Mercado Negro is an all-day cafe and Portuguese snack bar.
On the bilingual menu, you’ll find reinterpretations of Portuguese classics and sharing boards.
Formerly home to Porto Rotisserie House, the long, light-filled 50-seat space has been eclectically transformed with rustic yet baroque touches obtained from Kijiji and Valu Village and refurbished. The decor is meant to emulate a vintage house in Lisbon.
Meals here start off with complimentary Portuguese bread and dense cornbread accompanied by a pate, today’s a garlicky, addictive olive tapenade.
A small plate of pickled pig’s ear ($8) is the first distinctly Portuguese curveball, typically poached or grilled before being pickled but still extremely chewy. As such it’s tough to make it through even a few pieces, but it’s certainly an original experience.
We’re served an experimental invention that plays off canned sardines, oven roasted and served in a sweet tomato sauce with peppers, microgreens and some thin shards of toast that make reference to typical sardine crostini.
An alheira nest ($14) is a smokey play on a Kosher variation of chorizo made from a combination of meats other than pork that’s common in Portugal, traditional plating with rapini, fries and and egg deconstructed here.
Crispy farinheira ($14) is another play on a Portuguese sausage plated much the same way, the components bread and pork fat this time. Scrambled egg and toasted almond provide elements of comfort and crunch.
Cod fish a bras ($14) reinterprets a traditional Portuguese dish with salt cod, egg and matchstick fried potato, presented as a cake topped with a cured egg yolk that adds lots of richness and olive “ash” that brings in an earthy flavour.
A grilled squid and octopus board goes for $28, a seafood board with clams, tiger shrimp and baby shrimp jumping up to $58, though these “tabuas” are always changing. Meant to be shared or as an entree for an individual, there are also options for boards of steak, pork belly, cold cuts and cheeses.
Succulent octopus, squid and shrimp are all grilled with olive oil, garlic and herbs, the octopus accompanied by a by a bright roasted red pepper onion salsa.
Surprisingly stunning desserts include options like rice pudding, biscuit cake, a passion fruit mousse and a pecan tart.
Wines by the bottle mostly from Portugal’s Alentejo and Douro regions are inventively displayed within a glass countertop, starting at a reasonable $25 but ranging up to almost $200 for certain bottles.
Sangria makes for a tasty and affordable option, $12 for a glass and $32 for a pitcher to share, a white variety made with brandy and whatever seasonal fruit is on hand.
Mercado Negro triples its capacity with a 100-seat patio outside in summer.