Birthday Done: Bäco Mercat for cocktails and dinner at the #1 Restaurant in America

Birthday Done: Bäco Mercat for cocktails and dinner at the #1 Restaurant in America

To wrap up the birthday feast, we left The Perch for Bäco Mercat, which happened to be on the way to our last stop, Alma. Bäco Mercat is another really fantastic joint downtown that we tried for my birthday back in March, and we decided to stop in and have a cocktail while we were in the area and to bide more time until our dinner reservation. I went with the copper fix, a bourbon, bitters, honey, lemon cocktail, and I don’t remember what Jonathan ended up getting because mine was certainly the best and so we had another copper fix and a bäzerac, a rye, herbsaint, bitters, kaffir, lemon mix; also not quite as good, as the copper fix.

After all of the wonderful drinks and snacks on the way to dinner, it was finally time to actually have dinner, at the newly ranked #1 restaurant in America, Alma. A friend of ours that Jonathan works with managed to find us a reservation on his birthday, it just happened to be the last one at 9:30. I have always been a late eater, and 9:30 was pushing it, but by the time we arrived we were fairly worn out by the marathon day. I will say though, eating at this hour on a weekday is probably the only way you will get a reservation for sooner than 2 months. Needless to say we were very lucky.

We of course ordered more drinks and dove straight into entrees; the dry aged rib eye for Jonathan and Gary Carpenter’s pigeon for me. I had actually wanted the halibut, but at this hour it was slim pickings and the halibut was gone. The menu is not extensive so options are somewhat limited, which I prefer, and I was happy with the pigeon. Everything is well plated/presented on clean, modern, black or white plates and bowls, the rib eye on a black plate and my pigeon on a white, and the sauces are swirled around the plate was well as on top of the dish. It is hard to tell from the pictures because our appetites were quicker than my photography and we tucked in before I remembered to record the dishes. I will say that tasted as amazing as it looked. My pigeon had peanuts, lettuce greens, pears, and a peanut coffee sauce that was wonderful, and the pigeon was tender and juicy and not over cooked. The rib eye was also delicious and not very big, which I thought was great but Jonathan seemed a bit disappointed. I told him it’s all about portions and this was the perfect size. The rib eye had a lovely light brown sauce with chanterelles (a common mushroom), whole green onions, carrots, roots, and grasses. It was really interesting to have actual roots and grass on the plate, and flavors were quite Asian inspired I thought; light, earthy, with a savory tang.

To drink I had the Hondarribi Zuri/Hondarribi Beltza, Rubentis Ameztoi, Getariako Txakolina, from the Basque region in Spain. It is a lightly sparkling dark white wine, and I ordered simply because I love the Txakolina at the Barnyard. This Txakolina though tasted of slightly darker, sweeter fruit, which can cause people to easily mistake a wine for being ‘sweet’ when there is no actual sugar involved. Jonathan decided to go with the De Ranke, XX Bitter, Belgian Golden Ale, the kind I usually prefer, and it was a nice light end to the evening and a good pairing with my pigeon actually. I know less about beer so I can’t on at length, but Belgian are always my favorite aside from a nice milk stout.

Half way through I decided “what the hell”, while we’re here we might as well try a few things. So, I ordered the seaweed and tofu beignets with yuzu kosho, and lime, and the sweet breads, which are cooked with peaches, carrots, and vadouvan (a French blend of curry spices with added garlic and shallots). Sweet breads, for those of you who do not know, are not actually ‘sweet breads’. They are typically the thymus and or pancreas of a calf or lamb. It can also sometimes refer to other cooked glands. I love sweet breads because every time I have had them they have been delicious, and it is not obvious what they are. If you are okay eating calamari you will be okay with sweet breads. This particular dish especially was especially delectable, nothing over/under cooked, and best eaten with a little piece of everything in each bite.

The beignets were quite yummy and interesting as well, and much less of a risk than the sweet breads. They were lightly fried balls of salty seaweed and tofu resting in the lime yuzu. Best eaten in two bites, the beignets were an excellent starter/side dish that is more gourmet than having a basket of bread or a bowl of fries, but that essentially serves the same purpose, and are equally addictive.

And so ends the Birthday Extravaganza! It was long and amazing, and not to be attempted on a regular basis.

Definitely go check out Alma, if you can get in. Expect to plan for this dinner way in advance. There may also be slight differences to the menu as it is subject to change daily.

The menu that was available to us will not be available after Nov. 29 as they are switching to 2 pre-fixe menus.Alma
952 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Phone: 213.244.1422
Monday – Saturday 6 – 10pm


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