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Sep 4, 2008 11:32 AM

Mercat a la Planxa - great food

See pics here :

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. Wait til you see the photos.

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

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.

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.
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

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.

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  1. I also tried Mercat recently, propelled by the great reviews it had been getting on Chowhound. I have mixed feelings about it - the first 4-5 dishes that we got were great, but the rest were disappointing.

    We also had the Pulpo con Patatas, which I thought was amazing. The fried peppers, and the squid ink pasta were fantastic as well. Had several others which escape me at this moment that were very good.

    Something was off with the Hamachi, a bit too raw and very fishy. A couple of the dishes were too salty as well.

    Desserts were possibly among the worst I have ever had, completely ruining the meal for me.

    Service was very friendly, though a bit awkwardly paced.

    1. I worked with Fiorello briefly a few years ago and it was clear he was going places. Glad to see he's reached this level of success.

      1. Mercat was OK but the food seems to be sort of dumbed-down and way too big for "tapas". Come to Philly and eat at Amada or Tinto to see Garces' food the way it's supposed to be.

        Surprised because I thought chicago was a little more "food-forward" than Philly but the menu at Mercat makes me think it might be the other way around.

        1 Reply
        1. re: silverbullet69

          To be fair, Mercat, Armada and Tinto are trying to do different things (different regions of Spain, etc). See the descriptions on their web sites linked at