BY SEBASTIEN ROBILLARD
I was invited to the opening of this new restaurant in the heart of Little Italy. It’s fun to see some of those neighborhood diversify bringing new tastes to both people living in the area and occasional visitors like me.
Mercado is located on the corner of St-Laurent and Bélanger. You will spot it easily in the summer with it’s Terrasse out front. As you walk in you’ll like the decor, you won’t find sombreros or maracas attached on the wall but a more subtle authentic decor. On the left wall you’ll find a chalk mural followed by a wall of Calaveras (Mexican Skulls). On the opposite side there is a long bar where you can enjoy a drink or one of there selection of Mexican cervezas. They even have XX on tap if you prefer draft beer. The disposition of the tables also allow them to serve couples but also larger groups, we were ten at our table and it was very comfortable.
As we were waiting for all the guest and the kitchen to have diner we were served different appetizers that were both equally good in taste and presentation. The ceviche of tilapia and the shrimp tostada were very good. It was fresh and you could taste the ingredients that they were prepared that all mixed well. My favorite appetizer had to be the zucchini flowers, first the presentation was just amazing and second the mix of goat cheese and poblano peppers was simply delicious.
At this point I truly realized I was gonna be in for a gourmet Mexican feast using traditional flavors with a new cuisine presentation. There was quite a few things on the menu that looked very tempting and has I was with a friend we decided on two dishes so we could get a taste of both. I opted for the Napoleon de Pulpo, grilled octopus, chia, avocado Napoleon with coriander pesto and jalapeños. If you’ve read a few of my other posts you’ll know I love grilled octopus and this one was done just right. The mix of the coriander pesto and jalapeño with it was super good and octopus was nice and tender. My friend had the Ensalada de betabel y jimaca a nice mix of pickled beets, jimaca, spicy peanuts and hibiscus vinaigrette served on a bed of arugula.
For the main course I had the Pato Con Mole, a magret of duck with a chili and chocolate sauce topped with sesame seeds and served with Aztec rice and vegetables. My friend had the Birria, a stew of beef short ribs braised in chili and Mexican chocolate, masa balls and vegetables. Both dishes were excellent but I was jealous of my friends plate. My duck was good but that Birria was just so tender and juicy and the sauce complemented it perfectly.
All these delicious dishes came from the creation of Chef Fabian Enriquez who worked his way up to the position of chef in a busy Montreal Old Port restaurant: Titanic. He interned at the Intercontinental Hotel as well as the prestigious restaurant Le Club Chasse et Pêche and have graduated from the St-Pius Culinary Institute with diplomas in both professional cooking and contemporary professional pastry making.
Here’s a few questions I’ve asked the born and raised in Mexican Chef:
Who inspired you in the culinary world?
It was my Mother inspired me into the culinary world, she use to bring me all the time to the street markets to buy the products to make the food, then put me to help her do the cooking.
When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
I knew I wanted to become a chef after I move to Canada, 14 years ago when I started working in a restaurant called Titanic in the old port as a dishwasher, then I got into the kitchen working different stations until I became Chef at that place.
What inspires you to create the different dishes?
My inspiration to create new dishes are the people and for me it’s the challenge and satisfaction of bringing something new to their tables.
Is there any products you like to work with better than others?
Yes, the products that I like to work with are those that come straight from the market, fresh products.
If there would be one dish you would have to make over again and again, what would it be?
I think it would be beer braised pork osso buco with tomatillo sauce and potatoes.
What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food is all the food, I don’t have an specific preference for food, I could eat anything.
If you really want to try some Nueva Cuisine Mexican food you should really visit this place. It will give you a new perspective on Mexican food.