Casual Restaurant Critic at Osteria Piccoli Cucina Italiana

It seems that whenever you turn around, there is a new ‘authentic’ Italian restaurant in Merida.

The Critic and Better Half visited yet another one last night; this one located on the prolongacion Paseo de Montejo between 23 and 25 streets, in the Colonia Mexico, in a tiny plaza called by some ‘Plaza Blockbuster’ in allusion to the store that once dominated that square. For those into fish, you may remember this plaza as the one where mariscos.com was before that whole operation went south.

The restaurant was empty, as can be expected on a Monday night at 8 PM – too late for lunch and too early for dinner in Merida, but people were arriving as the Critic and BH were leaving, around 9 – 9:30 PM.

The service was pleasant, and surprisingly quick, but again your mileage might vary. The food however, was quite good. The little parmesan cheese basket with a salad in it was not at all little; it was a rather large salad in a rather large crisp parmigiano cheese basket. The caprese was fresh and there was lots of it as well. These salads, along with the bread basket (try the fried bread with the balsamic vinegar and olive mayo – delish) would be perfect as a meal in and of themselves but of course, in the interest of research for the 17 readers of these reviews, the Critic and Better Half ordered a main course as well.

The pasta – fettucini with panna and prosciutto – tasted fine, but was light on the prosciutto and heavy on the cream. The Critic was unable to finish the dish. Better Half did much better with the melanzana, the classic Italian eggplant dish, a la parmigiana. The tomato sauce was quite tasty.

Sangrias were drunk and no desserts were had and the bill came to $685 MXP before tips. Would the Critic go back? Yes, probably, but there are a number of other Italian restaurants to sample first.

More info on the restaurant at Yucatan Today: click here.

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

Fettucini Panna & Prosciutto

Fettucini Panna & Prosciutto

Eggplant

Eggplant

Bread Basket

Bread Basket

Salad w Parmesan Basket

Salad w Parmesan Basket

 

 

English for Newbies – Helpful Hint #96

Date vs Apptmt

When you are putting up a sign for readers in English, make sure the English is good enough that there will not be any understanding.

In Merida, there are many people who speak good. And by that I mean exactly that. They can get their point across perfectly well but if they want and are to project professionalism they must not be able to speak English good, they must be able to speak English well.

So, if you are translating your real estate advert for consumption by those who speak English, make sure your terminology is right. In the amusing case before us today, we notice that everything seems to be fine until we come to the word ‘date’.

The English word ‘date’ means fecha, in Spanish. Also, a ‘date’ can technically be seen as an appointment but more along the lines of a romantic get together. If you want to get together with your real estate agent, you make an appointment, not a date.

Unless you are dating your real estate agent of course. Then that opens up a whole new lata of gusanos.

Dispatches from the Gym

As of late, I have taken to using the swimming pool at the gym where I work out; a result of some strange twinges in my back that could or could not be a sign to take it easy with the weights or then again, just a sign of old age.

An x-ray and check up with an orthopedist surgeon revealed nothing out of the ordinary and he encouraged me to ‘strengthen’ my midsection, laughing when I told him that 3 sets of 12 sit-ups on the incline bench were already part of my weighty routine.

“Thirty sit-ups?” he laughed derisively, ” you need to be doing at least a hundred or more each day.”

I tolerate his disdain only because a) he is a friend of mine and b) he didn’t charge me anything for the doctor’s visit and c) he is one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the city.

In any case, I have taken up swimming which is a great way to exercise here, as there is no sweating involved, no jarring impact injury potential and it is generally a peaceful experience, when the pool staff isn’t playing the latest David Guetta rave concert at full volume.

Recently I witnessed a classic Merida scene while in the pool. The cutest little three or four year old girl, goggles on, clutching her swim instructor who was encouraging her to kick harder. Her head rested on his shoulder, her tiny hands grasping his neck. Think Dakota Fanning in Man on Fire but even more adorable.

