Dinner at Mercat a la Planxa - 9/24/2011
So we decided to check out Iron Chef José Garces' place . . . that's how they describe it wen you call the restaurant and get their recording: "This is Iron Chef José Garces . . . "
We had 9:15 reservations on a Saturday night, and the joint was jumpin' -- still waited 20 minutes for our table. The problem is that there's no real way to get a drink -- there was no place to sit, no way to even get to the bar, no one to take our order/ask if we wanted a drink. (Minus one star.)
When we were finally seated, we got our menus and -- OK, the waitress was stressed, overworked, busy -- but does she REALLY have to explain what "tapas" are to people? Really??? Maybe so.
So we ordered cocktails, and ordered several tapas, and I said to her, "Since paella takes some time to make, we should probably order that now." She came back and told me the paella would take an hour. So we skipped the paella (kitchen was backed-up?), and ordered a couple of more tapas . . .
The first two tapas arrived *before* our cocktails. OK, so the kitchen *wasn't* backed-up, the bar was? (Minus another star.)
The waitress returned to tell us a) the cocktails were on the way, and b) that they were sold out of the baby octopus and the Jamon Iberico . . . so we ordered two different tapas . . . .
Uh -- I don't know. The food -- what they DID have and when we DID get it -- was quite good. The cocktails were very good. The wine list was OK, nothing too exciting, and NO sherries -- tapas and Fino (or Manzanilla) is a classic pairing, and they don't have any???
Sherry DID appear, but only on the dessert menu -- why a Fino is on the dessert menu when it's an aperitif is beyond me . . . .
This restaurant has potential. As I said the food we did get was quite tasty, but the service was off, the kitchen and bar disjointed, and as it is, no more than 3 stars.
Mercat a la Planxa
638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605
Similar experience. Very good food. Cruddy service, mainly for the server's convenience, not yours. Food came out far too fast. It is very good, give us time to enjoy it. BTW, it was a Sunday night, the place was not full.
I asked the server's advice for a Spanish beer. He suggested a double fermented beer, which was quite good. Except he didn't tell me it was a 26 oz bottle. I had just meant one beer, which I would later follow with wine. Opened in a jiffy. Too late. Gotcha.
The guy was nice but rushed, came by when he had time (which was not often) and then only to push more stuff on us.
First tapas before drinks, same deal.
I have had much better experiences with the Garces places in Phila. I suspect he is not in Chicago in person much.
Too bad service is so poor, the food was really good.
I've eaten at Mercat .... about 8 times. I love the food with current favorites being the olive oil poached halibut and always that wonderful salad. It is not a restaurant I go to for superb service - it's been a bit up and down on that score but never in a way that's made me think I don't want to return. And at times, the service has been lovely.