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Merkado Kitchen, Logan Circle - Closed


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My girlfriend and I tried out Merkado last night, and, well, weren't exactly blown away. :lol:

Started off with the pineapple margarita, which was decent, but not exactly exceptional, and the soju mojito. (Yes, this place is crazy about the Asian-Latin mix...though I was intrigued by this, and I had never had soju before, so I figured what the hell.) This was unimpressive - while watching the bartender make it, I noticed that she put the mint in at the end, almost as an afterthought. It definitely showed. Considering that the last mojito I had was at Cafe Atlantico, where they have it down to a science, I was not impressed.

For dinner, we had the chicken nachos - this was a HUGE plate of nachos, though it seems like they use a whole bag of chips in each one. I would have preferred a much smaller plate in a much more reasonable size and more topping...we had to pick through it to get to the chicken, and there wasn't a whole lot of salsa on there. There were a few lashings of crema (which was good) but other than that not much to brighten up the large piles of tortilla strips.

Finally, we had the trio of ceviches - salmon, diver scallop, and shrimp. These were served with (Asian-Latin fusion alert!) chopsticks. This actually worked for me, and I think the key at this place is to focus on the Asian aspects of the menu. Despite being ceviche, they had it in sort of an Asian sauce, and honestly, I would describe it more as sashimi. But it was flavorful, and I liked the salmon especially.

Finished with two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc - they actually serve a glass and a half, if you'd like (they put the half in a small carafe). I actually like this policy.

Other than that, though, it was kind of a letdown, especially after hearing so much about Soigne in Baltimore. I guess it's a little early to judge, though - it's been open for like two weeks, so I think we'll try it again in a couple of months. But I was at least hoping for good mixed drinks, and they didn't exactly meet my expectations.

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Other than that, though, it was kind of a letdown, especially after hearing so much about Soigne in Baltimore. I guess it's a little early to judge, though - it's been open for like two weeks, so I think we'll try it again in a couple of months. But I was at least hoping for good mixed drinks, and they didn't exactly meet my expectations.

Reading about this place is making me crazier than I already am. I loved Soigne and I still CANNOT believe that Edward Kim left to serve nachos. WTF?! It is so wrong on so many levels.

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I think I am going to Merkado this weekend, any improvements?  Suggestions of what to order?  Do I have to eat the nachos with chopsticks?

Thanks!

Depends. Are you three little girls from school? :lol:;):P

Edited by JPW
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Well, I didn’t think it worth a whole new post, but I didn’t end up at Merkado. Instead, and this was out of my hands... with a large group and a long wait at Merkado we ended up at the "must miss" P Street Bistro Café. There was nothing memorable in any of our meals (out of 6 of us!). Food was sent back, other food not touched. We also left with the smell of french fries on us, so their ventilation system needs some work. All around, it was a disaster.

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Went to Merkado after the Studio Theatre. Had the Goat Cheese-filled Chili Relleno and the Foie Gras small plates. The Chili Relleno had to be the best I've ever had in Washington. The foie gras was ok, not as warm as it should have been. Service was great.

-Ed

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I tried Merkado on Friday night. I thought it was a cool space - a tad loud, but definitely felt vibrant and cool. First course was some sort of nacho plate with chicken. Was pretty decent but nothing special - a step above Guapos or Cactus - but that doesn't say much. Was a huge portion, though. Would be fun to share with a large drunken group of friends.

I had the "Asopao" – Puerto Rican Paella. I've never had paella from PR before. I wonder if any Puerto Ricans have either. This was nothing like Spanish paella - more like a fish and meat stew with a large dollop of some type of mashed rice and beans in the center. Kinda like gruel. Companion had the tuna. Was fine... again, not special in any way, but by no means bad.

The asopao really wasn't to my liking as I wasn't really in the mood for a steaming bowl of stew, but it did have a very large amount of huge (and nicely cooked) shrimp and scallops, as well as calamari, pork, and chicken. It might have been a matter of taste - I'd like to go back and try a few more dishes... but I certainly wasn't won over on the first visit. Service was quite good - which was refreshing. Overall, it is much better than many, many Dupont area eateries and was a lot of fun. Wasn't as expensive as I had feared either.