Mom, meanwhile, was in the air conditioned lounging area, updating her Facebook page or some such equally significant activity on her smartphone while nearby, but by no means near the young mother, a rather stocky, sullen brown person ie. her maid, sat looking bored, large bags of clothes and other accoutrements related to keeping her charge (the little girl) at her side.

What a missed opportunity, I thought, in my naive Canadian way, for this Mom to connect with her daughter in the pool. The tenderness of the child hanging onto the instructor for dear life reminded me of the many small kids I taught to swim back when my little ones were, well, little. Memories to last a lifetime. And this woman, evidently, judging (yes I am judgemental) from her clothes, maid and bone structure, from Merida’s clase acomodada, was completely missing out on them.

Kind of sad, really.

My Imaginary Reponse to a Facebook Post

The post:

Does anyone know if the Police ever pick dogs up off the street and if they do, where they would take them?

My potential reply:
They are taken to a special place just outside of town, where they are let loose on a large green property, full of trees and wildlife. Flowers perfume the air. Each morning, they are lovingly brushed and combed and fed a specially prepared gluten free vegan meal. After their teeth are brushed and they are checked for ticks, their activity program begins with Ball Therapy, Frisbee Orientation and Horizontal WoodStuff Fetching. Once they are good and tired, they are made to sit under the big shady Ceiba tree and listen as a volunteer reads the a selection from their favorite book, Ruff Ride. The evening is spent lounging interspersed with the chasing of zorros.

Casual Restaurant Critic at AOKI – Yet Another Entry in the Sushi Category

Just when the Critic thought that is was not possible to find yet another sushi restaurant in Merida, another one popped up on the radar thanks to Better Half’s socializing and lunching ways.

This one is AOKI and if you have been to the great Beer Box store you will know exactly where it is; if not, you won’t. It’s right next door. Maybe it helps that there is a glorieta with five avenues emanating from it, and in the area is the the Chevrolet Monte Cristo dealership, the Super Deli store which is more super than deli and the Jarochita fruteria where you can get the best, freshest fruit in the area.

But who cares about all that.

The fact that the hostess (who turned out to be our waitress as well) told us to just go ahead and sit wherever we wanted seemed like a rough start. The Critic has become accustomed to having someone show him to his table and maybe that’s just ridiculous, but if you are coming to someone’s house, wouldn’t you want to make them feel welcome? If you’re already at the door and have nothing else to do, take your guest to a table, make her or him feel like you’re glad they’re there.

A look from the back towards the front. Soy soaked serranos on the table.

A look from the back towards the front. Soy soaked serranos on the table.

CRC and BH chose a table along the wall, you know, the kind that have one long bench along the entire wall that serves various tables. The Critic only brings it up because when you sit down on this vinyl stuffed bench, you feel the wood and uneven filling under your butt. This is common in Merida restaurants and one day the Critic will dedicate a whole article to it. Is is possible that the owner or designer has never parked his butt on these uncomfortable homemade booth seats? If you’ve been to Brians and plopped yourself on one of those comfortable looking booth seats and felt your tailbone crush on the hardness of it all, you know what this gripe is about.

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Well, guess what, dear Reader! Things got better after that, and the food was ordered from the initially shy waitress (note to self: another article on shy and intimidated acting wait staff in Merida restaurants) who opened up, cracked a smile or three and brought all the goodies to the table.

If you are ordering rolls, make sure to notice that all of them contain cream cheese, as seems to be the custom in Merida. If this is the custom in other parts of Mexico, please can a reader enlighten the Critic on the origins of this practice and the reasons behind it? Thank you.

Niguiri pieces are rice-heavy but the fish is cold, delicious and the portion is a welcome fat chunk, not a thin excuse carefully applied on top of the rice. The stuffed squid is delectable and beautiful and for the amount of work involved in preparing this dish and the presentation, the price was ridiculous on the cheaper end of the spectrum. The tempura entree with the funny black noodles sprinkled with nori was just alright. The rolls were excellent.

Would the Critic return? Yes! Better than Miyabi? Food-wise, AOKI is a noodle below but at least they don’t have the Valium Crew waiting on tables, so big plus there.

