Our kitchens are probably the dirtiest in the fall as it tends to be the season where we want to make everything from scratch and experiment. Well you can get that same feeling subtracting your exhaustion and adding some exotic flavors with Mercat a la Planxa’s new fall menu.
Usually I’d do a run down from appetizer to dessert, but there is one dish that demands immediate attention in Mercat’s new menu. I need to confess that I have never liked blood sausage. Like a lot of people who skip over the words blood sausage or morcilla, the thought alone creates shivers and it doesn’t really add any appeal to the eye. However, Mercat’s new butifarra negra has converted me into a blood sausage fanatic. I can’t stop talking about chef Evan Behmer’s housemade blood sausage with parsley, olive oil, and sherry glaze. The sausage is made with Berkshire pork shoulder, hot and smoked paprika, pork blood, pork fat back, clove, and anise seed that together add a mouthful of flavor that cannot be ignored. Converting people into blood sausage lovers is only the tip of the iceberg for what Mercat is doing with their new menu.
Before you get to the butifarra you’ll likely be looking at the salads, so make sure not to skip the Ruta de Xato al Mercat. This Catalan fisherman’s salad is named after a tourist route along the Spanish region where many restaurants and natives claim to have the most authentic xato salad. The salad consists of cured seafood—Mercat is using a mouthwatering housemade smoked salmon on top of frisee, Cornicabra olives, and roasted cherry tomatoes—and boquerones, which are anchovies fillets in vinegar. Chef Behmer has creatively incorporated the boquerones into a smoked paprika picada that consists of hazelnuts, almonds, tomatoes, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and garlic giving the salad some added life. Other appetizer-type dishes you’ll want to eat off your friend’s plates are the rabbit croquettes, the decadent foie gras torchon, or the succulent duck and lamb meatballs.
Of course, nothing will bring a more comforting feeling than a good a paella and Mercat’s wild game paella does that. Not only does my new beloved butifarra negra make an appearance in this paella, but it is joined by even more decadent friends like braised rabbit, duck confit, grilled rabit loin, and housemade chorizo. It is a wild game party mixed with Calasparra rice, piquillo peppers, and shiitake muhrooms.
If you’re able to move after dinner make sure to visit Mercat’s new gin and tonic bar downstairs where smooth gins are your friend and you’ll never encounter syrupy tonic. Spain is known for their wines and sangria—for dinner make sure to try a bottle of the L’essencia del Xarello as it is only available in Mercat—but it is little known that in the Catalan region gin and tonics are very popular. Mercat is establishing itself as Chicago’s best gin bar with cocktails like Corpse Reviver #2 made with Plymouth Gin, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, Cocchi Americano, Pernod, fresh lemon, and Fentiman’s tonic. Served in extremely large glasses, if you can have more than one you’re obviously in for a good, long night.
Mercat a la Planxa is located at 638 S. Michigan Ave. For the full dinner and drink menu along with more information visit mercatchicago.com.