A foodie friend drove me from the southern suburbs to experience one of the most creative brunches in Chicagoland. She was spot-on.
Located in the Blackstone Hotel, Mercat has an ever-changing three course tasting menu that also includes unlimited trips to the cheese (manchego) and meat (chorizo - some of the best) and dessert stations. At $25 bucks this is a bargain in quality and quantity.
The servers understand the elegance of allowing conversations to continue while timing the presentation of the next course. Directly before our trip to the cheese/meat bar, we passed by a drink station that offered either virgin or alcoholic versions of Catalan-inspired bloody Marys, which one could dress with an inspirational number of ingredients lined along the bar. Cornichons with the Mary? How could I resist.
As we slowly completed our manchego app, the server was attentive but not hovering. Our plates cleared, the bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds and finished with a special sauce had my eyes rolling to the back of my head. Am I in heaven? I wondered. The second half of the first course consisted of minipancakes with nutella, toasted banana marshmallow and rosemary caramel. The addition of the rosemary to the caramel gave me pause, so I had to try the strange combo. It worked (this coming from someone with no discernable sweet tooth).
Next the Mercat Eggs Benedict arrived with a perfectly poached egg complemented by a perfect truffled hollandaise and brioche. Was I in France, Spain, or Chicago?
The second half of the second course consisted of flash fried peppers with an almond x--- sauce. Those things nearly drove me home to grill some on my own -- but I do not know what kind of peppers they were. They must have been imported because I have not known the delicate yet lingering taste before. GIVE ME MORE was my thought. I am glad I had room for the final two third courses.
Suckling pig melted in my mouth. Is there nothing in life my porcine friends cannot fix? To end with seared brussel sprouts w/cranberry, walnut and French feta could be mundane if not executed with such care.
The dessert bar was the only disappointment. This selection was mundane, and the nibbles were not worth the calories.
Speciality drinks were offered for a mere $5 and appeared to be generously poured.
We left sated but not stuffed. It is a wonder to experience an excellent tasting menu that did not have me wondering where the nearest fast food chain was, so I could actually have food instead of snotty snacks. Bravo!
When I return, I may opt for the ala carte menu as Scottish smoked salmon on a toasted bagel with the mandatory East Coast accoutrements appeals to my senses.
HOWEVER, reviewing the Catalan menu for dinner, I believe other, less expensove options are available (Cafe Iberico). Brunch it was and will always be at Mercat.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.