Three years ago, Mercato Piccolo was a big splash on Hangzhou’s food scene. It comes with an impressive pedigree, originating from Mercato restaurant created by Shanghai’s Three on the Bund and chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Chef Jean-Georges is one of the most celebrated chefs in the world with 3 Michelin Stars, 4 stars from the New York Times and creator of 27 outstanding multi awarded restaurants in 8 countries.
We remember all the trendsetters in town came to the opening night, Mercato Piccolo was a fashion topic for at least a month.
Since the company has ended their co-operation with Shanghai restaurant Mercato, it is now simply called Carbon and we will designate it Carbon (Italian). As part of the new changes, Chef Sandro from the Shanghai Mercato restaurant has come aboard and he will be at the restaurant everyday cooking and overseeing the kitchen. He has worked over the menu, keeping the signature favourite dishes, and adding at least 12 new dishes.
One fine sunny afternoon, we sat down to sample the long list of new dishes and here are our favourites.
Lobster Salad with Corn (龙虾沙拉配甜玉米, 198RMB) has succulent, soft morsels of Atlantic lobster that were a real joy to eat. There’s a lot of flavour in the lobster that feels like it’s been gently poached in. The baby romaine lettuce leaves are dressed in a light herby dressing and accented with thin slices of red bird’s eye chili, which reminds one of a Thai salad.
In Seafood and Stracciatella Pizza (海鲜芝士披萨, 158RMB), the seafood here is again cooked perfectly, still retaining their natural juices and not rubbery at all. There’s a combination of squid and shrimp with creamy, milky stracciatella cheese on their thick puffy crust pizza.
Risotto Arborio with Porcini Mushroom and Pumpkin (意式南瓜饭配牛肝菌松露和帕玛桑芝士, 88RMB) was very yummy and flavourful. As you spoon through the creamy, savoury rice you’ll find firm, thin slices of porcini mushroom buried inside. You don’t really notice the pumpkin taste, it lends itself instead to providing the beautiful pale orange colour. As the temperature finally becomes cooler in Autumn, this carb-rich dish will be a good pick.
Their Oven Roasted Suckling Pig (烤乳猪, 188RMB) was the best suckling pig I’ve had in a long time. Herbs were coated on the underside of a portion of suckling pig and it was then rolled up and roasted. The skin was so crispy it made a cracking sound when you break the roulade open and the fat was just melting.
Beef Short Ribs (牛仔骨, 298RMB) was classically prepared – tender beef rib over creamy mashed potatoes with a red wine sauce.
For dessert, you won’t go wrong with Buttermilk Basil Panna Cotta (白脱牛奶罗勒奶冻和草莓, 48RMB). The panna cotta was smooth and creamy, topped with tart chunks of orange and grapefruit. A small scoop of strawberry sorbet on the side adds another refreshing element to balance the creamy panna cotta.
Carbon (Italian) continues to be one of the best western restaurants in Hangzhou and Chef Sandro’s new dishes are delicious additions to the existing menu.
Review on June 14th, 2019
Enjoy French Oysters (218RMB for half dozen) during happy hours from 1-5pm and 8:30-10:30pm, which includes 2 glasses of prosecco or soft drinks, or you can get the 6 oysters by themselves for 128RMB. The oysters we ate were harvested in Normandy just a day ago then flown over to appear on our plates. The half-shells were brimming with liquid and the oysters were expertly detached from the adductor muscle. Add a drop of shallot vinaigrette, tip it into your mouth and savour the briny bite and sweet aftertaste.
For a seafood extravaganza, splurge for the Mix Seafood Platter (588RMB), with half a Boston lobster, clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. All the seafood is fresh as can be, sweet and succulent.
We also had a couple of new dishes from the menu, among which the Crispy Beef Short Rib with Polenta Fries (328RMB) was amazing. The fatty beef short rib was slow cooked for a long time until it was fall-apart tender. Then the whole thing is battered, deep-fried and sliced into pieces to be easily shared by 2 or 3 people. The combination of soft, fatty beef encased in thin, crispy coating is drool-worthy. To top it off, there’s a smoked Mexican chili pepper and Chianti glaze that tastes sweet and fruity with a slight hint of spice. On the side are perhaps the best polenta sticks I’ve ever eaten. They are crispy and very very cheesy.