On a whim I decided to stop into the new P St Bistro Cafe yesterday evening after deciding Logan Tavern wasn't worth the 30 minute wait. Big disappointment. Food was mediocre. Reminded me of bad hotel food. Burger and fries were fine. Chicken in the caesar salad was dry. Parmesan crisp was stale. Iced tea was from a powder mix. Service was ok. The place was like a funeral home - the Enya playing on the speakers didn't help pep things up either. Oh well.

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Kinda like gruel.]

:lol:

the Enya playing on the speakers didn't help pep things up either. Oh well.

;):P

thank you....next time I'm in the neighborhood, I'll be sure to pick up some cheese and a bottle of wine from whole foods & continue on home....

Edited by babka
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"Are the entrees more appetizing than the first course was?" our server asked. We all looked at each other, and then meekly nodded our heads yes. After he left, one of us leaned over and whispered, "is a parapalegic more ambulatory than a quadrapelegic?"

It all started with a sickly sweet mojito and a round of beers. Then came a Nacho "Nirvana" Platter, as in ... you guys have a lot of nirvana peddling these things for human consumption. We opted for the Corn Tortillas, Vegetarian-Style, w/ 4 Cheeses & Cilantro Crema ($9.75), and out came this heaping platter in our server's left hand, which tilted, sending a rush of oil and grease streaming down onto the table and splashing about. When the server pulled out a rag and began wiping it, he began accidentally tilting the plate again before I intervened and prevented a second pouring.

The nachos were unfit for pigs, the thick, stale tortilla chips being completely dry in some places, drenched with oil in others, and covered with a cheese-glop in others, the whole plate mercilessly squirted with the crema. "There is 'good bad food,' and there is 'bad bad food,' one of us said, and this is 'bad bad food." "How were the nachos?" our (congenial, if a bit bumbling) server asked us. "Well ... not so good," one of us replied. "Yeah, they're not the best thing to order on the menu," the server responded before taking away the nearly full platter.

A $40 bottle of sake came out at room temperature, apparently being subjected to the same storage conditions as the red wines. The Grilled Whole Fish w/ Vera Cruz Vinaigrette, Rice & Beans ($19.00) was as bad as the nachos, assuming it's possible to ruin a simple grilled fish. Plain as can be, overcooked, and terribly dull - and the oily, disgusting rice & beans were simply inedible by anyone but the most devout masochist. A Cuban Pork Shank w/ Sweet Plantain & Ajo Yukon Mash ($16.75) was arguably the best plate of the evening, the overcooked pork thankfully resting atop the mash, and therefore being largely unadulterated by oily accompaniments. The Big Bowl of Vegetarian Fresh Udon Noodles w/ Bok Choy, Snow Peas, Shitakes & Tofu in Dashi Broth ($14.00) had pleasant but overcooked noodles, and fresh vegetables in a wan broth perhaps made from a powdered base. "This tastes like a Whole Foods salad bar dumped into a bowl of broth," one of us said, pretty much summing up an inoffensive but very overpriced and ordinary bowl of soup.

Merkado Kitchen is owned by the same person who owns Logan Tavern (on the same block) and GrillFish. One of us had been to Merkado Kitchen twice before, and he pointed out the two large pictures on the wall nearest the kitchen. "Do you know why their eyes are closed?" he asked me. "It's because they can't bear to look at the food."

Spending my money so you don't have to,

Rocks.

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I've been twice now, once for drinks and a couple appetizers and again yesterday for brunch. The brunch experiment won't be repeated, though the service was much better than on the first visit. A " Tempura Chili Relleno Stuffed w/ Spicy Goat Cheese & 3 Beans" did fine except for the filling, which was unfortunately 75% of the volume of the dish. The goat cheese wasn't at all spicy, which I guess is a good thing as there was so much of it that it was overwhelming even without any flavor. And I hadn't realized that the "3 beans" description on the menu referred not to the number of varieties of beans, but to the actual number of beans. They were undersoaked, resulting in a texture closer to peanuts.

