A first taste of Mercantile and Mash's chef's counter

Come for the crudo, stay for the cold brew

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Last week Mercantile & Mash — East Bay's new "gourmet foods emporium" — launched an additional menu, available from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Sat. at the 12-seat Chef's Counter. Merc & Mash already serves up breakfast and lunch items, in addition to its grab-and-go offerings like pasta, daily rotisserie items, and fresh-baked bread. The new menu is what we in the professional world like to call a "fancy" option for lunchers. Read on to see when you should go and more importantly, what you should get.

Tuna crudo with pistachios, fennel, and pomegranate seeds. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • Tuna crudo with pistachios, fennel, and pomegranate seeds.

With prices ranging from $9-$18 the chef's counter (Tim Morton, by the way, is the chef behind the counter) menu is a lunchtime indulgence compared to its sandwich counterparts. After trying six dishes, though, we can say that almost every plate is worth its price. We would come back for lunch here: when our mom is in town, we're trying to impress a client (not us, personally, but you know who we mean), or have a half day with our significant other. The Chef's Counter is not the place for stopping and grabbing a bite.

The chef's counter menu changes from week to week based on seasonal ingredients. So if you go anytime in the next few weeks we can promise you one thing: squash — we had it in three dishes. We tasted a lot of food but to make it easy for ya, we've broken down the top five things to get at Merc & Mash's chef counter right now.

The menu changes weekly but if carpaccio is on it make sure to snatch it up — paired with mustard and sweetbreads it's a meat lover's dream. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • The menu changes weekly but if carpaccio is on it make sure to snatch it up — paired with mustard and sweetbreads it's a meat lover's dream.

Pasta
Pasta is made in-house and you can taste that in the final product. Today we had the butternut agnolotti — small pillows filled with butternut squash. They may have tasted better because we watched the chef prepare them — but hey, that's part of the chef's counter perks. 

Butternut agnolotti with duck confit, hazelnuts, and vanilla bacon. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • Butternut agnolotti with duck confit, hazelnuts, and vanilla bacon.
Crudo
We had smoked tuna crudo topped with pistachios, fennel, and pomegranate seeds, sending our mouths into multi-textured heaven. The tuna crudo costs $14 — a steep price for four pieces of raw fish. You can tell it's fresh, though, and we're excited to head back to see what the next seafood cut will be.

Soup
The local acorn squash soup had us at local, but the chef's spin on a fall classic was what we really enjoyed. Topped with goat cheese, parmesan, brown butter, sherry, and sage, the typically sweet soup took on the depth of something much more savory. Side note: the salad, made with baby lettuces, pear, blue cheese, and walnuts was also good, but if you're looking for a plate worth the cost of admission, we say stick with the inventive soups. 

The Steve Palmer
Named after Mercantile & Mash's fearless leader, we were very hesitant to try a drink that is, as our waitress described it, made simply of cold brew coffee* and lime juice. Yuck, right? Wrong. So wrong. We had to stop ourselves from ordering more of this downright delicious concoction, because the caffeine was giving us the best kind of jitters. Seriously if you do nothing else this week, go into Mercantile and Mash and order a Steve Palmer. Thank us later.

*Speaking of coffee, you can't go wrong with any of Merc's caffeinated brews. We also recommend the spro fizz: espresso, egg white (hence the fizz), and nitrogen cold brew. It's a cold, creamy, science experiment.

Dessert
While dessert at lunch seems like too much of a good thing, you kind of have to have the hand-made goods — they're being made right in front of you. Watching a ball of cookie dough get slowly smooshed into a disc is way more soul-satisfying than you can imagine. Pastry chef Anna Abram treats you right with all of her creations; we had the cheesecake key lime pie and it was good to the last bite.

Check Mercantile and Mash's website for each week's menu. 

Desserts are made in front of you by pasty chef Anna Abram. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • Desserts are made in front of you by pasty chef Anna Abram.


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