Address: 55 Gansevoort St, New York
After conquering New York City with his Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit, it is only natural that Chef Marcus Samuelsson returned to his roots and opened the first Upscale African restaurant in the city.
To me, this upscale African restaurant concept might not work if it was done by someone else; Having a star chef like Marcus Samuelsson does bring some sort of credibility, not to mention the ability to charge at premium for food that you can otherwise get from a Lower East Side restaurant for a fraction of the price. It is too early to tell if the restaurant will succeed, but there were a few before him who managed to “upscaled” Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine, ie spice market and fatty crab, and are doing fine, but both restaurants were with backings of famous chefs.
Now let’s talk about the food. Although I am not particularly familiar with African food, I have to say the dishes we ordered such as lamb kefta meatball, spicy chicken doro wat, berbere rack of lamb and honey glazed duck were delicious. The entire table was also delighted by the spicy shrimp chili sambal and cucumber sambal. Unfortunately, the desserts were a couple of misses; the avocado shake and the tamarind candy were sour and unpleasant.
Overall, our experience at Merkato 55 was exciting and satisfying. The service was lovely, although it could be better if the wait staffs would ask before taking away a plate of food which we were still working on.