Location: Los Angeles, California 90048. 323.944.0947
Date: November 5, 2013
Rating: Solid modern Mexican.
The Hedonist gang loves to try out new places, plus it was David’s birthday! Mercado is a recent entry into the crowded LA Mexican arena from co-owner Jesse Gomez and chef Jose Acevedo.
The Mercado space on the crowded 3rd street drag is modern and that is also reflected in the fresh take on traditional dishes.
Fitting decor for being so close to the day of the dead! People really hauled out the wines, as we had twenty bottles crowded onto that table!
2004 Billecart-Salmon Champagne.
2006 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Ten. Burghound 86. This is also extremely ripe with the same notes of menthol along with touches of cherry cough syrup, red berries, chocolate and coffee notes that continue onto the mouth coating, serious and structured finish that is again not particularly well integrated into the body of the wine. Here though the finish is not harsh so much as just awkward.
Guacamole – hass avocado, serrano, cilantro, red onion, chile de arbol salsa, spicy pepitas, fresh chips. These were some of the best nachos and guac I’ve had.
2007 Frédéric Magnien Fixin Crais de Chene. Burghound 86-89. A subtle touch of wood sets off earthy and reasonably complex aromas of red and blue fruit as well as lovely violet nuances that merge into rich, round and supple flavors that possess an attractive textured on the delicious, long and nicely sappy finish that carries less rusticity than one might otherwise expect.
From my cellar, 1978 Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial. Parker 93. One of the wines of the night (IMHO). The 1978 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial spent 18 years in barrel and 10 years in bottle prior to release. It still has a deep cherry red color along with an aromatic array of underbrush, brier, tobacco, incense, and blackberry. It has slightly sweeter fruit and livelier acidity than the 1994. This lengthy effort is at its peak now.
Carnitas nachos. Chips, pork chunks, marinated carrots, chili con queso, guacamole. Quite tasty, as I’m partial to both chili con queso and carnitas.
1994 Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial. Parker 94. The 1994 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial reveals no age in its appearance. Deep purple-colored, it sports nicely developed, complex aromas with elements of Asian spices, balsamic, lavender, mineral, and blackberry. Elegant, intense, and concentrated, it is balanced by vibrant acidity.
1989 Marques de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay. Parker 92. This traditionally run Bodegas estate bottles all of its wines. The 1989 Castillo y Gay Grand Reserva Especial, which represents 25% of the estate’s production, and is produced only in top vintages, is the flagship wine of Marques de Murrieta. The deep ruby/purple-colored 1989 offers up smoky, sweet, jammy black cherry fruit aromas intertwined with scents of minerals, tobacco, and vanillin. Medium-bodied and ripe, with outstanding levels of fruit, glycerin, and extract, low acidity, and ripe tannin, this hedonistic, luscious Rioja can be drunk now and over the next 15+ years.
Mexican Kale Salad – kale, arugula, candied pumpkin seeds, pears, dried strawberries, cotija-pesto croutons,
agave-lime vinaigrette. Many complained that the vinegar clashed with our heavy reds.
1970 Bodegas El Coto Rioja Coto de Imaz. 89 points.
1970 Berberana Rioja Reserva Carta de Oro. Vanilla and cherry at first on the nose give an impression of cream soda. Resolved, cherry and brown sugar palate with adequate acidity and something savory and creamy. Perfectly enjoyable.
Lobster taco – with slaw. This was tasty, but the shell was a hair soggy and some felt the lobster a little fishy.
1986 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Gran Reserva. 87 points. Still very pleasurable, but it has obviously seen better days. The nose smelt like something quite a bit older, with wafts of balsamic vinegar, suggestions of dried leaves and undergrowth, and only after that more classic matured Tempranillo notes of cooked plums and cigarette smoke. Thankfully, the palate was not quite as tired as the nose would suggest. The dried leaves and balsamic notes were there in some measure, but these were more background notes that the main act, with the wine showing nice little notes of sour plums, a touch of meat and some smoked tea leaves as it moved into a very soft, mellow finish draped with velvety tannins.
1987 Bodegas Rioja Santiago Rioja gran condal. 88 points.
Alambres de Camarõn – Mexican sweet shrimp skewers, cilantro pesto, chayote with calabacitas.
1998 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904. IWC 93. Bright red with an amber rim. Pungent, expansive scents of dried red fruits, potpourri, vanilla and pipe tobacco, with a spicy overtone. The silky palate offers penetrating redcurrant and bitter cherry flavors sweetened by notes of vanilla and mocha. Finishes smooth and long, with very soft tannins and lingering floral notes. Ready to drink but there’s very good depth here, suggesting (along with this wine’s track record) that it will reward further patience. I also had the chance to re-try the outstanding 2001 Vina Ardanza, which is aging at a snail’s pace and really needs more time for the oak to fully integrate with its fruit. Right now the vanilla character is dominating but there’s obviously excellent material underneath it.
