El Mercado

El Mercado

Where:
El Mercado
21F, 239 Hennessy Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2388 8009

Price:
We got out at around HKD350 a person (before tip, no service charge) for a moderate amount of food but more than adequate levels of disappointment.  El Mercado doesn’t have their liquor licence yet so fuck yeahhhh, BYO, no corkage and booze for days.

The deal:
I’d heard some promising things about El Mercado which has recently opened to peddle Nikkei cuisine to Hong Kong.  Nikkei is a mix of Peruvian and Japanese ingredients and flavours, the result of Japanese immigration to Peru in the late 19th century which saw migrant Japanese labourers eventually open up restaurants which catered to the local Peruvian palate while taking references from their own Japanese heritage.  Sounds really fucking fancy hey? Probably the most famous example of this is the world famous Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa (responsible for the ever multiplying Nobu restaurant chain), who starting pumping out this blend of Japanese and Peruvian food in the late eighties to much excitement.  I mentioned to Mr Judgmental that I was interested in checking El Mercado  out and he instantly lived up to his namesake by throwing down bags of derisive judgment, declaring “It’s Peruvian Japanese? It’s 2015 and Nobu already did it in 1987.  Surely we can move on no?”

jumanjiwhatyear

Regardless, El Mercado’s menu at least looked interesting, its website promising to provide “Peruvian cuisine with Japanese influences” which pushed “creative boundaries offering diners signature treats, which combine citrus flavours with fresh fish, soy, coriander, raw onion, chillies and sweet potato”.  I just wanted to try something new and seeing as I’m boycotting all bullshit Korean fusion options in HK, it ruled out all 15 million (citation needed) of the new Korean fusion restaurants that have opened this year.

El Mercado has only just opened but it was already packed with a stack of people and you can get ready for every HK newspaper / media source to use various reiterations of ‘buzzing atmosphere’ when they describe it.  If you were dating someone who didn’t give a fuck about food and only cared about concepts and appearances, they’d be super impressed if you took them here (although, this means you have made fucking terrible choices in the dating game).  El Mercado’s interiors are cute as fuck, striking a nice balance between modern and casual through a thoughtful combination of light wood panelling, industrial light bulbs, strategic touches of green foliage and sea foam accents.  Due to being in soft open, we got to drink our fuck yeahhhh BYO no corkage booze while checking out El Mercado’s snappily short menu which is split into five sections – ‘Bocados / Light Bites’, ‘Sushi Bar’, ‘Ceviches & Tiraditos’, ‘Primer Pasos / First Courses’, ‘Entre Amigos / Sharing’ and ‘Postres  Dessert‘.  Lots of the dishes sounded rad as fuck, but I ruled out any from the ‘Bocados / Light Bites’ because they sounded fucking teeny tiny and I wasn’t given much hope of not veering into food for ant$ territory when the waiter confirmed that the Ostra Acevichada at HKD58 consists of ONE Japanese oyster which has been jazzed up with lime and squid ink foam.

In a telling omen, after chatting to our friendly waitress and placing our order, I asked her whether we had failed to order any must have dishes and all she could contribute was that we’d already ordered the suckling pig, before promising to check with the kitchen to see if we’d missed anything crucial.  She never returned with more suggestions, only leading me to conclude that she must have asked the kitchen what their star dishes were and they replied ‘Fucked if I know!’  before shrugging their shoulders nonchalantly and returning to chopping a mountain of onions.

The ‘Sushi Bar’ offers various ingredients stacked on top of rice and to put the POW into fusion, the toppings aren’t your standard Japanese raw fish / seafood fare.  We ordered the AVEGANADO, which appears looking just like a tuna nigiri but ho ho, isn’t this some clever shit, El Mercado have used a slightly dehydrated watermelon slice with a balsamic reduction (HKD38 for two pieces) to replicate the appearance of tuna and soy sauce. In a testament to never trust any dish that tucks VEGAN into its name, the Aveganado was as exciting as you could ever expect watermelon on rice to be.  That is, wake me up when you’re fucking done because it’s not fucking exciting at all.

watermeloncat

To really make it feel like we were getting into the Peruvian Japanese vibes, we decided to turn up the fusion feels by mixing shit up with some ceviche – that is, raw fish cured with some citrus.  We went all in, ordering the Ceviche de Atun (Tuna Fish, Leche De Tigre, Sweet Potato at HKD158) and the Ika Ceviche (Ohnibe Fish, Leche De Tigre, Sweet Potato Crispy Calamari Rings at HKD178).  Each dish was indistinguishable from each other, except that the Ika Ceviche had a small portion of fried squid on the side.  This meant that we got two uninspiring dishes of a shit tonne of onions, mixed with some coriander, chilli, lime, a small amount of raw fish and a couple of slices of yellow sweet potato on the bottom. It just felt like all the other low cost ingredients (ie. onions) were being used to pad out the high cost ingredients (ie. fish).  But fuck, how much do sweet potatoes cost?  Surely El Mercado could have ponied up with something more substantial than the scant amounts of fish and sweet potato we were presented with.  Fuck no to eating a dish which is almost entirely citrus covered raw onions.  Tony Abbott, Australia’s raw onion eating Prime Minister, would most definitely approve of El Mercado’s ceviche before stopping the boats or gay marriage or whatever he’s into aside from raw onions.