HOWEVER, on my first visit as I was having my slushy pisco sour (try Rumba Café instead) I pushed the oily chips aside and ordered the "Diver Sea Scallop Tiradito w/ Sour Orange Vinaigrette" - and it was amazing. A ceviche of large rounds of scallop thinly sliced, it would have been a standout dish at Black Salt or Ceiba. The scallop itself was perfect and the vinaigrette was just enough to coat the surface and firm up the scallop. I hadn't written about it until now as I suspected something that good was a fluke (but not fluke), so I'll be heading back to try it again and see if lighting can strike twice. If so, in the future I'll be sitting at the bar with a couple orders of that and a bottle of water.

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The nachos were unfit for pigs, the thick, stale tortilla chips being completely dry in some places, drenched with oil in others, and covered with a cheese-glop in others, the whole plate mercilessly squirted with the crema.
That description was enough to put me off my lunch.
Spending my money so you don't have to,

Rocks.

Thanks for taking one for the team.

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being asian, i have had my share of ramen...the broth at merkado is clearly made from seasoning inside a ramen package (lots of MSG...uck). Also, udon without broth? After one meal at Merkado, I am not compelled to go again and shell out my money for instant food.

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My initial image of Merkado was shaped by Anne Hull's beautiful, eloquent Post story on the place's kitchen in late May: The Hope of D.C.'s Aproned Ranks

Miguel Rosario grabs a NY strip and hurls a pinch of sea salt at the meat as he lays it on the fire. The flames leap, lighting up the face of one tired 34-year-old cook with tongs in his hand. Miguel is on his second pitcher of ice water, drinking like a man in the desert. The kitchen is chaos and Chef is all over him.

"More butter!" Chef shouts after tasting the broth Miguel has laded into a bowl. "And dude, your rice and beans are getting cold! Come on, bro."

Sad to read the coalescing reviews.

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The dishes mentioned in the review are the best ones on the menu. The chile relleno is good (but I echo an earlier comment that the beans are underdone. Beans are gross in the first place, they don't need to be crunchy to boot). The shrimp tempura is good, the salmon miso is good, and the hanger steak is good. The problem is, most other things aren't even close to good. I've been there three times (and will probably be returning, since it's in the gayborhood and my friends LOVE it), and haven't been all that impressed.

My latest trip (last night) was a going away party for a friend. Twixt the seven of us, we had six dishes: the calamari "linguine," the tofu "chigae," the seafood paella, the chicken quesadilla, the seared tuna, and the crab and shrimp cake. The crab cake and the seared tuna were good enough, but they were the only dishes that were finished; the rest were plain unappetizing.

The calamari looked good, but it didn't really taste of anything other than "hot." I like hot food, but this didn't really have any flavor. I chomped away a little bit just because I like the texture of calamari, but didn't even get halfway through. The paella (for one--the 'for two' went by to another table and looked pretty good) was the predicted melange of all kinds of yummy crustaceans, mollusks, and cephalopods, but was apparently for looks only--very bland. The tofu "chigae," at least presented us with the "find the tofu and mushrooms" game, since the "coconut milk" broth was not only runny and tasteless, but comically riddled with about 50 single grains of rice.

We decided to be sports and order 5 desserts. The banana fritter and its vanilla ice cream were fantastic, as was the (store-bought?) mango sorbet. Unfortunately, the chocolate cake was allright at best, the chocolate banuelos were rubbery, and the 'special dessert' of blackberries and vanilla wafer was uninspired--ok if you like half-stewed blackberries and a cookie.

What I do like about Merkado is the scene. It's loud and fun and the drinks are good. The bar is big enough that there's place to stand and chat with a big group of friends. It fits the neighborhood really well.

Also, our service last night was GREAT. Our waiter was spot-on, appropriately chatty and warm, and never missed an order or a refill. My only wish is that he steered us to the few delicious dishes on the menu. Hopefully Merkado refines some of their dishes as they go along, because I think they could be great. I wouldn't write this place off, but I'd definitely be careful about my ordering.

Edited to fix spelling mistakes.

Edited by tenunda
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We went to Merkado saturday night. Wouldn't have been my first choice, but that's where my date wanted to go. Overall, we had a very good meal. Started out with the pineapple margaritas....and I was unimpressed. Not sure what was off, but there wasn't much flavor at all to it.