2002 Dominio de Atauta Ribera del Duero. IWC 89. Bright ruby-red. Black raspberry, violet pastille and a whiff of tar on the nose. Texture currently stunted by sulfur but the flavors of blackberry and violet pastille offer lovely purity-not to mention impressive ripeness and intensity for the year. Finishes with tongue-dusting tannins.
Carnitas – Chef Jose’s slow-cooked natural pork, guacamole, chile de arbol salsa, cauliflower with escabeche
1970 Château Mouton Rothschild. Parker 93. I have had a remarkable number of opportunities to taste this wine. One of the most frustratingly irregular wines I have ever encountered, the 1970 Mouton can range from pure nectar, to a wine that is angular, austere, and frightfully hard and tannic. This bottle (one of the Reserve du Chateau bottlings that was mistakenly released by the estate and labeled with the letters R.C., rather than a number) was impossible to assess when decanted, given its hard, tough, impenetrable style. Nearly eight hours later, the wine had opened magnificently to reveal a classic bouquet of sweet cassis, tobacco, minerals, and exotic spice aromas. Opulent, full-bodied, thick, and juicy, the extraordinary evolution of this particular bottle would make a persuasive argument for long-term decanting. After being perplexed throughout much of this wine’s evolution, I was reassured by this bottle. No doubt Mouton’s high Cabernet Sauvignon content causes this wine to go through a tight, hard, ungenerous stage.
1985 Haut Bailly. Parker 86. There is not a great deal of depth to this Haut Bailly. Nevertheless, it offers charm, finesse, and a sweet black berry/curranty fruitiness. Some of the new oak and smokiness that were present when the wine was young has dissipated to reveal a slight herbaceousness behind the new oak. The wine is medium-bodied, with soft tannin, and some flesh on the attack that quickly narrows out to a lighter style, supple yet unexciting wine.
A lot of people really liked this wine.
Carne Asada – prime marinated skirt steak, guacamole, cebollines, grilled corn.
2001 Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras. Parker 88. The beautiful, elegant, seductive 2001 Vacqueyras is a serious effort. Its medium ruby color is followed by distinctive kirsch liqueur notes intermixed with freshly ground pepper, licorice, and strawberries.
2007 Caves Saint-Pierre Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Fiacre du Pape. 90 points. Ripe, crushed red berry juice with savory, earthy notes of mushroom and truffle influence. Aromas of blackberry juice, brambly wild berry, oak vanillin, grilled herbs and warm berry tart. Nice texture. A bit tart on the entry with big acid. Richly flavored and hedonistic in style with lush red and black fruit, fresh herbs, a stony minerality and some earthy and dried leaf notes. Suggestions of violet and lavender oil also. Hints of espresso. I could do with a tad less acid, so perhaps added time in the bottle will relax/integrate that.
Pollo en Salsa de Chipotle – Free-range half chicken, chipotle wild mushroom sauce, queso fresco
2001 Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf du Pape la Reserve Secrete. Parker 96. Absolutely prodigious, and unquestionably one of the vintage’s most illustrious wines, is the modern-styled 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape La Reserve Secrete. A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, aged 75% in small oak casks and 25% in tank, an awesome nose of creme de cassis, graphite, kirsch, licorice, and vanilla soars from the glass of this saturated ruby/purple-colored wine. With extravagant richness, a sumptuous texture, and tremendous opulence as well as purity, this stunning, modern-styled Chateauneuf du Pape retains the soul and typicity of Provence as well as Chateauneuf du Pape. One of the vintage’s greatest wines, it is a brilliant achievement.
2005 Penfolds Shiraz Magill Estate. Parker 92. The 2005 Magill Estate Shiraz was barrel-fermented and spent 14 months in French and American oak. It delivers a super-expressive nose of smoked meat, game pencil lead, pepper, blueberry, and blackberry leading to an elegant Shiraz with superb depth and grip. This lengthy effort will provide pleasure through 2020.
Farmers’ Market Enchiladas – Chef Jose’s hand-picked vegetables, yellow mole, queso fresco, nopalitos.
1992 Gaja Langhe Sito Moresco. Still lots of tanic structure.
2010 Tobin James Syrah James Gang Reserve. 2010 Syrah? Eeek gads.
Flan. This was a great flan. Ignore the sauce, which might have been Bailieys or something, but the flan was very creamy, a real custard.
Overall, another fabulous night. The food was good, although perhaps a hair uneven, but the wines and company were amazing as always. Service was absolutely first rate. They really took care of us — although next time they need to bring the entrees out one at a time. With wine dinners, multiple courses at once can be overwhelming.
For more LA dining reviews click here,