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A Look Inside Basque Newcomer Mercado on Kent

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[Lena Viddo]

It's been a good year for Spanish food in New York. Tertulia is making waves in Greenwich Village, Salinas and El Cid debuted in Chelsea, Bar Basque is doing what they're doing above Food Parc, and Spanish chefs opened high end experiments Romera and Gastroarte. Now Williamsburg gets a dose of Iberia with Mercado on Kent, a new Basque restaurant that soft opened on Tuesday on Kent Ave. and South 2nd Street and will officially open to the public on January 7.

Felipe Avalos has created a fresh, spacious dining space across the old Domino Sugar factory and installed a Michelin star chef from Spain named Peru Almandoz, who hails from San Sebastian and has trained under such greats as Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adria of El Bulli (both have 3 Michelin stars).

Two roaring open ovens shipped in from Italy greet diners as they enter the space, which features a 10 seat zinc bar, an extended chef's counter that runs along the kitchen, as well as communal dining tables and banquettes. The mood is informal, but the fare is serious.

It’s an 80-seat plus market, eatery, and bakery. The bar and restaurant offers wine and food owners describe as "Basque Dynamic." It’s Almandozs’ take on the cooking of his native San Sebastian cuisine and the evolution he has had from his travels around the world. So we're talking small plates of croquettes of Iberico ham, mushroom, clam, or cheese, boquerones, and house-cured anchovies with crispy plantains. Large options include a chicken stew made with organic chicken and eggplant, whole suckling pig, and fideao. There are toasts topped with brandade, simple salads, pork belly sandwiches, patatas bravas, seasonal vegetables, blistered Guernica peppers. All the bread from the ciabatta to crackers, brioche, anchovy seaweed bread, and tomato flavored burger buns are made in-house by Johnny Peralta, an alum of Balthazar and Mario Batali's stable of restaurant.

David Olson, in charge of beverages, created a cocktail program with a Spanish bent, put together a list of biodynamic and organic French and Spanish wines, and serves Spanish hard apple cider, a variety of sangrias, some of which are served warm in the winter, and Mahou Spanish beer on tap.

As for the market section, on a recent visit, a stunning Jamon Iberico was on show alongside boxes of a selection of what they hope will be the best bread in New York, with smoked butter and bravas sauce (fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce). Eventually they hope to sell more than just the bread.

Bottom line: it could be a huge win for this part of Williamsburg, already spoiled this year by the opening of nearby Isa and Masten Lake. Check out the menus below and call 718-782-­8810 for more info.

Dinner Menu:

Dessert Menu:

Cocktail Menu:

—Julie Earle-Levine

Mercado on Kent
291 Kent Avenue, Williamsburg

Mercado on Kent

291 Kent Ave., Brooklyn, NY