A visit to Bäco Mercat, Downtown, LA

By Priya Srivats ‘13Food Columnist

Let me tell you about a restaurant I’ve been waiting to eat at for ages—Bäco Mercat. Bäco’s reputation precedes it, as not many restaurants are based around an entirely new type of dish, but crazy successful as well.

Bäco joins the long list of Los Angeles restaurants that focus on small plates and family style eating, so we ordered everything as a group; the food comes out as it’s ready, and we found the wait between items perfectly timed—short and sweet.

The beet salad and fresh burrata came out first. The beet salad was light, refreshing and perfectly balanced, easily making it one of the highlights of the meal for me. But with every restaurant in LA now carrying a burrata salad, it’s tough competition out there, and sadly I found myself wishing for more traditional flavor combinations on the plate, instead of the smoked paprika and pickled vegetables.

Next was the tomato coca. While this was delicious, we wished that we had opted for the other vegetarian option (mushroom) so we would have had a more traditional textural experience, as opposed to the double crispy base.

The spaghetti squash and farro with wild mushrooms were next, and easily my two favorite dishes of the night. I’ve been wanting to try spaghetti squash for an unreasonably long time, and I was not disappointed by Bäco’s slightly sweet rendition. The farro reminded me of one of my favorite dishes in LA—the Israeli couscous with mushrooms and shallots from Joan’s on Third (my go-to when I worked on Melrose). It had deep, earthy tones that can only come from a combination of grains soaked in delicious homemade stock and really, really good mushrooms, and was definitely the fastest dish to disappear off the table.

The crispy surf clams were the only real disappointment of the night. It’s never great to consume a very large amount of deep fried batter and not much filling, but especially when you’ve paid $16 for the dish. Skip.

Finally, after a plethora of delightful flavour combinations and enough food to fill us up, came the bäcos. The flatbread was light and soft, with a perfectly buttery crisped exterior, and filled to the brim with meat, sauce and greens. Surprisingly, I preferred the more delicate flavors that the small plates had to offer however, the bäco is absolutely delicious and definitely not to be missed.

After nearly two hours of eating and drinking, we somehow found room for dessert, also delicious (unsurprising, since at this point I’ve come to expect nothing less than mind-blowing from Bäco). Bäco is yet another DTLA gem, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for bold flavors, unique combinations and overall just damn good food, plain and simple.