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Published January 04, 2008

Haute Africa
The MPD's Latest Food Temple

Over the years you've found your way to the mega-temples of haute eating from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

It's a New Year. Time for a new continent.

Introducing Merkato 55, chef Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit) and nightlife vets Kyky and Unik's (PM) Pan-African fusion resto, opening Wednesday in the MPD.

Based on Samuelsson's revelatory food trip to Africa, Merkato is the latest multi-story continent-defining food temple run amok. Walk into the lively first floor and you'll immediately notice the Mali-inspired clay bar with shelves for the house-infused spiced rums. Start with a drink and a plate of hummus and dips at one of the communal tables before heading up the wrought iron stairs to the more formal dining room. Upstairs, the décor is a tribute to the faces and colors of Africa: Portraits printed on large silk screens, hanging basket lamps and brown and yellow leather banquettes all color the bright space.

Adding to the celebratory international feel is a soundtrack mixing African beats and world music (your opportunity to move past Ladysmith Black Mambazo). And just in time for Fashion Week, a downstairs lounge will open with a stone well in the center of the room.

Which is sure to be the best African lounge with a stone well in the MPD.
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