First it was the Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe St.) to update its fuddy duddy image with the more contemporary dining option Lockwood. Now comes the historic Blackstone Hotel (638 S. Michigan Ave.) that's teaming up with restaurateur Peter Karpinski of the Denver-based Sage Restaurant Group for Mercat a la Planxa, a modern Catalan tapas restaurant and bar, scheduled to open in early 2008.
They've gotten local star chef Jose Garces to work Mercat's kitchen, which will crank out tasty tapas like cut-to-order charcuterie, Pulpo con Patatas (Spanish octopus, confit potato and smoked paprika), Confit de Bacalao (black cod confit, haricot vert salad, morcilla-potatoes, orange-saffron emulsion), Mar i Muntanya (slowed-cooked short ribs and diver scallops, shaved Parmesan artichokes) and Buitfarra con Judias (Catalan sausage with rosemary-thyme white beans and carrot escabeche).
At the bar, a tempting array of seasonally inspired sangrias, Spanish-styled cocktails and martinis will be available. Guests can also choose from Mercat’s extensive collection of Spanish cavas, wines, ciders and beer. A carefully selected wine list will feature 40 Spanish wines available by the bottle or by glass.