When you think of Little Italy, you don’t necessarily think Mexican. But that’s where Mercado opened its doors last year, and you know what? It’s a great fit! Mercado is an authentic Mexican eatery that will have your taste buds singing. Don’t think tacos and nachos (although they do have tacos on their menu). Think upscale dishes you’d find in Mexico. Food the locals eat, not the Americanized food we’re used to eating at popular Mexican restaurants.
The restaurant is decorated with sugar skulls shipped straight from Mexico that we wish we could own. There are so many, they wouldn’t notice if one went missing, right? Right? Their goal is to have their patrons experience gourmet Mexican food in a trendy and urban environment, tasting authentic Mexican dishes with a modern twist.
Chef and owner Fabian Enriquez wants you to envision fresh market produce when eating his food. Mercado is, after all, the Spanish word for market. It represents the time he spent in Mexico city as a little boy roaming the streets of the market with his mother.
For a little taste of Mexican street food, we tried corn topped with feta and paprika. Delicious! Though not on their regular menu, we loved it and hope they make it permanent. An appetizer that is sure to be a fan favourite is the Cappuccino y Tostada de Camaron al Tequila. The tiger shrimp are flambéed in tequila, giving it that Mexican feel and flavour we love, and it’s topped iwth avocado, chipotle mayo, and served on a crispy tortilla.
The Napoleon de Pulpo is a modern twist on an old classic and we love it! Grilled octopus is served with avocado and chia seeds along with coriander pesto and jalapeños. The addition of the chia seeds seems random but it was a delicious bit of different texture.
For mains, they don’t disappoint. For duck lovers, the Pato con Mole is quack quack heaven. Magret de canard, mole sauce (which is chilli and chocolate sauce – a fantastic combination), and sesame seeds, served with Aztec rice, and vegetables. Seriously, if you love duck, this dish is for you.
For the meat lovers, the Birria is your best bet. Short rib braised in mole once again, served with masa balls (Mexican-style corn dumplings) and vegetables. Tender and flavourful meat with the exotic taste of Mexico in every bite.
And for dessert, the corn theme didn’t stop! The Pastel de Elote is a corn cake with rompope sauce (Mexican eggnog with cinnamon, vanilla, and almonds) and popcorn ice cream (we can never say no to popcorn…). We’d love to try their incredible sounding brunch dishes that are sure to incorporate even more delicious corn.
Mercado delivers excellent urban Mexican dishes that are sure to make you travel to Mexico even on the coldest Montreal nights.
Photos by Mercado and Dahlia Merlo (@dahllii).