Italian Food for the Open-Minded – Mercato by Jean Georges.

Mercato is one of the pillars of Shanghai dining scene since 2012, when Jean Georges Vongerichten was asked by Three on the Bund to help bring another high quality food concept to the building.

Having an Italian name, Mercato has been on the radar of the Italian community whom have long complained about the venue not serving “authentic” Italian food (they have the same concerns about Scarpetta by the way!). I never judge food based on authenticity alone. To me the most important factor is that the food is delicious, well priced and leaves a good memory… After all, we live in the most diverse mega-city in the world, globalisation is real and nonna’s back home. Let’s get over it already.

So let’s look into the dishes I recommend that you order on your next visit to Mercato.

Warm Seafood Salad  RMB 148

This dish was one of my favorites of the evening. Each type of seafood is expertly cooked: the prawns are big and juicy, the octopus is tender, scallops melt-in-your mouth. With the addition of creamy avocado chunks and a zesty lemon, olive oil and parsley dressing, it just makes for the perfect shareable starter dish.

 

House Made Ricotta with Cranberry Compote RMB 98

If you’re looking for a crowd pleaser, here you have it. This silky, milky house made ricotta dip was perfectly counterbalanced by the tart cranberry jam. Spread it on top of the grilled sourdough bread that comes on the side for a perfectly balanced and decadent mouthful. I don’t think there’ll be a Mercato dinner with me that doesn’t feature this dish too.

 

 Sliced Kingfish, Crushed Olives and Dill RMB 98

One of Mercato’s signature dishes. I particularly enjoyed the plump texture of the fresh, thickly sliced fish, which was in a perfect Mediterranean harmony with the crushed olives, pepper and dill.

 

Lobster and Shrimp Ravioli 138 RMB

While this dish was quite far from what I’d consider a ravioli (the dough and the shape reminds more of a Chinese wonton of some sort), I personally loved it. One distinguishing element of all the food I ate at Mercato is that they’re able to find the perfect level of acidity, sweetness and saltiness to compliment each and every dish. This one in particular is topped with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing that lets the lobster filling shine.

 

Rigatoni and Meatballs RMB 118

Several Italians claim meatball sauce pasta doesn’t exist in Italy. If what they claim is true (my mom says it does exist!), it’s a utterly sad occurrence as meatball pasta just sounds like a great idea to me. Mercato’s Meatball Rigatoni were perfect. The tomato sauce is sweet, with only the right amount of acidity. The meatballs are soft, the pasta itself is cooked perfectly al dente.

 

Black Truffle, Three Cheeses and Farm Egg Pizza RMB 218

If you only like traditional Italian pizza probably best for you not to try this and stick to the more common topping options. The piggies out there instead will appreciate this for sure. Pizzas at Mercato are smaller in size than more authentic ones which you can find elsewhere in Shanghai (Gemma on Donghu Lu, for example, could be a safer bet for a more traditional take on pizza), but they’re indeed powerful.

Crispy Beef Short Rib with Polenta Fries RMB 368

I’m told that Mercato goes through one ton (or 1,000 kg or 2,240 lb) of these ribs every single month. And if that’s not enough for you to understand that this meat is really effin’ great, then let me tell you – it’s BOMB. The super tender, juicy slow cooked chunk of ribs gets deep fried right before serving and is then glazed with smoked Chianti wine reduction. The deep-frying process creates a crispy surface that is to die for. The polenta fries don’t shine in comparison, but they make for a good vessel.

Cinnamon Apple Cake, Green Apple Sorbet, Macadamia Nuts RMB 72

I’m picky with desserts. Mainly because I’m not that big of a sweet-tooth and if it were up to me I’d pretty much only eat these 7 desserts in Shanghai. The Apple cake was my favorite among the desserts I’ve tried. The sorbet’s acidity cut through the sweetness of the cake, while the nuts allowed for some crunchiness. It’s quite a heavy dessert, so share it if you’ve already had a big meal.

Another big plus of Mercato is that it’s a great venue for any type of occasion. Big group events, dates, laid-back business talks and even solo dining if you sit at the pizza counter. So if after this review you’re hungry but can’t find any friends to go with you on short notice, just go by yourself 😉

 

Reservations highly recommended by calling 021 6321 9922.

Address: Shanghai – 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, Three on The Bund, 6/F, near Guangdong Lu 中山东一路3号外滩3号6楼, 近广东路

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