Ah, the rare office lunch. It isn’t often that the boss is in the mood to treat all of his employees to a meal. Fortunately, yesterday mine was in one of those moods, and fortunately The Mercer Kitchen is just 2 blocks from our office at 99 Prince Street.
This cozy little joint, nestled underground beneath the Mercer Hotel, is one of the many establishments of the world renowned, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. While the food was very tasty and the atmosphere sexy, I got the feeling that this may have been more of an afterthought for the great chef. Let’s start with the food, we had a 9 top so we started with a few flatbreads:
Raw tuna and wasabi creme with pickled daikon, carrot and ginger
Black truffle and crispy fontina
Last but not least, a traditional Margherita with fresh bufala mozzarella, basil, garlic and tomato sauce, which was gone so fast I couldn’t get a shot! All three were delicious, the Margherita was an excellent example, all the ingredients were super fresh, the tomato sauce was bright with a tangy zip. The truffle, surprisingly, was the letdown of the three. It didn’t have that strong, earthy, truffle aroma that any good truffle dish should have. It tasted like they just drizzled a little truffle infused olive oil…that’s a no-no in my book. I’d gladly pay extra to see a few slivers of shaved truffle on my flatbread. The tuna wasabi flatbread was the winner for me, fresh sashimi grade tuna, a little kick from the wasabi creme and an awesome tartness from the pickled veg, too bad I had to share! I ordered my own app as well, fresh salmon over crispy sushi rice with a chipotle mayo and ponzu, topped with a little watercress and mint.
This was pretty awesome, the fish was fresh, the sauces worked well together despite the cultural divide and the rice, which reminded me more of a nice moist risotto ball, had a warm succulence that tied it all together. For an entrée, I sprang for The Mercer Burger, with pepperjack cheese, avocado, crunchy red onion, Russian dressing with a side of frites.
It was wonderfully juicy and perfectly cooked medium rare. The Russian dressing added a nice tang, with the onions there for fantastic flavor and texture. Paired with a nice buttery toasted bun, it was a fine specimen of a burger. Of course, dessert followed, I chose the warm roasted apples in puff pastry with a caramel glaze, dried cherries and french toast ice cream, yum.
The meal was very tasty and everyone seemed to enjoy it, but I just felt like it lacked in creativity overall. The salmon app and tuna flatbread were bright spots in a somewhat uninspired menu. The flavors were all there, spot on, everything tasted great, but come on Jean, I know you can do better than this, don’t just give me a good burger, wow me! Knock my socks off, give me something I’d never expect, because what I DO expect out of you, Mr. Vongerichten, is to blow me away with your culinary artistry. While The Mercer Kitchen was a nice meal, and I would recommend it if you want to go have a nice lunch in SoHo, I feel like it should be running at a higher level than it is. Don’t get lazy Jean, I’ve got my eye on you.