Sunday, February 07, 2010

restaurant week diary: mercer kitchen

Last Thursday, we celebrated Alida's birthday (for the Nth time ... more to come!) by indulging in a Restaurant Week dinner at Mercer Kitchen. I'd only once walked into The Mercer Hotel before, back when I was a wee PR intern delivering jewelry to Ali Larter (I still haven't seen her on TV or in any movie until now, so I'm still holding on to that awe). I remember thinking it was one slick space, so I was quite curious to try Mercer Kitchen. Have to say, I quite loved the ambience. It's everything that you'd imagine a New York restaurant to be.

The food was pretty amazing too! Me being my odd-food-loving self, I zeroed in on the raw tuna pizza with wasabi cheese for my starter. I ordered it more for the experience than the expectation of getting amazing food, but thankfully I got both. The paper thin slices of raw tuna were very fresh and the wasabi cheese delivered scintillating zaps of heat sporadically while you ate. Keeping with the sushi theme, there were even thin slices of ginger atop the pizza. The julienned veggies add a nice crisp touch. Ali picked shrimps steamed on mixed greens with champagne vinegar dressing. I'm sure it was good but I was too preoccupied with my pizza to find out.

I thought I'd go the haute fastfood route and order a chi chi burger to go with my chi chi pizza. Shoush picked the slowly baked salmon with brussels sprouts and truffle vinaigrette that I was ruminating on. I've also developed a liking for brussels sprouts so I almost ordered it, but when I saw that all she got was that measly mound, I was glad I skipped it. She thought that they had a heavy hand with the salt for her dish. But I think they earned back some points with the luscious mashed potates surrounded with decandent truffle vinaigrette. Alida spoke highly of her juicy roasted chicken—which is something considering Ali is from Peru, a.k.a. the land of awesome roasted chicken. My burger was quite good, but my appetite is just not what it used to be! As I struggled to get halfway through my entree, Ali said, "That burger is kicking your ass."

I eventually gave up on finishing the burger and concentated all of my remaining willpower on dessert. I ordered the exotic fruit salad with vanilla-white pepper ice cream. Exotic is not a word to be used liberally in a party of three with one Peruvian, one Filipina, and one Armenian so we were not quite impressed with the so-called "exotic" fruit selection. But I did like the unconventional vanilla-white pepper ice cream (see now that's exotic). Mostly I was just pleased to have something light and refreshing after such a heavy meal. The girls ordered the warm Valrhona chocolate cake with caramel ice cream. Really, how can you go wrong with that?

Overall, I would still rank Mercer Kitchen among my top 5 Restaurant Week meals. The ambience of the place was pure sexiness, the crowd was sophisticated and cosmopolitan without being pretentious, and that tuna-wasabi cheese pizza is a dish I'll not soon forget. Definitely highly recommended for those heating up second dates!

Mercer Kitchen is located at 99 Prince Street (at Mercer Street), New York, NY 10012. Tel. (212) 966-5454

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