From braised pork belly with fried rice to a new Patagonian-themed chalet, the downtown restaurant is switching things up with its reopening.
The new iteration of Mercy Me offers a full sensory experience — one you can feel as soon as you walk through the doors of Yours Truly, the downtown hotel it’s housed in. Inspired by South American flavors, culture and dress, the space is alive with jungle-like plants all over, Latin beats, intimate cozy seating and low lighting. Here, the space and the menu play off each other so well, it almost seems effortless.
But for the Unordinary Hospitality Group, consisting of founders Radovan Jankovic, Marko Bogdanovic and Chef Robert Curtis, the planning was meticulous.
“We were more than happy to jump in with this project and really embrace the name and the concept, but really put an effort in to make a new identity there,” Jankovic says.
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Mercy Me started as a “sorta South American” style dinner service in 2020, and evolved over the years until ownership transferred this year. Unordinary Hospitality Group worked to keep this theme up, researching and learning more about different South American dishes and drinks.
“We’re injecting energy and life and joy into the experience,” Curtis says. “It’s about taking something we all have a loose idea of, and building, writing that concept to be a little bit finer.”
By day, the space is a casual coffeehouse. At night, the team rearranges the area, curates the playlist and prepares for dinner service.
“For people who didn’t know this place, they associate it with daytime, sipping coffee out of a paper cup,” Jankovic says. “That’s the biggest challenge for us: to change perception for people that know, but also introduce a new space to new diners.”
If nothing else, their thoughtfully prepared menu will introduce previous diners and new diners alike to the new Mercy Me. Appetizers like crudo, ceviche, mussels and gnocchi make way for entrees including lomo — a lamb tenderloin with potatoes and puffed rice — and chaufa — braised pork belly and fried rice. There are also entrees meant to share: large portions of Peruvian chicken, roasted bass and tomahawk steak send diners below the equator.
“I don’t want to say that it’s your mom’s moqueca, but you’re not gonna be disappointed,” Curtis says.
You won’t be disappointed with the drinks, either. Jankovic says they started the espresso martini revolution in D.C. a few years ago, so Unordinary Hospitality Group had to bring it here, where they add a twist to a classic by using Brazilian blend ristretto and Amazonian cacao. They also worked to incorporate different nutty flavors, rounding out drinks in surprising and new ways.
“In every South American dessert, they use a ton of coconut,” Jankovic says. “So, I was like, ‘I want to keep some kind of piña colada assets here.’”
An unlikely pairing was born: a Negroni colada. Jankovic started by making the Negroni, mixing it with lime, pineapple and clarified coconut milk.
“It’s not as bitter as a Negroni, but not as sweet as a colada,” he says. “It’s a great balance.”
These drinks are joined by innovative mixes on the cocktail menu, like the El Nut Sour, made with aged pisco, amaretto and young coconut and the Stirred with Tamarind, made with bourbon, sour tamarind and ripe banana.
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At the beginning of December, you’ll be able to sip cocktails and sample cuisines on a new patio with Patagonia-inspired touches, and also in a new Patagonian-themed chalet, where the smell and taste of fresh pineapple cider will add a new element to the overall ambiance. A fire pit will add warmth to the new spaces, and other hot drinks will complete the experience. A private dining space will also be available for groups of 10-14.
The new Mercy Me builds on D.C.’s overall dining scene, adding upscale South American offerings to its repertoire.
“There was a time when people would go out to eat and genuinely be happy and enjoy,” Bogdanovic says. “It was a convivial, joyful experience to eat. So, we’re looking to bring that, adding more to the weight of the concept itself.”
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