California Tower is now home to so many restaurants that you could stop at every floor and eat your way to the top, so each of the venues in the building needs to give you a pretty good reason to stop on that floor. Mercato’s modus operandi is fresh, seasonal produce – mercato being Italian for market. Chef Anthony Burd’s menu changes to work in with the season, with a mixture of dishes from authentic, rustic Italian to more modern takes on the classics, with a few Asian-inspired ingredients thrown in.
Dishes are designed to be shared by the table “family-style”, and the prices reflect that. We started with the Italian chicory salad with fennel, the lightly fried calamari with spicy tomato sauce, and the char-grilled octopus with warm potato salad and caper dressing. Each dish was tasty and just the right size for starters.
For the mains we tried the spaghetti with mozzarella, Parmesan and a delicious tomato sauce and a pleasing lobster and shrimp ravioli. The panko-crusted eggplant Parmesan was another hearty, authentic dish, while the US beef tenderloin with crispy maitake mushroom was cooked perfectly. There’s a decent wine list and some very enticing cocktails available to kick-start your night, and we took full advantage of those. (I recommend the Rosa Spritz.)
The dessert menu is promising, and the hazelnut chocolate soufflé tart was as good as it sounds. The tiramisu missed the mark on this occasion but the muscovado profiterole was a sweet substitute.
Mercato is a nice venue, aiming to replicate the vibe of a bustling Italian market, and I think you need that when you’re in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong. On the night we visited it was a little early, but if you’re willing to kick back and stay a while, grazing on the great food, you’re in for a great night out.
Must-try dish: Panko-crusted eggplant parmesan
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This article first appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.