Based on recommendations, we stuck to the small plates and avoided the nachos! The chili rellano was good....I didn't find the filling to be overwhelming, and the beans were fine....so perhaps there have been some adjustments? The diver scallops in the orange vinaigrette were excellent...well balanced with the sauce and tender. The plaintains were good, not too oily, but I think cut a bit thick for my taste. The tuna in the miso-sake reduction was spectacular....a great combination of the lightness of the tuna with the earthiness of the sauce. The only miss for me was the shrimp tempura...it seemed more like beer battered shrimp than tempura!

For dessert, we had the banana spring rolls.....which I found to be too sweet. I make a similar dish, but add a small amount of dark chocolate, which cuts through the sweetness of the banana. We also had the pineapple upside down cake.....the cake itself was fine....but the sauce around the cake was revolting. It was literally at war with the cake.

The service was great. Even recommending a beer for my date that would compliment the dessert. And according to him, the beer was a great match.

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Kliman weighs in and the verdict ain't good. Between this and all of the so-so (and less so) reviews coming in could it be that Tom missed the boat on this one? Or is the place really that stupifyingly inconsistent? I live right down the street but have been reluctant to give it a whirl.
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Kliman weighs in and the verdict ain't good.  Between this and all of the so-so (and less so) reviews coming in could it be that Tom missed the boat on this one?  Or is the place really that stupifyingly inconsistent?  I live right down the street but have been reluctant to give it a whirl.

Whew! It's been sad to read the wailings and protests of Baltimore gastronomes who have lost one of their few really good chefs (Kim) and one of their few good restaurants (Soigné) to what sounds like a very shaky experiment in DC.

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Not that anyone gives a crap, but Soigne was not, as Kliman put it, a “sushi restaurant.” I can’t decide if the fact that Merkado blows makes me feel better or worse about the closing of Soigne. When I heard Soigne was closing because the landlord “bought out” the lease and Edward Kim took a job running the kitchen of a new restaurant in DC, I thought “well, he’s a talented and ambitious guy. DC is a better restaurant town than Baltimore and he’s moving on.” Fine, I understand that and I accept it, begrudgingly.

I bet Chef Kim was making a decent living with Soigne. It was the anti-Merkado: a romantic, elegant room with marble topped tables in a small rowhouse where Chef Kim presided over a tiny kitchen that turned out thoughtful, creative and delicious food served by a professional waitstaff. Soigne had devoted customers, myself included. I think it is safe to say that my initial thoughts were off base, as they so often are. If Chef Kim didn’t close Soigne to establish a reputation in a better restaurant town, my next best guess is that he did it for money. That’s fine, too. I’ve left jobs to make more money. But, a lovely restaurant is closed and a talented chef is serving industrial grade slop in a kitchen filled with immigrants working their asses off for a pittance. Whatever.

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I caught restaurateur David Winer's interesting struggle to get Merkado up and running on Fine Living's Opening Soon today. Well isn't it a struggle to get any restaurant opened :P It was the first time I have seen a DC restaurant covered on the show. Here's a link to the schedule if you want to check it out yourself.

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So it's Monday night, and I'm starving. A walk to some of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood leads to disappointment as I realize they are closed for the day. After passing by the food establishments of 17th Street, I finally decide to turn onto P Street to give the somewhat maligned Merkado Kitchen a shot.

Skipping over the specialty drinks which people here have complained as too sweet, I order the Grilled Squid Stuffed w/ Crabmeat & Shrimp in Coconut Curry appetizer and the Cuban Pork Shank w/ Sweet Plantain & Ajo Yukon Mash. The ample sized squid burst at the seams, oozing the crabmeat and shrimp filling onto the plate. The shrimp and crab filling was creamy and had nice heat to it, mixing well with the coconut curry on the plate. The chunks of shrimp were tender to the bite. I thought, "Wow. People are really being hard on this place." That is until I actually got to the squid. Looking at the squid, I thought it probably could've used some carmelization in a pan before being put in the oven, but that's just a personal preference since I generally don't like my seafood looking like the color of rubber bands. Unfortunately the taste and texture (should squid be that chewy?) also reminded me of rubber bands. I squeezed out the remainder of the filling and left the squid on the plate.