tonyabbottonion3

Sauce

The mains / sharing dishes looked suspiciously expensive with all five dishes priced over HKD308  We ordered the Aeropuerto (Fried Rice, Octopus, Shrimp & Pork Squid Ink Omelette at HKD308) and the Cochinillo Con Tacu Tacu (Suckling Pig, Edamame Tacu Tacu and Nikkei Chalaca Sarza (special hot sauce made with peppers, lime juice, onions and tomatoes) at HKD308).  The most interesting thing about the Aeropuerto was its description on the menu because in reality, it was just fucking expensive fried rice with a grey, salty omelette plopped on top. I chewed my way through this greasy, over garlicky fried rice while wondering whether squeezing a bit of squid ink into an egg is enough to claim you’re pushing creative culinary boundaries.  Every now and again you’d come across a small piece of octopus, its small rubbery existence surely there to remind you of OMG JAPANESE INFLUENCE but there isn’t enough rubbery pieces of octopus in the world which could eve justify the HKD308 price tag for FUCK NO fried rice.

The Cochinillo Con Tacu Tacu was two small pieces of crispy suckling pig with a lump of edamame tacu tacu in the middle and two fried quail eggs.  Predictably, the suckling pig was fine (crispy skin blah blah juicy meat blah blah blah) because as always, you need to really work at fucking up roast suckling pig to make it into a fuck no.  The accompanying edamame tacu tacu was underwhelming as all hell – tacu tacu being some fancy Peruvian way of saying “fried rice and some mealy edamame beans mashed together to give a dish some heft, given how fucking small the pork was”.  HKD308 for this dish and between four people it would have only been at best, two bites of pork and a few spoonfuls of some ricey, beany concoction. A waiter swung by at this point to ask how everything was and point blank with hungry eyes, I said ‘So tiny‘ and he ignored my comment, right before we asked for the menu so we could order more food.

We ordered one more main, the Lomo Saltado and the menu describes it as “Stir Fried Beef, Market Vegetables, Soy Sauce Served With Rice” at HKD308.  I am still not sure what makes this Peruvian (or even Japanese really) but all I am really sure of is that yes, we did just hand over HKD THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHT DOLLARS to eat super salty stir fried beef with small pieces of broccoli on rice.  I start to pen a letter in my head that goes something like:

DEAR HONG KONG RESTAURANTS,

WHILE THE CONSTANT ABUSE OF EVER RISING PRICES IN THIS CITY HAVE WARPED MY ABILITY TO CONFIDENTLY KNOW WHAT A FAIR PRICE IS ANYMORE, I DEFINITELY DRAW THE LINE AT HKD308 SALTY AS FUCK BEEF STIR FRIES WITH BROCCOLI AND RICE.

BEST,
SGT NOMS
XO FUCKING XO

We look at the menu again to decide whether we want to get dessert but a table decision was made that we were all beyond unenthused about what El Mercado could do for dessert.  Why bother laying down more cash for some Peruvian Japanese delights like mango on some sticky rice, shaped like…wait for it…A MANGO NIGIRI SUSHI!! Fuck that shit to hell, so instead we settled our bill, tipped the wait staff (because they were on form most of the night, even if the waiter homie did ignore my blunt, snippy size queen related feedback) and went upstairs to Pirata to get involved in their fuck yeah vermouth selection instead.  Fuck yeahhh to drinking your dessert.

Verdict:
Fuck nooooo.  But get ready for people to tell you that El Mercado’s good because sometimes all you need is a trendy interior, cozy lighting and an edgy menu to fool people into thinking that you’re doing something new and interesting.

5 Comments
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    Posted at 18:39h, 13 September Reply

    […] for garlicky, stir fried rice and another HKD308 for a salty as fuck broccoli and beef stir fry at El Mercado.  Pirata’s classic Negroni was so fucking good that in an effort to erase the painful […]

  • A Fuck Yeah Noms Review - Myhouse HK
    Posted at 21:34h, 02 November Reply

    […] at the moment given all the new digs that have opened there (The Optimist, Zahrabel, Momojein, El Mercado (UGH but just don’t go) and Pirata).  As soon as you exit the lifts, MyHouse is killing it […]

  • FUCK YEAH, 2015! – PART #1: HONG KONG
    Posted at 07:21h, 29 December Reply

    […] Nominee #1:  El Mercado […]

  • Helen
    Posted at 16:50h, 31 October Reply

    Can`t agree more.

    • Sgt Noms
      Posted at 19:24h, 31 October Reply

      How is it even still open??

Fuck yeah or fuck no?

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