Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ace Mercado (Review)

We may be a long way from the southern border, but the Mexican culinary canon has infiltrated the Ottawa market. Located on the corner of Clarence and Dalhousie, Ace Mercado has recently opened its doors. Top Chef Canada's winner Rene Rodriguez along with Trisha Donaldson have created a Mexican root cuisine inspired menu using local produce, sustainable seafood and prime butchered meats. This new trendy restaurant, with its hip decor, exposed brick, large windows and uber dim lighting is well positioned to become the next hot spot in the Byward Market.

Mexican Bricklayer Dip
When we arrived on a Friday night, the place was packed with foodies alike. The waitstaff were friendly and welcoming and more than pleased to offer up some menu suggestions. Ace Mercado visionary Phil Faubert recommended a sampling of drinks and dishes so as to optimize our culinary experience. We started off the night with a signature Ace Margarita ($11), which was a brilliant blend of Cazadores Reposado, lime juice, Tromba agave and black salt rim. Then came the Mexican Bricklayer Dip ($15) made with tomatillo, queso fresco, avocado, creme, black sesame, coriander, and served with freshly made tortilla chips. The dip was fresh and flavourful, and my only complaint was that there wasn't enough!

From there, we decided to jump right into the tacos. The menu features five innovative taco flavours ranging from $5-6 each, including red snapper, braised lamb, pig cheek, charred zucchini and chicken. We tried one of each type (minus the zucchini, since let's be honest, we like our meat). The red snapper taco was served with tomatillo salsa, pickled serrano chiles, and corn relish, while the braised lamb taco rocked queso fresco, lime habanero mojo and avocado. The pig cheek taco was topped with burnt onion relish, pineapple, radish, chicharron and cilantro, and finally the chicken taco was perfectly paired with queso fresco, pickled cabbage and tomatillo salsa. All were mind-bendingly delicious and built with smartly sourced ingredients. We all had different favourites, but mine was definitely the chicken taco! While I have often raved about the tacos at El Camino, I believe the tacos at Ace Mercado are better (which says a lot for those who have tried El Camino)!

Mexican Fries
Seared Tuna Tostada
After the tacos, our appetites were not yet appeased, and so we ordered the Seared Tuna Tostada ($15) and the Mexican Fries ($8). The Tuna was served with onion sofrito, radish, salt cured tomato and serrano chile. The flavour combination was heavenly and it quite literally melted in your mouth. The Mexican Fries were topped with smoked mayo, manchego, pig cheek bits and valentina. These were yummy, but very, very spicy...so be warned! We also couldn't stop thinking about the tacos, and so we ordered another round of our favourites!!

Tromba Verdita
To finish off the evening, we decided to try some tequila. We went with the Tromba Verdita ($10). Tromba premium tequila was served with a chaser made of pineapple juice, lime, cilantro, mint and jalapeƱo peppers. While I am typically not a fan of tequila, this was definitely the best way to drink it. The chaser-type drink was also surprisingly refreshing.

Overall, our experience at Ace Mercado was extremely positive. This new restaurant delights with its hip food and vibe. The cuisine is a unique combination of modern Mexican that still feels authentic! We highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a delightful evening filled with delicious food, inventive cocktails and friendly service.

Verdict: 10/10....everything exceeded my expectations!

Hours: Monday to Wednesday: 5:00 pm - 12:00 am; Thursday to Saturday: 5:00 pm - 2:00 pm Sunday: 5:00 pm - 12:00 am

Price: $5-$36

Ace Mercado, 121 Clarence Street, Ottawa, ON, K1N 5P5

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