The other new dish we had, Pan Roasted Cod (288RMB), is a thick and moist piece of cod, seared golden and bathed in a light tomato broth with mussels.
Though there are now many varieties of pizza at Carbon Italian, their original signature black truffle pizza has always been the most popular one. When the owner’s friends came to Carbon Italian, she would order this pizza with double the amount of black truffle paste for her guests. The intense black truffle flavor was such a hit that she has now put it on the menu as Super Double Black Truffle Pizza (398RMB).
Through the years, restaurants in Hangzhou come and go but Carbon Italian is one that consistently maintains its high standards and even comes up with interesting new dishes. Do give that Crispy Beef Short Rib a try!
Reviewed at December 13th, 2019
Carbon is a perfect location for a quiet, intimate Christmas date. in the evening, they keep the lighting at a cozy dimness reminiscent of a fireplace, the seasonal tunes jingling, and the service is—like Santa’s elves—as fantastic as always. Due to a misunderstanding all on our side of the equation, I actually had a bit more food than I was supposed to sample over the course of a couple of days, a few from the fantastic regular menu, and a lot from their Christmas menu (1298RMB/two people, two person minimum).
Jerusalem Artichoke Cream Soup with Plump Sea Scallops was my starter from their Xmas menu, and it’s as warm and creamy as you’d imagine, creamy but delicate, with a huge scallop basting in it just under the surface. Soon after was the King Crab Cheese Ravoilis with Sea Urchin and Cuttlefish Chips, continuing in the smooth and creamy seafood vein, but with a healthy amount of zest and umami from the spicy chips and the mushrooms in what I assumed was a béchamel but turned out to be a fantastic cauliflower puree.
The Grilled Australian Beef Tenderloin with Lentils, Himalayan Truffles, and Rose Salt was fantastic as well, with the natural savoriness of the beef getting an extra kick from the shaved truffles and salt, and when the juices from the meat started mixing with the green bean puree it made for another round of enjoyment as I tried to collect as much of the sauce as I could with whatever bread or whatever would be able to gather it. The flavors on these dishes will make you an easy member of the clean plate club.
Smoked Grouper with Fennel Saffron Sauce and Goose Liver is the other main, and if restaurants want to cheat their way into my good graces, a big, healthy slab of pan seared foie gras is your ticket. The cut of grouper is paired with just such a slice, making for easy cutting, forking, and swiping across the fennel sauce on its way to your mouth. My mouth, I mean; I was there. You don’t have to miss out though, this is a fantastic spread and will bring you a lot of joy (Christmas or otherwise) with every dish that comes your way.
If you book and drop a deposit in advance, you can nab a couple of glasses of strawberry lemon prosecco to assist with all of the above.
Finally, the delicious A+++ dishes from their main menu, which I accidentally oversampled a day earlier: The Warm Seafood Salad with Avocado, Lemon, and Parsley (108RMB) combines plump chunks of seafood with buttery avocado and a few healthy squeezes of lemon. It’s delicious, and it’s a salad, so you know it’s healthy and guilt-free. This made the next two guilty pleasures I enjoyed go down a lot easier: a deeply savory, earthy, umami-i Tagitelle with Mushroom Bolognese, Spiced Chili Oil and Pecorino (96RMB) and the much lighter but still carby Squid Ink Tagitelle and Maine Seafood with Chili and Parsley Sauce (128RMB).
Italian Carbon is one of a handful of places in town I’d seriously recommend taking a rubber spatula to, because the sauces are just so damn good and it’s undignified to actually lick a plate clean in public no matter how much you want to. Show some dignity and foresight, bring a rubber spatula.
Italian Carbon is in Building D of Hangzhou Tower, on the first floor, right next to the Starbucks, a short walk from the Wulin Square stop on Line 1. Stop by the supermarket in the basement of C building on your way there, buy a spatula, and go wild.
Get Weekly Events to your Mailbox