Bäco Mercat brings the bäco to downtown
Meet the "bäco," chef Josef Centeno's hybrid flatbread creation. It's the main attraction at Centeno's new restaurant, Bäco Mercat, on Main Street downtown, slated for a late-October opening.
The bäco, a sandwich-taco-pizza hybrid, began as a dish Centeno served to late-night staff and friends at the now-closed Meson G, where he was executive chef. "The bäco is my riff on flatbread," explains Centeno, who is also executive chef of Lazy Ox. "I use different fats and lebni in the dough.... I was going to call it global taco, then globaco, then I just used bäco."
The menu will feature different forms of the bäco, including the original with crispy pork belly, beef carnitas, romesco and salbitxada (a form of Catalan salsa); the carne picada with blood sausage and lamb merguez; and the crispy shrimp with caraway-pepper-chile sauce and pickled green tomatoes.
Centeno will also be making his version of pozole soup, called bäzole, with a traditional tonkotsu ramen broth spiked with a harissa chile-spice mix and handmade noodles. "It will have a ramen-style-meets-Eastern-Mediterranean flavors with a fried egg, crispy pork belly and braised beef carnitas," says Centeno.
On a recent sunny afternoon, with drills whining in the background -- the restaurant is still under construction -- Centeno walked me through what will be the bäco's home. A shiny brass storefront (with windows still papered) opens up, revealing a dark steel bar and a large mirror with the restaurant name etched in gold.
Centeno plans on having six beers on tap, a small wine list and about six spirits, served up, neat or on the rocks. Or with your choice of house-made shrub. These drinking vinegars might include cherry and tarragon, strawberry-rhubarb or pineapple-Sichuan-peppercorn. Bäco Mercat will also serve its own signature ginger-orange-juniper soda. There will be coffee from Handsome Coffee and teas from Sugarbird Sweets & Teas.
Near the center of the restaurant is a speckled pale green and blue antique airport cargo cart that will serve as the mercat ("market" in Catalan) aspect of the restaurant. Centeno plans on bottling and selling his own olive oil, soda and drinking vinegars; bäco breads will be available too.
Tentative hours will be lunch Monday to Friday and dinner initially one or two nights a week.
Bäco Mercat, 408 Main St., Los Angeles, www.bacomercat.com.
-- Jenn Harris
Photos: Interior and exterior of Baco. Credit: Adam Murray