This food market-slash-restaurant pulls in the crowds.
Tucked down a rabbit warren in the middle of Ratchada-Rama 4, El Mercado is part food market, part restaurant. A large deli counter stocks cheese and charcuterie from Europe, while the cold storage room is packed with fresh imported seafood like fine de claire oysters, Mediterranean seabass and turbot. Order from the blackboard for simple yet tasty pastas, salads, seafood and grilled meats with a Southern European slant.
The word is definitely out, though, about its breezy verandah and tiny terrace, complete with flaming barbecue. Thanks to a boisterous atmosphere, the place recalls a less-ramshackle Arno’s, another packed-out joint doing perfunctory food and drinks at prices that hit the sweet spot (wine by the glass from B129? Yes, please). A grass-fed Australian striploin (B690) here can’t compare, but it’s juicy, lightly charred and one of the best for this price point.
If there’s one must-order, though, it’s a serving of New Zealand mussels in a rich, salty broth with crispy fries (B555). A winning combination we saw at most tables on our last visit, it’s a perfect snack to share or an indulgent meal in itself. With just a little more zesty edge, we’d call the tuna tartare (B430), with its fresh fish, grapes and mango salsa, just as big a hit. The beetroot and tomato salad (B290) may be on the surprisingly subtle side, but its giant chunks of veggies piled with almonds and pomegranate shout good produce. The ever-changing dessert list is always worth exploring, though we’re stuck on the dense chocolate tart (B220).
With its skittish service, El Mercado is at times an infuriating experience. Upon opening, they claimed in fact to not be a restaurant. You can still kind of see this when your dishes arrive at random intervals or your order gets lost among the army of waitstaff. There’s also no printed food menu, so you have to rely on the chalkboard whose terse descriptions like “salmon steak” and “sardines BBQ” leave much to the imagination—best expect most dishes to come with generous sides.
For all our grumbles, it’s easy to see why El Mercado is one of the hottest tickets in town, where visiting on a weeknight without a reservation can see you perched awkwardly at one of the makeshift tables plopped at the entrance. But if the ordeal sounds too much, you can always just grab some excellent cold cuts to go.
|Address:||El Mercado, 490 Soi Phai Singto, Ratchadaphisek Rd., Bangkok, Thailand|
|Area:||Klong Toei - Upper Rama 4|
|Open since:||December, 2015|
|Opening hours:||Tue-Thu 9:30am-11pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11pm|
|Nearest train||MRT Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre|
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