The Cuban Pork Shank comes out and my first thought is that giant slab of meat seen in the title sequence of a Flintstones cartoon. The thing is enormous! The shank is accompanied by a smooth and tasty potato and plantain mash and some raw watercress which adds nothing to the dish except for some texture. The first bite of the pork reveals a fall from the bone piece of meat that kind of lacks in flavor. If the rest of the meat tasted that way, I would've been better off. How do I put this delicately? If B.O. had a flavor, this would be it. :lol: I don't know if I had an old piece of meat or if something went awry in the cooking process, but there was definitely something off about that meat.

Disappointed with the experience, I skip dessert there for a brown sugar and cinnamon cone at Sweet Licks. To be fair, if someone can recommend a dish worth going for, I may go back. But for now, I'm not really inclined to.

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Baltfoodie is reporting on chowhound that Edward Kim is returning to Baltimore to work with the east-west fusion restaurant Saffron that opened about three years ago on N. Charles, a few blocks north of Ixia, (where Kim worked before opening Soigne). Not clear what his role is going to be there. "Partnering" is one of those confounded new words I don't get. Is he saying bye-bye to Mercado?

Executive chef/owner Edward Kim is partnering with Saffron owner Tony Chammanoor to recreate Saffron into a modern American eatery. With global inspirations including Mediterranean, Asian, Latino, and American flavors, Saffron's menu will be reminiscent of Union Square Café of NYC, one of Edward Kim's former postings. In the coming weeks, Saffron will close for a short time to prepare for a mid-May reopening.
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I believe that he said buh bye to Merkado some time ago. In fact, I spotted him working the cash register at Iggie's, his former Soigne partner's pizza joint in Mt. Vernon. I did a complete double take and thought "nah, that can't be him." But it was.

A week later, I had dinner at Salt (which was highly enjoyable, btw) and a waiter there (who used to work at Soigne) confirmed that Edward had something in the works back here in Mobtown. I was left with the impression that he was quite unhappy at Merkado. I'm glad he's back.

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I believe that he said buh bye to Merkado some time ago.  In fact, I spotted him working the cash register at Iggie's, his former Soigne partner's pizza joint in Mt. Vernon.  I did a complete double take and thought "nah, that can't be him."  But it was.

A week later, I had dinner at Salt (which was highly enjoyable, btw) and a waiter there (who used to work at Soigne) confirmed that Edward had something in the works back here in Mobtown.  I was left with the impression that he was quite unhappy at Merkado.  I'm glad he's back.

Reading the article in the Post about Merkado's opening, it seemed just a matter of time. Despite Mr. Kim's impressive talent and background, and despite his obvious passion, it did not seem likely that his crew--nor his owner--would ever grasp the difference between "soigne" and "not soigne". Perhaps dance lessons at Indebleu would have helped.

From reading the other boards, the folks of Charm City must be as happy to have him back--where he is much loved and much missed--as a Texas housewife would be to find a Weeping Virgin Mary in her grilled cheese sandwich.

It is a shame that the talent pool keeps getting drained to overfill the money/ego pool so that the cannonballs of excess can make an even bigger splash--which might even get ooh'd and ahh'd over by the gals at The Reliable Source while the local horde of Spauldings satelessly, fatuosly, self-absorbs (...I'll have a fois gras terrine, no a boudin blanc, no a butter poached lobster with Osetra, no fusion sushi, no small plates, lots and lots of small plates, no I don't want small plates, I want big plates, no...).

I am the Baby Ruth in that pool.

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My fiancée and I went to Merkado this past Saturday because we were walking down 14th Street and were hungry. Long story short, our visit is encapsulated in this exchange as we walked out the door:

Me: I'm not sure what it was, but my mouth tastes like I just licked your armpit.

Fiancée: Yeah, me too.

For reference, I had the goat's cheese-stuffed chile relleno with the crunchy beans and their ahi tuna appetizer. Fiancée ordered the pork tenderloin something, but they gave her the beef tenderloin over wilted frisee salad.

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A friend of mine went to Merkado the other night and was suprised to find that the menu had changed from Latin/Asian fusion to Latin only. She said the server said that they have a new chef. Has anyone heard anything about this or been there since the menu change?

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