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Restaurants & Bars

mercer kitchen

wonki | May 7, 199904:54 PM    

finally went to mercer kitchen for the first time last
night and had a great time. but before i go any
further, let me qualify my "review" by saying that i
think one needs to go to mercer kitchen under a certain
set of circumstances to enjoy it as much as i did.
first, be in a good mood. i went with a friend to
celebrate her graduation from business school so it was
a rather festive occasion. also, i hadn't seen her in
a while so we had a lot of catching up to do. i guess
it didn't hurt that i was getting off of work early
(6:00) and didn't have much to do at the office today
(guess what i'm doing right now? :-)). second, dress
nicely. this is soho. this is mercer kitchen. flip
flops and camouflage ain't gonna cut it (wait a minute,
this is soho, this is mercer kitchen, maybe they will).
third, be prepared for noise, lots of it. they're
playing dance music inside, for goodness sake. if
you're looking for a place to have a nice quiet
romantic dinner or just want to get away from the bump
and grind of the city, this is not the place. luckily,
my friend and i had lots to talk about. oh yeah, and
finally, don't expect to be blown away by the food.
although good, it takes a back seat here to the
atmosphere.

so i walk in, and am sent downstairs to where the
restaurant is, which i thought was pretty cool. i
liked the place a lot. modern but comfy, larger than i
thought, but cool. very soho (or what one would
expect a restaurant in soho to be like). it seemed
more like a lounge/bar/nightclub than a restaurant.
lots of black (and don't forget the dance music; okay,
before you get the wrong impression, maybe it's not
dance music and it's not blasting, but it's upbeat
music and it's louder than just background noise). the
crowd was young, well-dressed, and for the most part
good looking (or at least they thought they were).
kind of brought to mind ruth reichl's review of bond
street and the crowd there. anyway, everybody seemed
to be having a good time and proud of the fact that
they were inside.

the wine list was rather flimsy. about 25 or so whites
and 25 or so reds. the cheapest bottles were about $40
so not the best prices either. we went with the pinot
noir "carneros" by kent rasmussen, which ran about $52.
great bottle of wine. very fruity, very wet, lots of
black cherry with hints of chocolate. great from start
to finish. i highly recommend it. (probably another
reason why i had such a good time as i am renowned
among my friends as the one with the two beer buzz).

for appetizers, my friend got the famous shrimp salad,
and i went with the special, a peekytoe crab salad.
the shrimp salad lived up to the hype. the shrimp was
so good it didn't even taste like shrimp. nice and
warm and covered with a rich yellow sauce that made you
lick your lips. i asked my friend, "what is that,
butter on there?" my friend replied, "i don't know,
but it's something fatty and it can't be too good for
you." my thoughts exactly. mine was nothing special,
although it came with a great little clump of seaweed
on the side which had a sweet-spicy kimchi-like
marinade. i thought it tasted very korean and wished
there was more of it. meanwhile, my thoughts drifted
as to how to get more of that shrimp salad away from my
friend. "uh, don't you have to go to the bathroom or
something?"

entrees were less spectacular, though solid. she got
the steamed sea bass with japanese eggplant. she liked
it a lot. i had one bite and thought it was okay, but
not enough to pique my curiosity to venture any
further. i had the red snapper with roasted asparagus
and red pepper. the fish was good, cooked well, and
tasty. i wish the sides were more amenable to eating
with the fish, but overall i was satisfied. if it's
any indication, we both finished our plates.

for dessert, we decided to split the raspberry
napolean. nothing else on the list looked too
appealing. the napolean was decent, not a napolean in
the classic sense with flaky dough, but thin round
cookies separated by raspberries and a raspberry cream.
tasty, but honestly, very easily something i or any
other chowhound could make with a little effort.

our waitress was very nice and down to earth, and also
very helpful with questions. aside from an occasional
lapse, service was fine.

well, gotta run. just got hit with some work. i think
i jinxed myself. happy eating everyone. talk to you
soon.

--wonki

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