Felices comidas!

See how fat those slices are on top of the rice. Excellent.

See how fat those slices are on top of the rice. Excellent.

Tempura Noodle Combo

Tempura Noodle Combo. Those noodles are cold.

Stuffed little Squid

Stuffed little Squid

Roll with Spicy de Atun

Aguacate and Cuke Roll with Spicy de Atun and some masago for fun

Tempura Noodle Combo IMG_3806

Tuna on the outside. It comes w cream cheese but you can ask to have it left out

Tuna on the outside. It comes w cream cheese but you can ask to have it left out

 

 

The Coliseo Experience – Part II – Ana Gabriel from the Palco POV

For those of you who read my last review of the Coliseo Experience which was based on the Marc Anthony concert (click here to read it) it might come as a surprise to find out that I again attended a concert at the Coliseo, this time to see Ana Gabriel in concert.

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Ana Gabriel is a singer with a distinctively strained-sounding voice that is both captivating and irritating at the same time, depending on your mood and how long you listen to her music.

In any case, Better Half, through her multiple connections, got unexpectedly invited to attend the concert as a guest and brought along my curmudgeonly self to enjoy the show, this time from a palco, which is a private box, at stage level (one level above the floor) and so this is how that experience went down, as compared with the previous, sweaty encounter in the Xmatkuil-like ambience of the Marc Anthony concert.

First of all, there were far less people attending this concert than the Marc Anthony show. Ana Gabriel has been around for some time and while she is still popular, she no longer enjoys the ‘pull’ that first-draw stars can rely on to fill seats. Still, as the night progressed, terminally late Meridanos arrived and about an hour into the show, the Coliseo was almost at 75% capacity.

just before the show

just before the show

When you have a palco, which you can purchase for a year, you have a 13 seat box with a half kitchen (fridge, sink, etc), a lounge area (couch, coffee table) seats facing the stage and a bar to stand behind and watch from as well. Arriving at the Coliseo, there is no parking in Celestun as is the case if you have a regular seat. Palco owners have their parking spot right near the door and your walk is on concrete, not dusty rocks, and so your chance of having your clothing still dust-free when you enter the Coliseo is exponentially increased.

You have your own access areas and an elevator if you so desire. The box is small, has its own air conditioning and private bathroom. No sweating or standing in lines to make a wish! You can show up before the show (a few hours, before the doors open) and stock your fridge with drinks, snacks and so on so that when you and your guests arrive, you can eat and drink without leaving your private space.

While I would probably not buy one of these palcos for myself as it is beyond my budgets capabilities, it is a great thing to know someone who has bought one, and is willing to generously share it with you from time to time. Kind of like having a friend with a boat.

If you must attend a show at the Coliseo, find a friend who has a palco and ingratiate yourself into receiving an invitation. It’s definitely the way to go.

BTW: the air conditioning has not been fixed, as evidenced by the audience members in the regular seats and on the so-called VIP floor level, fanning themselves throughout the evening.

side view of the stage

side view of the stage

Casual Restaurant Critic at Tony Roma’s

Adding to the already burgeoning list of franchises now open in Merida, Tony Roma’s (also known as Tommy Roman’s according to one dear friend) recently opened across from the City Center (Walmart) shopping center just off the periférico up in the northern half of the city, where the moneyed folks live.

The Critic loves himself some ribs, so when Better Half suggested dinner there, he was all over that idea like a hog on corn. If you have seen the Critic eat ribs, you know that to be a very accurate analogy.

The sparkling new restaurant is in yet another small plaza with the same ‘luxury’ theme so popular these days here in the formerly white city. It seems that everyone is after those big peso clients, the ones who make up the clase socioeconómica alta. What makes them alta of course is the fact that they don’t want to spend that money and so the niche is quite competitive.

A bubbly hostess who looks to be about 14 greets you at the second set of glass doors, the first of which no one will open for you but they aren’t that heavy so no big deal. She looks at the party and asks “para tres?” and since Better Half has invited LawyerCritic along, there are in fact three people and off they go, to a booth table in what is obviously the bar area of the restaurant. The music is loud, the TV screens dominate as do the varying shapes of the butts of the people sitting on bar stools at a raised table next to the booth.

