Peruvian cuisine hasn’t exactly taken off in Hong Kong. While Chicha is going strong into its third year, charming patrons with friendly service and tasty offerings, Lan Kwai Fong’s Mayta didn’t make it to its second anniversary before it gave way to Braza Churrascaria. Into this sceptical marketplace steps El Mercado – a Peruvian concept with the odd Japanese influence looking to breathe fresh air into this niche corner of the F&B market.
Stepping into its lofty environs, fashioned around high ceilings and white-washed brick walls, the absence of kitschy Inca patterns and Aztec motifs are a welcome sight.
Featuring items like chicharron, tacu tacu and a whole category of ceviches, the menu is heavily Peruvian. The only exception is the nigiri section, which boasts innovative sushi ingredients such as watermelon and beef with banana confit. We go straight for one of those to begin the meal and sample the Machu Picchu ($68 for two pieces), which is sushi with pickled ginger and lemon granite topped with sea urchin. The lemon completely overpowers the uni and all we’re left with is the acerbic backend of the shellfish. Luckily, the next course, ostra acevichada ($58), fares better. The oyster, thanks to the lime, is fragrant, while the squid ink foam prolongs the brininess of the bivalve.
Next up is the ceviche classic ($168), where ohnibe fish is cured in a citrus-based marinade, leche de tigre. The result is a milky liquid that’s tart and spicy, with a fresh hint of coriander. This is a traditional ceviche but the addition of sweet potato is superfluous and brings nothing to the dish. Lastly, we tuck into a conchinillo con tacu tacu ($308), a crispy suckling pig on top of a bed of stir-fried beans and lentils. This mix of carbs and protein, in combination with a chilli lime sauce, is our favourite dish of the evening. It showcases the traditional ingredients and flavours of Peru, in spite of a slightly excessive amount of fat.
We love the environs at El Mercado as its chic ambience is just right. The food is a little hit and miss, however, and there’s definitely much better sushi to be had elsewhere in town. Regardless, Peruvian cuisine remains something of a rarity here. El Mercado’s offerings are playful and fun, and the restaurant as a whole is an enjoyable night out.
|Venue name:||El Mercado||Contact:|
21/F, 239 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sun: 12.00pm-3.00pm; 6.00pm-11.00pm|