Award-winning Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, owner of a slew of Michelin-starred restaurants, had only one thing in mind when he opened Mercato at K11 Mall: to offer us ravenous Southerners simple yet sophisticated plates featuring high quality ingredients that shine. And if the folks waiting in line for seats have anything to say about this upscale gastroteca, then Vongerichten, who has almost 40 restaurants to his name, appears to have hit the culinary jackpot with this latest opening.
Past the narrow entrance lined by chilled bottles of fine wine, the wide space is a gorgeous, blend of casual chic and stylish warmth, punctuated by industrial and leather accents. On one side, the bar beckons. On the other side, aromatic pizzas emerge magnificently charred and bubbling from a combination wood-and-gas-fired oven. As the swivel of heads and the staring mob scene attest, these artisanal pizzas look and smell exquisite.
From the eight-pizza menu, we choose the dearest of them all: the aromatic black truffle and trio of cheese (RMB218) exudes a powerful flavor, while the whole egg (yes, and it’s amazing) adds texture and depth.
A selection of crudo and appetizers make for perfect tapas-style shareables. Try the sliced kingfish with crushed olives and dill (RMB98); house-made ricotta swirled with strawberry and olive oil on bread (RMB98); and the wood-oven-roasted asparagus with prosciutto and fontina cheese (RMB98).
Homemade pastas and risotto also feature; try the lobster and shrimp ravioli, doused in olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs (RMB138/198). Light and clean, it speaks volumes to those who understand what real pasta should taste like.
If you crave a meatier main, order the crispy beef short rib (RMB368), served with a glazed, sticky topping of smoked chili, cranberry and chianti, with a side of polenta fries covered with shaved parmesan. The rib is expertly braised for 12 hours, after which all excess fat is trimmed off. It’s then fried for a mere three seconds, resulting in a delicate yet crispy exterior and tender, juicy, pull-apart perfection within.
If all this feasting works up a thirst, Mercato has the cocktails to quench it. Our picks are the Mercato negroni (RMB78) and the bass basso spritz (RMB68). Fancy some wine or champagne? The affable sommelier will have just the thing. To finish things off, sink your teeth into the homemade tiramisu (RMB68), enough for two or three.
Mercato is as upscale as it comes, whether you seek a lively atmosphere by the bar or an intimate dinner under the stars. Take your meal alfresco or enjoy stunning post-meal views of Zhujiang New Town from the commodious outdoor patio. Just don’t flinch when you get the tab; whoever said Guangzhou was cheap obviously hasn’t been to K11.
Who’s going: well-suited high rollers, devout fans of modern Italian fare
Good for: crispy beef short ribs, tapas, artisanal pours
Nearest metro: Huangcheng Dadao (APM line), 5 minutes
Open daily; see listing for Mercato.