The evening’s highlight is the clueless, almost Mr. Bean category waiter who shows up and asks if the table would like some drinks. LawyerCritic asks what’s the special drink of the house to which Mr Bean replies “the margaritas are good” pointing to a list of about 5 different margarita (called Romaritas – HA HA HA – clever). Upon further prompting he proceeds to haltingly describe one or two of them and finally the table orders a regular, a Cadillac and an habanero margarita.

When they arrive they come in shakers and a show is made of shaking and serving the drinks. The Cadillac is very sweet, the habanero is very sour with no spice to it and the regular one is… regular.

photo 3 photo 2

After what seems an eternity, everyone’s friend Rowan comes back to see what they would like to order. Better Half orders the potato soup and a full rack of regular ribs.

“You want the full rack?” asks Mr. Bean, “or half”. Perhaps he didn’t hear Better Half so she repeated the order. He repeated it once again just to make Better Half feel like maybe she had a speech impediment or he was trying to send her a not very subliminal message about eating large portions late at night and then studiously made the annotation on his little order notepad. LawyerCritic wanted some pasta which didn’t cause too much consternation and the Critic ordered a rack with Makers Mark BBQ sauce.

“Bourbon?” asks Mr. Bean.

“Um, yes” replied the Critic, thinking up a witty retort to yet another seemingly pointless question.

Small side plates arrive which the Critic assumes are for depositing the lime garnishes from the drinks until sometime later, a little bit of bread arrives and some chilled butter. You haven’t experienced restaurant thrills until you are trying to alternately stab and spread some hard butter on your chunk of bread (warm) with a giant steak knife (see photo).

photo 1The ribs and pasta arrived a little while later, as the Critic, BetterHalf and LawyerCritic tried to make themselves heard over the noise.

Better Half asked “what about the soup?”

“Should I bring it?” replied Mr. Bean.

“NO I JUST ORDERED IT TO SCREW WITH YOUR MIND” and “NO, JUST KEEP IT IN THE KITCHEN AND SERVE IT TO ME FOR DESSERT” are what crossed the Critic’s mind but the always well-behaved Better Half being very polite simply said “yes please.”

Seeing that the glasses were empty, Mr. Bean reached and then leaned across the table presenting the better part of his upper torso to the Critic and Lawyer Critic as he vainly tried to grasp the glasses that were just beyond his reach. A simple ‘excuse me’ would have done the trick and Better Half would have handed him the empties. She asked him “would you like me to hand you these glasses?” and Mr. Bean replied “yes”, and lifted his semi-prostrate form off the table.

The simple request “Could we get some water?” was countered with “should I bring you a glass of water?” which begged a smart-ass reply like “NO DUDE, BRING ME ONE OF THOSE GARRAFONES OF WATER” but the Critic contained himself. Perhaps he was giving an option, but it wasn’t very clear.

The table tent in English read ‘Become a rib expert!’ and to ‘ask your server’ and so the Critic did.

“What is this all about?”

“I’ll bring you a form to fill out.”

Very informative. Thank you.

The ribs were fine, the french fries were excellent and the cole-slaw, the cheapest salad in the western hemisphere to make, was minuscule. Desserts were just fine, nothing to write home about or mention further in this blog. OK, there were two: a blackberry peach cobbler with ice cream and a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.

photo 4 photo 2 photo 3

Food verdict for this class of restaurant? Better (and more) ribs by far at Chili’s. Better margaritas by far at Chili’s. Better desserts by far at Chili’s or Friday’s.

Service? OMG clueless to the point of hilarity.

Room? A sports bar feel without the put-together feel of Boston’s or Fridays masquerading as an upscale dining joint for Merida’s wannabe’s.

The Critic foresees a dim future for the Tony Roma’s franchise in Merida if this keeps up.

For those of you wondering how much it is to dine at this fine establishment, the bill came to $950 pesos before a tip.

