Sunday, September 21, 2014

Preview: Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar @ Telawi, Bangsar

Catalan cooking is set to shine soon in Bangsar, thanks to this upcoming restaurant helmed by expat chef David Caral, a Barcelona native who's lived in KL since 2010, & manager Jorge Fernandez, who landed in our city less than six months ago.

Inspired by the vibrant food markets of Barcelona (Catalonia's capital city), Mercat seems poised to become one of 2014's best new restaurants. Caral has retained a confidently competent kitchen crew that's miraculously stayed loyal to him ever since his earlier stints in Changkat Bukit Bintang's El Cerdo & Pavilion's Circus.

Artwork here evokes the famed architecture of Barcelona, complementing the cuisine that Caral was raised on. A primer: Catalan food was born in the Mediterranean region of north-eastern Spain; it's reminiscent in most respects to Spanish gastronomy, but its specific preparation techniques have helped Catalan restaurants stand out as some of the world's finest.

Mercat is expected to open within one or two weeks; when it's ready, head here & start with the marinated Spanish olives, plump & startlingly juicy, its palate-awakening brininess enriched with herbs & spices. Wonderful for whetting the appetite.

Mercat's should-try is the eggplant topped with pine nuts; a total knock-out - one of the best eggplant recipes we've experienced. Roasted in the heart of the fire for a surprising smokiness that partners so well with the vegetable's smooth succulence, left to cool before being served, bolstered by ravishing nuances of honey & a mostillo grape syrup reduction.

A refreshing mix of watermelon, tomatoes & goat's cheese is ranked high on the salad short-list; this might not necessarily represent the final serving size for customers, but many of Mercat's tapas are likely to range in cost between RM18 & RM26.

Mercat does marvellous croquettes, convincingly crisp outside & compellingly creamy within, with a fresh, kitchen-made feel. Every fritter comes steaming-hot with a stuffing of chicken (RM3.50) or better still, morsels of savoury Iberico ham (RM4.50).

Lamb skewers, pleasurably tender & pungently tasty, with an amazing piquillo pepper dip that we'd joyously eat on its own.

The star of this lunch: Arroz Negre, which some call the 'black paella,' the Catalan speciality of rice cooked with squid ink, squid, shrimp & aioli. The rice boasts a nice bite, very moist but fully firm, flooded with an intense inky flavour that speaks of the ocean. We scooped up every spoonful, while savouring the soulful Spanish music on Mercat's soundtrack.

For a delicate dessert that's light & lovable: Tartar of fruits with coulis of red fruit & quenelle of cream cheese.

Mercat promises an intriguing premise for wine: Only Spanish varieties, strictly no French, Italian, American or Australian.

In recent years, we've discovered several Catalan-influenced restaurants surfacing across KL; some have faded, such as Changkat Bukit Bintang's exceptional, much-missed El Rincon. Others are still amassing faithful new fans, including The Intermark's Ohla Tapas. We're optimistic that Mercat will secure a footing in the latter category.

Coffee isn't something we expect to be especially enjoyable at a Catalan restaurant, but Mercat's is. Many thanks to the friendly & gracious Jorge & David for hosting this preview; expect to hear much more about Mercat in the months ahead.

Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar
51, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur.
Contact details & opening hours will be updated when Mercat opens, but expect the restaurant to initially open in the evenings on weekdays (except Mondays) & all day long on weekends.

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25 comments:

  1. Roasted eggplant with pine nuts...o yeah! =)

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    1. Ulric: definitely ranks among the most memorable eggplant i've had in kl ... surprisingly smoky, a little sweet, sensationally textured, very succulent :)

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  2. Barcelona? That's Spanish, right? Never tried, wouldn't know what to order. Can't go wrong with the lamb skewers, I guess...and the croquettas look good.

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    1. Suituapui: ooo, i think you can't go wrong with any of the dishes here ... whether you like chicken, lamb, prawns or veggies, there's something for everyone. and those croquettes surprised us, since i'm usually not a fan of croquettes :)

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  3. :O how did you manage to convince a restaurant to cook for you when they are not even open to the public ? :O

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    1. Ken: the owners of this place are kind and hospitable gentlemen :)

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  4. wah, i like this place, must go try liao~

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    1. Happy walker: hope you enjoy the dishes here ;)

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  5. It looks like a very elegant place!

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    1. Linda: it's very tastefully and thoughtfully conceived :)

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  6. I like eggplants and pine nuts, sound cool to put them together! :D

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    1. CK: ya, it's a recipe that works wonderfully :D

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  7. Oh, so this is where David ended up. Sure looks like it's going to be a great success. ;-)

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    1. The Yum List: yep, this is where he'll truly be able to shine, serving the dishes of his homeland, authentic catalan fare :)

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  8. Love the paella, and everything else. Hope it'll open soon

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    1. Footfringe: cross fingers by next week ... they're still maintaining a low profile, i think :)

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  9. It looks like there's a chef confident with his food - I'd be right in there with the croquettes and aubergine, yum!

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    1. YouHadYourLunch: oh yeah, he was definitely in his element, and i like how he was totally comfortable with serving this food. i usually don't love croquettes, but i'd happily eat more here :)

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  10. I'm excited to try all that tapas and paella... looks really good!

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    1. Baby Sumo: it's a real treat for fans of all the varieties of spanish cuisine :D

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  11. Paella looks really good! I can imagine not leaving any grain behind!

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    1. Missyblurkit: no grain left behind ... a great motto! :)

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  12. Wonderful stuff! :)
    There isnt much Spanish outlets around so i guess it might (might) be the next Italian!

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    1. Rebecca: i'd be happy to see some more good spanish restaurants around ... love spanish cuisine, love spanish wine, they make for such a satisfying meal :)

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  13. Went there last night. 4 of us. We ordered most of the tapas available on the menu. The selections of tapas were small. Food were mediocre. Seevice was not so good. They served our dessert. (Fruit of tartar) in a plastic bowl, quite a turn off.

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