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Please, Merchants NY, Don’t Sell Me Anything

The website for Merchants NY Chelsea writes that they offer “contemporary American menu that will please the most discriminating palate” and “striking décor, good food, excellent service and a wide selection of wines and spirits.” These are all bold-faced lies.

My friend and I wandered into this Chelsea spot after we couldn’t nail down a table at Cafeteria or Bar Veloce. Hoping for the best, we perused the schizophrenic ‘American’ menu and managed to select two dishes that looked serviceable. Let me say, this was a feat. Everything just looked off, as though the chef couldn’t decide what type of food he likes to cook. The appetizers featured everything from nachos to tuna carpaccio to pigs in a blanket. Yes, there were pigs in a blanket ON A MENU. The entrees varied from poached salmon with potatoes, leeks, and bitter greens in a light mustard white wine broth (eek) to trout in truffle oil, jerk chicken, prime rib, lobster ravioli gratin, and cavatelli with chicken and artichokes. Salads and sandwiches are also offered. Needless to say, the lack of focus and grandiose names (lobster ravioli gratin?) had me worried. Unless this chef had mastered all corners of gourmet cuisine, we were in a for a wild ride.

A wild ride, for my digestive system, it was. I opted for the jerk chicken which was over-cooked and tasted like it had been rubbed in black pepper, RUBBED. I couldn’t taste anything beyond the pepper for hours after my meal. I think it came with potatoes, but I can’t be sure as I was so focused on trying my best to at least minimally enjoy my chicken. My friend Jen played it safer with the grilled lamb kabob salad, which she said was serviceable. It came in a dish the size of her torso and could feed an army, if they were famished and didn’t care what they were eating.

Maybe this cruel, but saying that you can please even the most discerning palate sets a certain expectation of gourmet cuisine. This was NOT gourmet cuisine. This was diner food put on china and served in a restaurant with candlelight.

The restaurant itself was a strange cross between ‘romantic bar’ and cozy American dining. Everything looked cheap, even in low murky lighting. The only significant upside of the decor is the simple sidewalk terrace that offers great Chelsea people-watching in nice weather.

Merchants NY was just an unmitigated disappointment. Not particularly good food in a contrived and kitschy environment. Given its busy Chelsea location, there are many more restaurant options to enjoy.

Merchants on Urbanspoon

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