Mercato by Jean Georges
Add: 6/F, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu / 中山东一路外滩3号6楼, 近广东路
Tel: 6321 9922
Price: approx. 300 RMB/person
Visited on: 2012-07
Please note that this is an arranged tasting.
When Mercato by Jean Georges opened last week at Three on the Bund, it instantly became one of the loveliest dining spots in Shanghai. It’s hard not to fall in love with this place, a stylish interior designed by Neri & Hu (the same folks behind The Waterhouse and Table No. 1) with a modern and extremely likable Italian menu. A charming evening, guaranteed.
The design at Mercato bridges the organic and natural with elegance and modernity, using a combination of reclaimed wood, warm leather, exposed steel, iron, and glass. Stylishly rustic, if you will. I especially loved the use of fresh herbs and vegetables, which added a warm and inviting touch to an otherwise very polished vibe.
Guests will first pass through The Mercato Bar, then arrive at The Pizza Lounge illuminated by an Italian wood burning oven. A perfect spot for a casual meal with a friend or two.
Towards the back, there are communal tables to accommodate large groups, as well as smaller tables for the more intimate dinners.
For our tasting dinner, we were given a little bit of everything from a menu that’s characterized as Coastal Italian cuisine, with a heavy focus on seafood, homemade pastas and wood-fired pizzas.
First arrived a lovely bread plate of grissini, foccacia, fennel raisin roll, and rye sourdough.
Amuse bouche of the evening was risotto wrapped in bread crumbs, then fried to a golden crisp. A charmer!
Then came a flurry of dishes from the Crudo and Appetizers sections, starting with this lovely House Made Ricotta with Strawberry, Olive Oil and Grilled Bread (68 RMB). Fluffy ricotta with sweet tart strawberries? I could snack on this all day long.
I also loved the Crab Crostini, Garlic Aioli, Chilies and Herbs (118 RMB), which was reminiscent of this dish I tried at one of the Jean-Georges Vongerichten cooking demonstrations. Click here for recipe.
Kingfish Carpaccio, Crushed Olives and Dill (68 RMB) was another hit. Fresh slices of kingfish carpaccio with a scattering of crushed olives and dill dancing across the top, spiced with jalapeño peppers that tingled and teased.
Beef Carpaccio, Matsutake Mushroom, Arugula and Parmesan (108 RMB), with a heady olive oil aroma that really brought this dish alive.
Fritto Misto, Spicy Anchovy Dip (98 RMB), an all-time crowd pleaser.
Tomato and Summer Fruit Salad, Balsamic Vinegar and Basil (78 RMB), this one I don’t particularly remember much about.
Likewise with the Wood-Oven Roasted Asparagus, Fontina and Proscuitto (78 RMB), though it was highly-praised by a few others at the table.
After the Crudo and Appetizers, we were served a few dishes from the Pasta and Pizza selections. Lobster Raviolis, Olive Oil, Lemon and Herbs (128/178 RMB) - don’t these look like pot stickers? – were composed of thin pasta dough wrapping delightful, light as air lobster mousse. A perfectly refreshing dish for the summer.
Conchiglie with Bottarga and Fresh Mozzarella (108/158 RMB) had an intensively flavorful scattering of bottarga shavings, but the conchiglie unfortunately had an unpleasant doughy texture.
Clams and Stracciatella with Lemon and Parsley Wood-Oven Pizza (128 RMB), light and chewy with satisfying char marks, tenderly crackling at the bottom. I’d be back to Mercato just for the pizza.
Moving on to the mains. First came three sea food dishes – Spotted Garoupa (218 RMB/100g), Turbot (48 RMB/100g), and Lobster (78 RMB/100g) - all simply roasted with herbs and garlic, then served with a house-made chili sauce. Compared to everything else that already floated through the table, the main courses actually weren’t too memorable for me, though this is perhaps partly because by this point my taste buds were already overwhelmed and my stomach space pushing its limit.
The sides, by the way, were delicious. Don’t miss the Spicy Crackling Cheesy Polenta (38 RMB), you’ll love its delicate crunch.
Char-Grilled Broccolini (38 RMB), simple and well-done.
Likewise with the Crunchy Potatoes, Garlic and Herbs (38 RMB).
Lastly, desserts. My favorite was the Bittersweet Chocolate Budino with Salted Caramel Powder (58 RMB), budino being the Italian word for pudding. At the bottom of the cup is velvety smooth chocolate pudding, its bittersweet flavor complemented by a layer of crunchy salted caramel powder on top.
Affogato Sundae with Espresso Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Vanilla Meringue and Cinnamon Crumble (58 RMB) was also very well-received by our table, though it was a bit too sweet for my palate.
Fresh Berries with Mascarpone and Honey (58 RMB) was a refreshing one, though I wish they went easier on the honey and just let the fruits shine.
Tiramisu (58 RMB) was a disappointment. The cakes were too dry, perhaps from not enough soaking?
After dinner, I wandered around the restaurant to snap more pictures of the place. Here’s Chef de Cuisine Sandy Yoon at work in the pizza bar, you can read more about her here.
A sneak peek of the kitchen.
And lastly, a paparazzi shot of Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself. Yes, I did go up to the master chef and asked if I could take a picture with him…
Pricing-wise, I was told that each person should expect to spend around 300 RMB here (not including alcoholic beverages), which seem very reasonable considering the location and the quality of food. Just glancing at the menu, I already spot a few more dishes that I’d love to try: Sliced Divers Scallops with Green Chili, Lime and Herbs / Burrata Cheese with Chopped Herbs and Sea Salt / Warm Seafood Salad, Avocado, Lemon and Parsley / Porcini Crusted Salmon, Warm Leek Vinaigrette and Herbs / Suckling Pig Confit, Smoked Bacon Jam and Silky Corn…and of course, more of the light as air wood-oven pizzas.