Celebrity chef Jean Georges Vongerichten charts new territory for his dining empire with his first ever Italian concept. Simple pleasures like woodfire oven pizzas, burrata cheese with sea salt or homemade rigatoni with meatballs dominate the menu. But he throws in a some surprises like savory strawberry jam with ricotta cheese on toasted sour dough too. To drink, there is a selection of fruit-infused proseccos, Italian-inspired cocktails, a boatload of wines from the Boot and a killer selection of grappas.
Back in September, I fell for some classic clickbait and read about Mercato’s 888rmb (plus service charge – of course there’s a service charge) caviar pizza. I scoffed. In the same article, though, I read about their enduringly popular truffle, three cheese and farm egg pizza, which I desperately wanted to scoff. Six months later, I finally made it. It was worth the wait.
Mercato offers tasting menus from 498rmb. Don’t bother; they’re just truffle pizzas with unnecessary padding. They also serve a predictable range of starters, pastas, mains and desserts, all of which are competent. The Iberico ham (228 / 448rmb), like that of every other Bund joint with tenuous Mediterranean credentials, was delicious but overpriced. The pasta and meatballs (128 / 158rmb) were well-cooked, if lacking in flavour. More memorably, the sharp, lemony Veal Milanese (248rmb) sauce cut well through the pompous pair of breaded fillets.
That’s not why anyone goes to Mercato, though. The flaming pizza oven, visible from almost every seat in the room, is in constant service. Our table of five ordered two truffle pizzas (218rmb each), as well as one with sausage, short rib, prosciutto, mortadella, and every other possible preparation of pig (178rmb). The former is worth the price and the amateurish service. A perfectly-runny egg oozes into the cheeses; with the earthy, charred base, it’s a decadent combination. The pork-feast was also good, but everyone just wanted more truffle.
We also ordered a couple of desserts: ricotta doughnuts and the tartufo (both 72rmb). Each had a good balance of sweet and sour and was technically sound, but they were an anti-climax after the pizza. For five varying appetites, with drinks, we paid 2527rmb.
Mercato isn’t cheap, but there’s at least one dish here worth shelling out for. Happily, it also happens to be meat-free. To save time, money and calories, just order a truffle pizza and a glass of anything – then find somewhere else for dessert.
Unexpected drama at the beginning: we booked a table with a view but when we arrived, there was no table. We had to stand in the middle of the dining room, arguing for ten minutes until they finally sat us at another table. Apparently, some VVIP's drinking at the bar had wanted (and got) our original table.
After all of that, we went for the 498RMB classic sharing sets. The bread was cold.
Would recommend house made ricotta with strawberry compote olive oil and grilled bread. A cheese version of hummus, a total gratification.
The black truffle pizza just cannot go wrong. The egg was perfectly cooked with a runny yolk.
Well-done salmon to finish was a little heavy for us after a 2-hour meal.
Four kinds of ice cream (rum/ caramel&sea-salt/ Oreo/ lime) and a 6-inch tiramisu as dessert. A tiramisu connoisseur would expect more from an Italian restaurant. The tiramisu tasted plain, lacking rum (or am I too alcoholic?).
The other food wasn't impressive but still good.
Not very photography-friendly as they try to preserve the night view by keeping the room dark.
The service was responsive and good in general despite the drama at the beginning. The male manager was familiar with the wine selection and recommended a riesling and a wine from Italy.
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