With a fabulous seasonal menu, owner and chef AdamSears always surprizes with some wonderfully creative dishes.
Chef Adam loves to surprise his guests with unique and delicious menu items. On a recent trip to Merge, I was yet again amazed and delighted with his creations. My friend, Bruce, and I began our meal with a glass of Zonin Prosceco, a sparkling wine from Italy, wonderfully dry and bubbly. Our server, Tia, also brought us some warm French rolls with roasted garlic butter to nibble on. Chef Adam’s approach to food is to take a simple menu item, like salad, and pay homage to it by lifting it to a new height. On the menu that night was Iceberg Carpaccio, a take on the typical iceberg wedge, but it was far superior to any I have ever sampled. The salad featured crispy iceberg lettuce, tarragon, celery, avocado, bleu cheese, red onion, smoky Newskie’s Bacon, and an amazing homemade buttermilk dressing. With it, we enjoyed a deliciously dry Provençal-style French Rosé by Domaine Gournier.
Comfort food is prominent on many restaurant menus today, and, at Merge, you won’t want to miss the Deviled Eggs with Butter-Poached Lobster. Chef Adam’s deviled eggs are served on a chiffonade of greens; the egg stuffing is buttery beyond belief, and features a sublime hollandaise sauce with tarragon and smoked paprika, topped with buttery lobster. We also tried Fried Green Tomatoes with Pickled Shrimp Salad. The tomatoes, which are floured and fried, are topped with real Southern-style pickled shrimp, and finished with a Sriracha and ranch dressing that was spicy and cool at the same time. Marvelous!
For our entrees, Tia poured us a glass of Cambria “Katherine’s Vineyard” Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay. This wine is citrus and floral in nature, crisp, and lingers with creamy, vanilla notes. I love Chardonnay that is aged in real oak barrels, and this is the real thing.
While we sipped our wine, Chef Adam suggested we try the Pecan Crusted Catfish with Lump Crab, and Duo of Duck. We were ready to take on the challenge, and what delicious and creative dishes they were. For the catfish, Chef Adam used a French process to puree the fish, then fold in the crab, wrap it in a log, the cut into fillets, and dust with pecan flour before frying it. The dish is served with smoky bacon, green beans, and shaved fennel over campfire tomatoes, and finished with scallion remoulade. The acidity from the tomatoes counteracted the richness of the rest of the dish, and it was fantastic. The duck was just as superb, pan-roasted, lavender-glazed duck breast and braised duck with slow-cooked peaches and fennel whipped potatoes, finished with duck jus. The spice lavender crust featured coriander and pepper. What a flavorful and distinctive taste and aroma!
Chef Adam is married to, Taffa, who works for Premiere Wines, and when he’s not at the restaurant, he spends time with his two young daughters, Addison and Eliza, who are Daddy’s biggest fans. Merge is open every evening from 5-10 p.m.