Mercat a la Planxa was a real surprise on this trip. It was our last meal in Chicago and we made early lunch reservations before having to go to the airport. Mercat is located in the newly restored Blackstone Hotel. Sage Hospitality bought the Blackstone and partnered with Chef Jose Garces (owner and operator of the highly regarded Amada and Tinto restaurants in Philadelphia.
Although Chef Garces is rarely there, Chef J. Michael Fiorello is chef de cuisine. Judging from our meal on Monday, he is absolutely up to the task.
The room is gorgeous with a mosaic-tiled open kitchen and an explosion of color.
The menu is a modern take on tapas. Our server, Frank was wonderful and helped us devise a diverse selection of small plates, even including some items not usually offered on the lunch menu.
Croquetas de Jamon – Serrano Ham Croquettes – absolutely delicious.
Truita de Patata con Espinacas – Spanish omelet (more like a frittata) with spinach, potatoes and saffron aioli – another absolute winner
Inside of the omelet
Pulpo con Patatas – Spanish Octopus, Confit Potato, Smoked paprika – octopus if done improperly can be tough and chewy. This was anything but – tender, well-seasoned octopus bites. I hope the photos convey how vibrant this cuisine is.
Frank surprised us with an order of Bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with almonds, frisee. Then he poured an applewood/manchego cheese fondue on top. Sensational.
Fondue on top
Habas a la Catalana – Warm Fava and Lima Bean salad with shaved Serrano Ham – we were on a roll – another winner
Mercat has an entire list of fish and meats done on the grill.
Hamachi done on the grill and served with Guindilla Chili Aioli and Romesco – perfect
We then ordered 2 sandwiches to go for the plane – not pictured.
The Shoko Club – smoked turkey breast, mahon cheese, bacon, honey mustard and almonds on mutigrain artisan bread done like a panini
El Borne – Serrano Ham, Manchego Cheese, Roasted Peppers and Basil Aioli on a baguette
We certainly didn’t need United’s lousy airplane food.
I would love to go back to Mercat for dinner and eat my way through the menu.