A new French café is somewhat of a rarity in New York dining scene these days, but that’s what chef Marie-Aude Rose (in case the last name sounds familiar, she also happens to be the wife of Daniel Rose from the Le Coucou fame (see reviews here https://kenscale.com/2016/09/08/le-coucou/ and here https://kenscale.com/2018/06/15/le-coucou-revisit/)) has built inside an expensive artisanal dinnerware and furniture shop called Roman and Williams Guild. For seasoned New York City diners, another scrambled or baked egg or crepe dish might be too boring by now, but after I sat down with my wife Jun, we also realized that this is not just another pedestrian French café. In fact, there were some really pleasant surprises that led to a better than expected Friday dinner despite the menu that looked at first fairly predictable.
The best dishes of the night that we sampled at La Mercerie were in the appetizer sections. Our consensus favorite was the egg dish of oeuf cocotte with mushroom and brioche. The traditional baked egg had the silky smooth texture with hot temperature that was perfect for a suddenly chilly fall evening. Dip some of the egg on top of the brioche and you have a winner that you don’t want to miss at the restaurant. The deceptively simple-looking complète buckwheat crepe also was wonderful, with egg, ham and 18-month old comte cheese working wonderfully together and displaying a balance of flavor that would hold up against any other good cafes in Paris.
The main dishes we tried were also delicious, but didn’t leave as lasting impressions as did the starters. I thought the salmon was quite aptly cooked and the red wine-based meurette sauce was an appropriately flavorful addition to the fish. The heritage chicken accompanied by potato and daikon boulangere and thyme infused jus was also solid, although Jun and I had had better chicken dishes elsewhere. At just slightly below $30 each, the salmon and the chicken also didn’t feel as satisfying in terms of value proposition (I initially thought La Mercerie’s food prices must have included service charges (i.e. gratuities) already but I was proven wrong when I got the bill). For dessert, Jun and I split profiteroles au chocolat that was simple yet delightful to our taste bud with decadent chocolate and refreshing ice cream inside the pastry balls.
La Mercerie used to be one of the hottest spots earlier this year to secure a reservation since its opening, but the hype seems to have died down a little and now it’s probably easier to grab tables a few days in advance. The dining space has that elegant French sensibility that also happens to fit in perfectly in the SoHo neighborhood; if you are looking for a casual dinner with a date that you want to impress, you won’t be criticized or second-guessed for picking La Mercerie. There is full bar at the restaurant with exclusive French wine menu. Since Jun and I don’t really drink wines at restaurants anymore after learning of how much of mark-ups restaurants charge in general for wines, I didn’t take a deep dive at the wine list, but the list on the website seems to show that it is pretty well-represented from different parts of France. I wish La Mercerie had more moderate prices for the food, but there is no denying that you can find some really satisfying dishes that give a fresh take on French café tradition.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.75/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 53 Howard Street, New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 852-9097