Mercato means market in Italian.
Mercato is also the name of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's wildly successful Italian restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong (Central). The restaurant embodies the heart and soul of a traditional market in Italy -- seasonal ingredients, fresh produce, artisanal products, and a sense of community. The menus reflect Jean-Georges's cooking philosophy: executing a lighter style that avoids heavy meat-stock and cream-based sauces, but focuses more on vegetable and fruit essences, light broths, and herbal vinaigrettes.
The first location opened in Shanghai in 2012. The second location opened in Hong Kong in 2016. A third one has opened up in Guangzhou, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's planning additional ones.
I've visited Mercato Hong Kong twice now and I've loved it both times. The food is excellent (up there with the best Italian in Hong Kong, which is a high standard!). The atmosphere is warm and relaxed. I like how a lot of the dishes feel reasonably healthy and light, yet they are still packed with so much flavor.
Here's a look at some dishes we've tried.
I loved this vibrant green salad made with kale, fresh peas, mint, and a poached egg. The mint added a lovely refreshing zip to the salad.
This is the dish that made me fall in love with the restaurant. The Warm Seafood Salad [HKD 218] is phenomenal. Various types of lightly poached seafood (squid, clams, shrimp, etc) tossed with avocado, lemon, parsley, and olive oil. It's simple in some ways, but so easy to do poorly. The seafood texture here was outstanding, and the balance of flavors was perfect. It reminded me of the only other seafood salad I've ever had of this calibre - the one from New York's famously impossible-to-get-into Rao's (I ate at their other location in Las Vegas).
Definitely one of my favorite dishes at Mercato.
Arancini, deep fried "risotto" balls.
They have a pretty serious wood burning Italian oven which they use to make all their pizzas. The pizza dough is made in house with Italian semolina flour, and the pizza has quite a thin, chewy crust.
Pretty decent underbelly char.
Here's a fun pizza: black truffle, three cheese, and a farm egg (HKD 318).
The house made pastas are also delicious. Pictured: capellini with shrimp and chili in an aglio e olio sauce topped with fresh herbs. I love the freshness from the herbs.
Prosciutto-wrapped pork loin with glazed mushroom and sage[HKD 348] was very good. The pork was still a bit pink in the middle, which made it super juicy.
The restaurant is also open for lunch and brunch. We once went during weekend brunch and ordered a lovely fried chicken sandwich, which was quite good. They offer a nice weekly set lunch (two courses, HKD 228; three courses HKD 278) which seems to be a pretty good value. Choose an appetizer, main, and optionally sides and desserts. I've never been there for lunch, but if I worked close by I would totally consider it.
Mercato Hong Kong - General Thoughts
Despite the intense competition in Hong Kong from many excellent Italian restaurants, I can see why this place still continues to do so well. The food is excellent and the restaurant is really well-run. I really like how the dishes do not rely as much on rich, meaty ingredients, but instead make use of fresh vegetables and lots of herbs to provide flavor. Many of the dishes are actually quite simple, yet they shine because they use high quality ingredients and are executed with finesse.
The pizzas are quite good and the pastas are great. What's not to love?
All in all, I really like Mercato and would happily come back again (and again).
Mercato Hong Kong
No.32D' Aguilar Street
Central, Hong Kong
This is the tenth post in the updated #50Postsin50Days - Take 2 Challenge. Other posts in this series will be added to the bottom of the original post.