When we think of Mexican food we think of tacos, gooey melted queso and guacamole. Obviously we knew that Mexican food was so much more than this in Mexico, that tacos were the equivalent of burgers, a fast food treat that can be made “gourmet” – but remains fast food. Unfortunately Montreal lacks authentic Mexican restaurants, and at Mercado we learnt that Mexican is so much more than just tacos.
Located next to the Jean Talon Market, the word Mercado means market, and market fresh ingredients is what they have in store for you. We were invited to their open event and were surprised to see a classy simple restaurant. Do not picture gaudy sombreros as the décor or wall art of mustached men in ponchos and sombreros.
Picture a restaurant whose décor did not dictate its menu, and the most beautiful hand painted skulls on the wall. They were from Mexico City, and more were on their way from Mexico to tastefully decorate the restaurant. Food was being passed around in trays, the waiters were very helpful, they explained everything to us and if it was traditional Mexican fare or with some Canadian flair.
The baby corns with feta and smoked paprika were delicious. They explained how in Mexico this is considered street food and sold during festivals and parades in little kiosks. Usually it’s a full corn but for the sake of the event they used baby corn to depict this fun Mexican food. We loved it, the presentation was beautiful and we loved the smoky paprika taste.
The tilapia ceviche was refreshing, with red and yellow peppers, some red onion and a hint of jalapeno for that spicy Mexican flavour. When you think of Mexican cuisine you picture refreshing dishes to cool you off from the heat, this tilapia ceviche was just that!
The stuffed zucchini flowers were one of our favourite appetizers. Stuffed with goat cheese and poblano peppers, it was the perfect creamy filling with a bit of a kick from the spicy peppers. We couldn’t get enough of this delicious appetizer!
We hadn’t even sat down to eat and we were already getting full on the delectable canapés. Wine was flowing and we were very excited to see what was next. The flambéed tequila shrimp on a corn crostata with a sliver of avocado was excellent. The hint of tequila gave the shrimp crostata that Mexican feel that we were learning to expect from Mercado.
A little shooter glass of warm shrimp bisque was much appreciated and full of flavour. Our waiter explained that the foam on the top was made with Tequila and paired well with the fishy soup. We wish we had a big bowl of this soup, it was heavenly!
The grilled octopus was perfection, not rubbery at all. It was served on a bed of avocado with a coriander and jalapeno pesto that was a perfect creamy contrast in comparison to the grilled octopus. A napoleon is a type of layered pastry and this is exactly what this appetizer emulated – definitely a favourite!
The salad was made of marinated beets, jicama and spicy peanuts on a bed of arugula. A hibiscus flower vinaigrette lightly covered the salad to bring it all together. Jicama is a Mexican root vegetable that is not dominant in North American cuisine, but it added a Mexican flair to this salad. Nothing particularly wowed us about this salad, there are much better dishes on Mercado’s menu.
Our favourite of their main dishes was the fried duck breast with the crispiest of skin on a bed of mole sauce. Mole sauce is a traditional Mexican sauce made of a variety of chili peppers and chocolate, amongst other grains, in this case, sesame seeds. It was served with a hearty Aztec rice with barley in it, as well as green beans and root vegetables. All delicious, and perfect with the duck breast and mole sauce.
Our second main was a beef short rib ragu that was braised in chili and Mexican chocolate – more delectable mole sauce! The meat was tender and sat in a pool of its own juice, it was good but incomparable to the duck. Crispy green beans and root vegetables were a welcome addition to this plate as well. Masa balls were another Mexican addition to this dish, we learnt that they are Mexican style corn dumplings, often served in soup, but perfect with the sauce from the short rib.
For dessert we had a corn based cake that was moist and similar to Southern cornbread but less flaky and sweeter. It was covered in a rompope sauce which is similar to what we call eggnog, with hints of vanilla. It is a traditional drink in Mexico but was used as a dipping sauce with this dessert. A dollop of popcorn ice cream sat on top of the cake, upping the flavour of corn.
Mercado introduced us to fine Mexican cuisine – Mexican food is so much than tacos, queso and guacamole, and Montrealers really need to experience its finer aspects.
Our Rating: Splendid
Tagged: 6961 boul St-Laurent, Ceviche, Duck, Grilled Octopus, H2S 3E1, Mercado, Mercado Mexican, Mercado Montreal, Mexican Food, Mexican Street Foods, Mole Sauce, Montreal, Montreal Mexican, Montreal Restaurant, Shrimp Bisque, stuffed zucchini flowers, tequila shrimp