There are many people that loathe Baco Mercat and everything it stands for: decadence, out of control fusion, an overly elaborate, oft perplexing menu, being a hipster haven, producing flavor bomb food, and in general leaving diners unsure of how to order, or what they are ordering. There is a small faction of diehard LA-ites that cherish these same absurdist values in a restaurant that, for better or worse, has become entrenched in the LA dining scene. This is for those who are visiting the wonky city of LA, those still exploring food, those, who are wondering what is up at the old hipster haunt, and those who live their lives with the kind of romantic reckless abandon that is required to dine at Baco Mercat.
I recall this dish as being Muhammara, but it must have been something else, perhaps the muhammara was mixed in with cous cous, lebni, and other assorted veggies. It was one of the best grain dishes I have eaten in a very long time in terms of pairing the heft of the grain and cooling qualities of the lebni.
Fried cauliflower with mint and pine nuts is an old standard by now, and it’s just as lip-smackingly awesome as ever. Crispy hot cauliflower tempered by mint and the crunch of pine nuts, just glorious.
Castelfranco with shaved asparagus and nectarines was one of the most enlightened salads I have ever had. I will never tire of the strange combinations coming out of this place. Saccharine citrus from the nectarines adding a juicy quality against the vegetal crunch of the asparagus, and slight astringency of the castelfranco and the nuttiness of almonds. Baco’s absurdism at its finest.
The absurdist train continued barreling down the tracks with a salad of blood oranges, Persian cucumbers, regular cucumbers, feta, and flower petals. Sour, sweet, funky…wonders never cease to amaze.
Finally: A Jerk Chicken Baco. Ah, that impossible fluffy, crisped Baco bread, somewhere between a paratha, a pita, naan, and a tortilla… filled with immaculately spiced jerk chicken so over-the-top tasty that it made a woman that finds eating to be a chore to exclaim she had found something that was not a chore to eat for the first time in her life!
It is also always grand to drink at Baco, such joy, whether cocktails they age in barrels themselves, ones made with soda they make themselves, or just something simple and fun off of their well-priced wine list:
Indeed, as absurd as Baco Mercat is, and even in the face of all of the ire it raises, it remains a beautiful place to escape from reality and be in love for a while; it is up to you what or with whom you are in love while there, but for a select few it very well might end up being the food.