already $17.

    Our waitress was very knowledgeable, but the busboy was totally clueless. He looked perpetually confused and mixed up dishes between tables and amongst diners at our table.

    I started with the Ensalada Verde, mixed greens with asparagus, avocado, green beans and shaved Mahon cheese. I particularly liked the sharp crumbly cheese, although I wish I could have tasted it a little more. Its flavor was overwhelmed by the vinaigrette.

    Everyone else started with the Arroz a la Cazuela, a saffron scented broth with shrimp, chicken chorizo, artichoke confit and piquillo aioli. The crostini with aioli was a hit, and the soup was well-received, although quite salty. Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the jumbo size of the shrimp.

    Two of us had the atun con apio-nabo, or yellowfin tuna, smoked pine nuts, celery root and basil-emulsion. It had very light flavors and was wonderfully presented. Our tuna was lightly grilled, though it might have been better even rarer. The celery root was the highlight of this dish.

    The Black Angus Hanger Steak and Mercat Burger were both prepared well. The burger had a very unique La Peral cheese sauce, padron peppers and red wine onion jam. Good enough to rival DMK Burger Bar. The hanger steak was accompanied by potato croquette and beech mushroom escabeche. Iron ChefJose Garces really personalizes each offering on the menu while remaining true to the restaurant’s Catalonian roots. Not a single dish disappointed.

    For dessert we had the signature Croquetas de Xocolata — milk chocolate croquettes, banana marshmallow, rosemary caramel and arbequina olive oil. Unlike anything I have ever tasted. I was in love with them because I don’t generally like fried food and I much prefer dark to milk chocolate, but I can appreciate the combination of flavors in this sweet dish. My brother, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough.

    I will definitely be back, perhaps to try the special tapas menu! I hear they have a pretty nice bar too, which I will be sure to check out, but not for a couple of years.


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