So first off, the presentation was gorgeous. The picture obviously doesn't fully do it justice (I took it rather furtively - photographing my food at restaurants makes me feel like a total herb), but the dish materializes in front of you as a lovely glass goblet filled with greens, with the charred delights skewered on toothpicks perching delicately on top. Upon being set on the table, they're then topped off with a cheese sauce of some kind, which makes them look less like crispy critters.
The flavor is, quite simply, fantastic. I don't even like dates, or I thought I didn't, but their sweetness blended beautifully with the smoky bacon flavor, and the almonds were a wonderful nutty complement. The cheese sauce was surprisingly subtle, adding a slight saltiness (the bacon actually wasn't that salty). Texture-wise, too, it was a wonderful combination, the silky creaminess of the cheese sauce, the crumbly bacon, and juicy dates and then the smooth almond kernel. Finished off with a few mouthfuls of crunchy greens, it's just beautiful, and a much lighter dish than you'd expect from the ingredients.
Absolutely delicious - maybe I'll even give dates a try in some other dish. If you happen to find yourself at Mercat a la Planxa, definitely give them a try*.
*While we're at it, let me also make it clear that you should do your damndest to find yourself there - I give the restaurant overall a glowing endorsement. The food was great, the cocktails were great, the wine was great, the service was fantastic, the dining room is lovely and has gorgeous views of Chicago, and while we went hog-wild (as per usual, sigh), it is entirely possible to dine there without blowing inordinate amounts of money.
Other dishes I recommend - the charcuterie sample was delicious, and a really nice way to start the meal. The Arroz con Morels was absolutely divine. A Morel risotto that was like paradise in your mouth, topped with an asparagus salad in lemon oil, with a fresh green crunch that was an incredible complement to the buttery richness of the morels. Also, the sea bass - Baramundi con Apio-Nabo - not for the fish itself, though it was quite tasty, but for the slices of celery root that came with it, which were soaked in a vinaigrette and nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. Also, the ice cream/sorbet desserts were lovely - the Meyer lemon-vanilla and berry-basil were as delicious as expected, but we were pleasantly surprised by the sweet pea-lavender and rosemary-olive oil ice creams, which were marvelous.
I think this might even make it onto my Top 10 Chicago Restaurants list...