Sneak Peek: Jose Garces Shows Us Mercat's New Spring Menu

By Sarah Freeman  |  March 21, 2014

We can’t remember any time in recent history that a city has been more excited to welcome spring. In anticipation of the end of this ruthless winter, we visited Mercat a la Planxa to see how its spring menu came to be. The new menu will be unveiled April 1.

Chef Jose Garces, who spends most of his time overseeing his eight Philadelphia establishments, came to town on a cold day in February to sample nine potential menu items. Since opening in 2008, Garces has put more and more faith into his chef de cuisine, Cory Morris. “I’m proud to say that this is the team behind the restaurant,” Garces said. With that pride also comes trust that Morris and his team will put together a delicious menu that not only represents the restaurant’s Catalonian roots but also Garces’ vision.

Morris' new spring dishes were designed to not only highlight seasonal offerings, but to replace existing menu items. Arroz con morels gets a bright green makeover with peas, asparagus, haricot vert and broccoli cream. The dish happened to be a hit with Garces, who not only liked the vibrant color but also the perfectly cooked rice. Another dish that earned points in the color category was the Baix amb Ensalada Rusa, with striped bass sitting on a bed of green pea puree and purple potato, covered in orange carrot froth. As important as it is that the food looks good, both Garces and Morris take regular trips to Spain for inspiration and to ensure the dishes taste good, too.

Other items from the tasting did not go over as well. A mushroom ravioli dish with colcot pesto did not impress, and did not make it to the spring menu when Garces simply said he was “not a fan.” Some suffered from slight technical issues. Garces feared that the mar i muntanya made with shrimp and chicken claspara rice would not pack enough value for the price point; it was replaced with a fried chicken thigh and lobster salad.

Overall, of the nine dishes we tasted, seven will make an appearance on the new menu. Take a first look at the offerings below.

  • Amanida de Quinoa

    Quinoa, grapes, fennel, pine nuts and lemon yogurt

  • Endívia a la Planxa

    Grilled endive, pistachio and tangerine

  • Coca de Jamon

    Serrano, manchego bechemel, yellow tomato and mustard greens

  • Arroz Verde

    Calaspara rice, peas, asparagus, haricot vert and broccoli cream

  • Baix amb Ensalada Rusa

    Striped bass, chorizo escabeche, green pea puree, carrot froth and purple potato

  • Almejas y Chorizo

    Little neck clams, iberico chorizo, artichoke broth, focaccia and picada

  • Mar i Muntanya

    Fried chicken thigh, lobster salad, paprika hot sauce and celery root puree

    The dish in this photo is a slightly different version that was presented at the tasting