on top of our wonderful dining experience at The Living Room, my companion and I also made it to Cilantro and Mercato. All three restaurants run in and around the same price range and target the same clientele, although Cilantro did have the benefit of the slightly hilarious older man + his younger hot date actin’ like they were made of somethin’, which amused me in ways the food did not. We’re starting with Cilantro because a) we ate there before Mercato and b) in the end we had similar dishes in both places. Like The Living Room, Cilantro serves up bread+butter while you wait. Unlike TLR, the bread was not fresh and the butter had not met its end in a bath of chestnuts and cinnamon. It was just bread and butter and we did not devour it like a hungry pack of rabid wolves.
We started with caprese salad, and although it was not exactly tomato season, it was pretty awesome. So. Here we are bread+butter=bad, salad=good, main=?
Companion had a fish, I want to say talapia but I’m kind of sure that’s not it. I had pasta. $27.oo pasta that was thin and a bit runny and entirely uninspired and I’m not even sure the turkey meatballs it would normally be served with would have improved it any. Companion’s fish (whose name also starts with C, companion, not the fish), was served with cilantro pineapple rice that tasted of neither of these things. It was just… rice. And we were sad.
We didn’t eat desert which is kind of worrisome. When we don’t eat desert it’s a bit like there’s a fissure in the walls of the universe, or some business.
We had none of the above problems at Mercato, although the bread was not super awesome either. Here’s the deal, people. If you start with bread and it sucks, the whole expectation of the meal itself declines. Also, if you feed me a delicious meal with craptastic coffee at the end? The reverse is also true. Please remember this.
So! Mercato. C was far hungrier than I was and started with the orange+marscapone gnocchi, which was kind of off-the-charts awesome, save (we were sitting in the bank of seats the overlooks the cook area) the wee girl that had a salt *thing* and as such randomly over-salted the food. We could see her doing it and I suspect that if you were a consumer of salt it wouldn’t have been noticeable at all. But I don’t eat a lot of salt and normally C eats mostly fruit, so. A little salty, but I don’t actually blame the recipe, just a differing palate. I couldn’t imagine eating a whole serving of the gnocchi, the richness of the dish would probably cause me to lose consciousness mid-way through, but I found it strangely inspiring.
C then had the swordfish. You should note servings of meat at Mercato are generally the size of one’s head. Huge. In the OMG that’s ginourmous kind of way. I remember nuts of some sort, arugula, and about four other bits and pieces of delightfulness.
I had the pasta, which was just pasta in tomato sauce. Which sounds like dull and also boring but was super delicious. If not a tad salty. C’s fish had no salt problem, so I am still sticking by the theory that it was the girl on the plating line.
I know what it sounds like OMG SALT, but it wasn’t really. The meal was great, I can’t deny it was at least 50% the company (Okay 100% but work with me here) and having some super delicious tiramisu at the end didn’t hurt any.
Neither did the server who kept bringing us lukewarm bottles of fizzy water (so much nicer than ice cold, sometimes. Really. Easier to digest, too. I recommend).
I hadn’t eaten at Cilantro in about a decade and can’t imagine I’d go back. Mercato, however, I wouldn’t even think twice before going back. I’d eat there Repeatedly. I shop at their market fairly often, too. I have a thing for their calzones or stromboli or whatever they call them. I can’t say a thing about their nutritional value, but I do love them so.