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Mercato, Hong Kong: California dreamin’


  10.07.16    Hong Kong


It’s been fifteen months since Ore-No first welcomed curios diners, back when the rest of California Tower in LKF was a building site. Now it’s entirely open and the lines for the elevators I’d predicted has kinda come to pass. One of the latest openings is Mercato from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a storied chef whose first foray in Hong Kong was wayyyy back in 1982 at the Mandarin.  It’s a new Italian space that follows their Shanghai branch – and is not to be confused with the underrated El Mercado in Wan Chai.

A lunchtime hop turns into two hours, thanks to some very good dishes and chilled Rosé, but not before a cheeky and very refreshing loosener on a scorching day of vodka, lemon and thyme.

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The walls are covered in a slightly curious brick facade, with pendulous lights aplenty inside. The big draw looks to be the terrace, not yet open, but sure to be a tempting draw in cooler months.

 

An endive and sugar snap pea salad came beautifully presented under a sensational citrus dressing and shavings of parmigiano, a perfect summer starter, light and vibrant, but more than zesty enough to open up the palate. I’d order this guilt-free number time and again.

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A salmon tartare on bruschetta was more predictable but still very nicely executed, featuring as many purple and yellow petals as the salad:

MERCATO HONG KONG RESTAURANT REVIEW

We took a detour from the set menu as their special of black truffle, three cheese and farm egg pizza ($238) looked too damn fine. Well you would, wouldn’t you?  You can tell from the molten cheesy crust, the just-right yolk and the heady aromas of black gold that this ain’t yo mama’s Pizza Hut. You need this in your life.

MERCATO HONG KONG RESTAURANT REVIEW

Even if that bad boy was one helluva hard act to come up against, the other main was still a slight off note in a lunchtime singalong. The problem was that it wasn’t really the sum of its parts. Pasta with clams is a classic with good reason, but here they were muted – and as you can tell from the photo, there was no sauce anywhere in the picture. It was crying out for a deeper bowl and a slick of good stuff underneath, but instead ended up dry and ultimately disappointing.

MERCATO HONG KONG RESTAURANT REVIEW

The kitchen was quickly back on form with a brilliant dessert to make you forgive minor pasta indiscretions. Although passion fruit took top billing on the menu, clearly the cocoa bean was the star in a sublime little chocolate tart.

MERCATO HONG KONG RESTAURANT REVIEW

Eating and meeting with a bona fide PR legend meant that the cheque was kindly taken care of, but the set lunch runs $198 for 2 courses.

Open 12:00–14:30, 18:00–23:00.