Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A week of deliciousness - Part I - Mercadito

So this past week has been really fantastic, food-wise. On MLK day, Adam and I decided to trek to Alphabet City (Lower East Side? I don't know what anything's called) for Mexican. I don't know where Adam reads about places half the time (though NYmetro, Chowhound, and the Times are definitely on his list), but he'd heard good things about Mercadito on Avenue B between 11th and 12th (I think).

We started out with the trio of guacamoles: one traditional, one with mango and chipotle, and one with pineapple and some other kind of chili. Adam and I each preferred one of the fruit guacamoles...he liked pineapple and I liked mango, though I couldn't be sure. I liked the less spicy one, because sadly I'm a bit of a spice wuse. The portions of guac were pretty small, I thought, but it was enough for a few good bites of each. Besides, no need filling up on avocado with so many other things to try. However, the trio isn't enough for sharing with more than 2 or 3 people max, I think.

We then got the ceviche combo. Adam's favorite was probably the tuna, but he always loves tuna. I don't remember its preparation specifically...mango? citrus juice?...but I remember it being tasty but pretty standard. He wasn't as much a fan of the shrimp with coconut and pineapple, but I actually liked it a lot. He thought it tasted a bit too much like pina colada. We got another fish (robola?) with strawberries, which I thought was an interesting ceviche ingredient and we both enjoyed it. All three were definitely good, though good ceviche can be gotten at many places in the city, so that wasn't the standout.

Next we did tacos. The orders normally come with three, but (for a proportionate charge) they will do an order of four and mix two different kinds. Perfect for sharing with another person, and I was glad that the waitress suggested doing it this way. We got the shrimp tacos, which were deliciously smoky (from chipotle?) without being overly spicy. Our other taco choice was the salmon wrapped in potato. These were much lighter than I'd expected from the description (normally I think of salmon and definitely fried potato as being heavy and oily). They were delicious, a surprise standout.

We moved on to the last section on the menu. We initially ordered the cactus, which the waitress suggested. Although I don't remember the exact preparation, I do remember it being pretty tasty. Besides, it's fun to say you've eaten cactus. After asking for desert menus, Adam decided that he wanted to try another savory dish first. We ordered the oysters with manchego and chorizo, hold the chorizo, since we'd heard good things about it. However, I think the oysters were a little too oystery without the sausage to distract. It was still cheesy and enjoyable, but I wouldn't order it again.

We finally got to dessert. Our waitress again offered that they could do three desserts together, so we got carmelized plantains with roasted nuts, pumpkin flan, and...I want to say it was a rice pudding of some sort. All were good, but the plantains were FANTASTIC. Our waitress raved about them in agreement, saying she always asks for "Talia-sized," extra large orders.

We each ordered one margarita with our meal, just to try some from their interesting menu. Adam got one with chipotle chilies, which was smoky and a bit spicy and I enjoyed (though would have liked it more without the salt rim, I'm just not a fan of that). I got one with hibiscus (I believe it was) that tasted pretty much like cranberry but was still good. They seemed reasonably strong.

The waitress was friendly and full of recommendations, most (if not all, I don't remember exactly) I agreed with. Oddly enough, all but one dish on the "specials" blackboard were also on the regular menu, which I found odd. Her spiel included describing the menu as set up like a tasting menu, where you try lots of things. While I see where she was going with this (we did do each section in a flight), I think it'd be better to think of it as tapas...try a lot of things until you're full. The restaurant is tiny, so you're practically on top of the person next to you, though perhaps this is better in the back room. Another problem with sitting in the front was that there was a draft whenever someone opened the outside door (despite a thick curtain), and we ate the meal with our coats on. If I came back I'd make a reservation and sit in the back room if possible...especially with a large group so that we can order lots of things!


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