Merkato 55


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.

Yellowtail tartare with green curry broth and citrus jam

Bread, sambals and dips

Berbere Rack of Lamb with grains of paradise sauce

Honey glazed duck with banana and plantain salad

Jerk pork belly with green mango and radish

Top right: lamb kefta meatball

Avocado shake and coconut macaroons

Merkato on Urbanspoon


Dangerspouse said...

Neato! How did you find berbere compares to SE Asian chilis? I've never had authentic African cuisine, though not for lack of trying. I just haven't seen any African restaurants...and now this one looks out of my price range. Are there any of those more reasonably priced Lower East Side establishments you can recommend? Thanks for the fascinating review and pictures!

Sarah & Gan said...

Hi dangerspouse, to be honest, I haven't eaten at many African restaurants. The one I went before Merkato 55 was Meskel at Lower East Side. I had a posting on the restaurant a couple of months ago. Check it out at:

Dangerspouse said...

Thanks very much for pointing me to that! I'm heading there now :)

Florence said...

I love the yellowtail tartare. It looks very appetizing! How's the setting of the restaurant? Exotic? You guys just won't let one single week slip by without indulging! =)

Sarah & Gan said...

The interior of the restaurant is very modern but rustic at the same time. Big lanterns, painted blinds...nice atmosphere overall. Well to sum it up, very "meatpacking district"

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