I’ll Pray for You

Finally it happened. The most condescending phrase that self-righteous Christians can lob at an unbeliever when they have no real argument, has been leveled at me.

Under a cloud photo on Facebook that someone shared where the cloud bears a resemblance to a flying something, the post raved about the glory of God and the sign that was this angel in the heavens over Buttville, USA.

I commented simply that it was, in fact, a cloud. The rebuttal was that some people have no faith which seemed silly since it was a photo of a cloud and it didn’t require faith to imagine it was a pterodactyl or an angel or whatever. When I replied that indeed, I did not enjoy that kind of ‘faith’, the patronizing phrase was thrown in my direction.

“I’ll pray for you.”

I looked it up as I was at a loss as to what to counter with and came across this fantastic little article. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.


HSBC and their Deposit Machine. A Cautionary Tale.

Don’t assume, as I did, that HSBC’s automatic deposit machine works.

Wanting to make a quick deposit, I arrived at the Gran Plaza HSBC branch and found it closed, so I thought I would make my first ever deposit at the machine that said ‘quick and easy’ just outside the locked gates of the bank.

Following the instructions, I typed in the amount I wanted to deposit and, having read at some point that the machine won’t give more than $50 pesos change, deposited a few large bills, leaving a difference of $20 pesos. Also, being my first time, I deposited each bill separately and then when the screen popped up asking if I want to deposit more, I added more. Total of three bills.

The final screen indicated that I had deposited an amount different from what I had initially indicated would be the amount. In answer to the machine’s question ‘continue or cancel’ I chose cancel.


A big red error message flashed onto the screen, saying the machine was out of order! No money, no deposit, no nothing. Then, to my relief, a ‘receipt’ was printed indicating the error. Something, at least. One of the tellers, just inside, told me to call the service number to report the incident and I spent the next 27 minutes (really) on the cell phone, pushing this number and that, in answer to all the options given to me by the recorded messages I was having to navigate through.

Finally a person came on who asked me my account number and name. Why they ask for the account number I don’t understand, since the recorded message already had asked for that info. He then transferred me to a second person, who asked me for my name and account number. The second person then transferred me to a third person who I could not understand as he sounded like he had stuck the microphone of his headset inside his mouth and it was extremely distorted. When I basically talked over him to ask for a better connection this third person then transferred me to a fourth person, who asked me… you guessed it… name and account number.

At least she apologized and gave me a security questions exam, which I apparently failed as she told me I needed to go to my branch and make the complaint there, because she couldn’t open my account info, seeing that I had failed the test.

The next day, I went to the nice young lady at the entrance and gave her my info and explained the case. She entered all the info and waited. Then, the ‘system’ went down and so, she was unable to complete the filing of my ‘aclaración’. She said to leave my info and she would do it later, when the ‘system’, that mysterious robotic world that has a mind of its own, came back online.

At home, I received an email that said my complaint had been registered.

Two days later, a text message came in saying that my complaint had been resolved and that I needed to go to the branch to see what happened.

At the bank, I talked to one of the ‘executives’ who looked at the case number and did a lot of mouse clicking on her computer while I watched and then said that the case had not been registered for some reason and that I needed to re-enter the information and file another complaint. Same questions, and this time the system cooperated and the complaint was apparently accepted. “It won’t take long,” she said, “they will check your claim against the money they find in the deposit machine and if there is a discrepancy and the information you have provided is corroborated, we will deposit the money into your account.”

Holding my breath and crossing my fingers, but 4 days after the machine swallowed my money I still don’t know if it still exists or if HSBC has absconded with it.

Giant Burger and Best Service Ever.

The Casual Restaurant Critic has one beef (complaint) and it is this: service at restaurants and almost anywhere in Merida generally sucks. Of course there are individual exceptions; persons that have an innate ability to be welcoming, warm and and genuinely kind and are capable of making one feel welcome and taken care of. But at the institutional level, from the owner on down, where everyone in the organization is on the same page, this is rare to non-existent.

IMG_4324That is why it was such a surprise to find three different people at the same burger joint, called Angus in Las Americas, all acting in unison, one nicer than the other, and probably providing the Critic and BH with the best service had anywhere recently, including all the pretentious gringo franchises whose owners think that their fancy location and name will be enough and the higher end places that are slacking off in general. Not to mention all the others in the middle to lower end of the gastronomic spectrum.

One or more of the loyal readers of this column will ask about the location of this place, so here is a link to their Facebook page complete with photos, menu, phone number and address. Go try it for yourself and see if the service is as good as it was on this visit. In any case, the hamburger was amazingly good.


And too bad for Bella Roma as they open too late for the late afternoon “I’m starving feed me NOW” crowd.IMG_4323

Casual Restaurant Critic at Mi Gusto Es…

Quick review this time of the Casual Restaurant Critic and Better Half’s visit to the new seafood restaurant Mi Gusto Es, located in the same new ‘luxury’ plaza as the previously reviewed Tony Roma’s, where the waiter did his best Mr. Bean impersonation and cemented in the Critic’s mind why he should never return to this ridiculous ribs restaurant.

Feeling like seafood, Critic and BH ascended to the second level (of the shopping center that only features eateries, which will promptly be reviewed and either praised or destroyed, según) and a smiling hostess took them to their table or rather, accompanied them to a table of their choosing that was on the sunny side of the restaurant as the initial table offered was between the bathroom and the entryway to the centrally placed island cold kitchen.

The waiter, not a Yucatecan (just sayin’) was very professional, prompt and suggested several great options. The Critic ordered the seafood soup, always hopeful that ONE day a soup will arrive at the table that rivals even remotely the soup made by his brother in law, who, for the purposes of this review will remain nameless. BH ordered several tacos. For starters, cucarachas. That’s right, cockroaches. Brown, fried to crisp shrimp, marinated in something that turned them dark brown and by golly, they really do look like giant bugs. They are to be eaten, eyes, feet, tails and all and are delicious. Highly recommended. Have your friend take a photo of you with one sticking out of your mouth, with its black beady eyes staring out from between your lips.

When the busboy or waiter in training came out with BH’s tacos, the waiter actually discreetly sent him back to the kitchen to keep them warm and not bring them out until the soup was ready also. DID YOU READ THAT? This was an absolute FIRST in Merida and impressed both the Critic and Better Half to the point of mentioning it to the waiter and later inflating his tip.

The verdict? The food was great. Marlin taco (middle one) not too special, but the cheesy Sinaloa taco was scrumptious. The soup was absolutely filled to the brim with all manner of detritus from the sea, and worth every penny of its $133 peso price. It’s all about the broth, and this soup has a delicious, rich and flavorful broth that will surely to make your taste buds dance.

Service was, dare I say it, very good. The only fly in the ointment was the pair of servers who surreptitiously had someone’s (a diner’s) leftovers on a tray and were eating them in a secretive fashion with their backs turned to the restaurant. Unfortunately they were only a few feet away from the Critic so he couldn’t help but notice. Um… GROSS? But then, why waste some premium seafood, right? Just do it in the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind.

Definitely worth trying if you are looking for some Pacific style fish tacos and cocktails (along the lines of Pez Gordo whose owners have split up (how rarely does THAT happen)  and the Pez Gordo is now El Pez something else).

Enjoy the photos.



Cucarachas, again

Cucarachas, again



Seafood soup

Seafood soup

Inside that taco I

Inside that taco I

Inside that taco II

Inside that taco II

In the soup

In the soup

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



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