Thursday, May 02, 2013

FOOD REVIEW: Bäco Mercat (downtown Los Angeles)

el Pesco, $11

hammachi crudo, $14

semifreddo (various flavors), $8

One of my very favorite places to eat in downtown Los Angeles is Bäco Mercat. The chef, Josef Centeno, used to be at the the Lazy Ox Canteen, which is also a great downtown find. I have eaten there several times in the ast year, so the pictures above are taken from more than one visit. Oddly enough, I have only ever been there for lunch (brunch) on the weekends. It's in the "Old Bank" district of downtown, on Main Street (at corner of 4th Street) just a few blocks away from the new LAPD building. It's also a few blocks away from the Pershing Square Metro stop.

Bäco Mercat is known for their bäco, which is a signature flatbread sandwich developed by Centeno. It is pretty delicious, somewhat thicker than a pita but doughier and more substantial than most. The first picture above is of the "el Pesco" which is $11 and has crispy shrimp, sriracha (hot sauce), chives and cabbage. It is delicious. It falls apart in an absolutely delicious mess. You will lick your fingers!

However, my favorite thing on the menu (one of my favorite dishes I have had an in Los Angeles, period) is the most expensive thing on the lunch menu, but it is totally worth the price. I am talking about the "hammachi crudo" (abkhazian chile spice, avocado, hash brown) for $14. Last time, there were four of us ad we ordered three of them, because more than one of us (yours truly included) didn't want to share theirs! The hash brown is perfectly balanced warm, savory potato-ness that combines with the raw, slightly salty hammachi which is then cooled down by the crushed avocado. It's a must have.

In addition to its signature bäco, the restaurant has something called a coca which is basically a very thin, crispy flatbread. They put sauces and other things on top of it and cut it into slices sorta like a pizza. I haven't had a coa that I have really thought "worked." They pale in comparison to the yummy gooeyness of any of the bäcos, which often have more substantive fillings as well.

Bäco Mercat is also known for their very inventive drink menu. I'm a teetotaler (no alcohol) so I appreciate it when a place has creative non-alcoholic beverages. Bäco Mercat bottles their own sodas which are often in very interesting flavors like Meyer lemon, hibiscus, root beer, black cherry, etc. My companions usually rave about the alcoholic beverage of the day suggested by the waiter.

But wait there's more! The desserts at Bäco Mercat are also notable. They often have specials but the ones on the dessert menu that I have tried are the chocolate banana cake (peanut butter cream, banana custard, semifreddo; $10) and the various flavors of semifreddo (which is basically a very soft ice cream close to a custard). They are all delicious.

As you can see from this review Bäco Mercat has numerous winning dishes that you should try and is one of my favorite places to eat out in Los Angeles.

NameBäco Mercat.
Location: 408 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013.
Contact: 213-687-8808.
Visit: July 28, 2012; December  30, 2012; February 22, 2013; April 28, 2013.

FOOD: A++. 

OVERALL: A (4.0/4.0)

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