Casual Restaurant Critic at Scoozis – Vancouver, Canada

Scoozis

Scoozis

 

It’s 2014 and the Critic hasn’t written anything about Vancouver in a long time so here are some new great places to stop at if you have cruise ship reservations to go to Alaska which seems to be the main reason Mexicans at least get to Vancouver. That, and to study English for a few months and get out of the house and from under the thumb of the catholic household and cut loose. But the Critic digresses.

Here are some new favourite spots. Yes, that’s a Canadian spelling on ‘favourite’.  Once Stephen Harper – along with his army of evil Cheney-like minions – takes over the world you will all be spelling it this way.

Another digression: will be EVER get to the restaurants.

Yes.

Scoozis was recommended by the nice young man at the front desk (does this sound like an old lady talking or what) when Better Half and Señor Critic asked for someplace where they served real fruit juice for breakfast, not that crap from concentrate. By the way, the word ‘crap’ was not used in the query so no need to worry – in case you were – about offending the locals and besmirching the reputations of Mexicans abroad, as if that needed any more besmirching (think World Cup and “eeeeehhh puuuto!!”). Not only did they have fresh squeezed fruit juices, but also the best eggs benedict anywhere.

Mr. and Mrs. Critic fell for this suggestion like over-ripe guayas and were at Scoozis in just under 2 minutes, as it was located right around the corner from the hotel.

Service was fantastically friendly, not a grumpy face in sight. The food was lovely and reasonably priced. The Critic had the ‘bennies’ but not in their ham version; it was the British Columbia version with smoked salmon. Unbelievably great and it is their justifiably famous hollandaise sauce that makes this signature breakfast dish pop. This was the first time that the Critic didn’t have to add salt to the baked breakfast potatoes to make the bland tuber taste like something – they were perfect just as they were.

Better Half, insistent on eating a healthy breakfast, opted for a fruit and yoghurt combination. This being Vancouver where ethnic authenticity, along with political correctness, is all the rage, the fruit was local and the yoghurt was Greek. Coffee was strong and fresh.

A great way to wake up the day. Or to wake up to the day. Or to wake up and then start the day. Whatever the phrase is, Scoozis is a great place for a real breakfast in downtown Vancouver.

IMG_3304 IMG_3303 IMG_3301 IMG_3308 IMG_3307

Spanish for Newbies – Helpful Hint No. 117

IMG_3113

 

Spanish for Newbies – Helpful Hint No. 117

The photo (above) is typical of one you would find in a public or semi-public parking lot in Merida and to the Merida newbie it might be a bit confusing.

If you have studied any Spanish at all, you might recognize the word – sort of – and think “Oh, I remember paloma, which means pigeon, so this might mean male paloma. A palomo!” Alas, you’d be wrong and besides, you’d still be wondering about the ‘lic’ part. I mean it’s not ‘lic’ as in ‘lick’ which could mean don’t lick the palomos, but no.

‘Lic’ is short for ‘Licenciado’ which is a title usually handed out once you have completed some sort of lawyerly career option. Once you have achieved Licenciado status, you can place it in front of your last name and often people will call you simply ‘Licenciado’ instead of using your name. Short version? Lic. Pronounced Lick. With that explanation under our belt, we can therefore deduce that the sign is referring to a Licenciado Palomo; Palomo being his last name.

And there’s that crossed out letter ‘E’ as well, which everyone who has traveled means no E’ing. Seriously though, you have studied some Spanish (maybe you’ve been to España!) and so you recognize the sign indicating no parking. Parking is estacionar in Spanish. So that crossed out ‘E’ means no parking.

Now you must put them together.

It might mean that there is no parking if you are the Lic. Palomo. So should he happen to show up, he most definitely can not park in that space as the sign is personally directed at him. It might also mean that ‘Ey, no licking palomos‘ in that space because that’s how you pronounce the letter ‘E’ en español -Ey. Third option – and this one’s a keeper – is that the space is reserved for a certain Licenciado Palomo, so don’t you go parking your damn car there.

Got it? Good.