Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baco Mercat

So Charlie mentioned that he hadn't been to Baco Mercat during a kickass dinner at Starry Kitchen Nights @ the Tiara Cafe and I just had to beat him to the punch. Yes! Finally the one time I'm not playing catch-up!

I did not bring a tripod to dinner, so this is a photo-less post that is more for my reference than it is for foodporn browsing during business hours on a slow day.  Rest assured, a second trip is planned.  Just skip the rest of the post if you haven't already.  Text blows.  Anyone actually still reading this?

Arrived at 6pm w/ a party of three on Wed. night to find all tables inside Baco already reserved.  Outside seating was available, and actually preferable.  I found the interior to be a bit too cramped and dark.

Ordered way too much food.  Server raised his eyebrows.

3 Bacos (flatbread sandwich)
All Bacos are made with a very tender yet sturdy flatbread that's good enough to eat by itself.
1. OG- pork/beef carnitas, salbitxada
Pretty sure the pork cut is from the belly.  Meats are crispy outside but still tender on the inside despite being dry.  I'm not making any sense, I know.  But that's what it's like.  The Chinese have a similar way of cooking meat.  Beef cubes were much leaner and this was a major problem if you didnt get a hunk of the pork belly along with it in the bit you just took.  Beef-only bites were pretty dry and took some jaw-work.  Bites w/ the pork belly were juicy, creamy bliss.  So very rich.  The salbitxada spread plays a huge role in the OG's flavor, but that's okay because of its depth and complexity.

2. Beef tongue schnitzel-harissa, smoked aioli, pickle
Tender tongue that still had enough chewiness.  Accompanying spread and sauce brought an awesome combo of sweet, spicy, and light acidity to make all the ingredients and spices come alive in your mouth.  Best of the three.  Absolutely brilliant balancing of flavors.

3. Toron-oxtail hash, pickle, cheddar, tater, horseradish
Think: med.rare oxtail burger+crispy breakfast tater+yogurty sauce w/ pickles and arugula.  Meat was cooked perfectly but needed more salt/seasoning.  Everything else about it was fine.  Could have been a lot better if Baco used lamb.  Tastes good, but not as interesting as the other two.

2 Coca (crispy flatbread aka fancy pizza)
1. El Cordero- merguez, harissa, feta
Fantastic combo of flavors.  The harissa and spicy sausage went so well together with feta giving a light pungent aroma at the back of your palate.  Served with arugula and cheese on top of the pizza.

2. El Starts w/ a "B" but I Forgot the Name- three cheese, spicy peppers, sausage
Loved the use of Thai basil here.  It provided a fresh 'bite' to counter the heaviness of the sausage and cheeses.

Soujouk Pork Belly Ragu- ricotta cavatelli, pecorino, tomato
Small portion, and appropriately so.  Super dense and hearty dish.  Thick and creamy.  I would not suggest you solo this one.  Very heavy on the soujouk sausage seasoning.  I think this is a really good dish, but I'm not sure.  Was so full at this point that it only tasted "good" but I'm sure under hungrier circumstances it would have tasted amazing.

Fried Chicken & Biscuits
Shut up.  I was curious so I ordered it.  Baco Mercat continues their theme of slightly spicy, a little bit sweet, and a touch of acidity.  Pretty good take on fried chicken, which they sandwich between huge biscuit halves. At $13 I would say not worth it except to satisfy your curiosity.  Plan Check (post coming soon) does chicken a lot better and around the same price.  If your a biscuit fan and don't mind shelling out dough for this dish, then you're gonna love it.  Excellent biscuit that's light and flaky yet sturdy enough to soak up juices and hold the chicken.  Especially liked the buttermilk twang and sugar to round out the flavor.  Light sugar glaze on top was a nice touch.(I do the same when I make 'em!)

Upside-down Caramel Cake
$10 disappointment.  Way too sweet and the crumb was not tender enough.  Menu said it is served with apples so I hoped at least some acid would cut through the sugar...but no.  Apples were super sweet too.  Baco Mercat should consider a lighter cake, holding back the sugar, and some acid or tartness.  This sugar bomb is just not appealing to me.

Yes, it wasn't a perfect experience, but what I failed to describe is the bright complex flavors of each dish that are brilliantly balanced.  It's something you have to taste for yourself because words just aren't up for the task.  I can't remember the last time I had this much fun eating.  Okay Starry Kitchen was pretty good, but Baco Mercat impressed me a lot more with combinations of textures and flavors that I've never experienced.

Note: Parking next to meters is free after 6pm.  Plenty of parking on Main St. or the alleys.

Baco Mercat
408 Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013