Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Casual Restaurant Critic visits the Hacienda Temozon

While checking out several haciendas recently, the Casual Restaurant Critic had the opportunity to visit – and have a meal, albeit a small one – in the restaurant at the Hacienda Temozon, an upscale hotel part of the Starwood Collection of very high-end hacienda accommodations in the Yucatan.

In the past, the experience in the restaurant has been a far cry from the rest of the delights offered to the senses when one visits this property; the gardens, the pool, spa and rooms are gorgeous, while the restaurant lacked the level of quality commensurate with the high standards set in the previously mentioned areas.

On this occasion, the Critic and two guests had a light lunch consisting of jamaica, the refreshing red tea made from jamaica flowers, a lime soup, a trio of panuchos and the Critic’s choice: a Kinich salad (photo pending). The food was tasty and fresh, particularly the salad, which was a real mix of typical Yucatecan ingredients including ground pumpkin seed and chunks of smoky longaniza sausage. On the service end, there is still room for improvement. Although the welcome was cordial and the attention to guests and Critic alike courteous and prompt, the Critic feels that in a restaurant of this caliber ladies should be served first and the typical arrival of the food on a tray parked next to the table, followed by the waiter picking up a plate and announcing it with a question should be outlawed. The reason they ask is because they don’t know who ordered what and this could so easily be solved, as it has been in countless restaurants around the world, buy a simple system of numbers corresponding to guests and their menu choices. This would eliminate the need for the question “Sopa de Lima??” and enable waiters to serve ladies first, not last, as was the case during this lunch.

The flies were also a problem, getting into the drinks for a swim, settling busily on the bread and in general causing much fanning of hands and napkins more akin to an experience at a much less luxurious dining establishment.

Prices were on the high end for the food offered (Yucatecan dishes at $150 pesos plus) considering what one can obtain for such a price tag at places closer to town and the service and fly details mentioned above. The view of course and the semi-outdoor experience of dining in such a beautiful space was fantastic however and for a special occasion, this might be a pleasant destination to head to for a special occasion.

A Casual Critic Revisits Elio al Mare (for lunch)

All the Critic can say to begin this review is what the hell happened?

That would be a great way to describe what was going through the Critics mind the other day when he visited the famous Italian seaside eatery outside Progreso in the company of distant relatives from the Sofia Vergara family. Are you now thoroughly distracted, dear reader? Well, don’t be, because what the Critic is about to write is important and will save you gas money if you are coming from Merida with the intention of enjoying a good Italian meal.

Let the Critic preface (some more) by saying that this is what most people would call an ‘expensive’ restaurant for Merida; pasta dishes are in the $150 to $200 peso a plate range and there are Italian wines that are truly Italian – not from Costco – and priced accordingly. That, and the rave reviews previously expressed not only by the Critic but also others who have loved this place in the past, was one of the reasons the Critic wanted his guests to try this restaurant.

While they loved it, the Critic was appalled.

It was just after 1 PM, and the sign said they were open. However, no tables were set up and the little trio (Critic plus two) was greeted in a casually uninterested way by two individuals of the male kind, while two more of the female variety sat in the kitchen eating a meal of pasta and bread. Two schoolchildren were sitting at a small table in the restaurant, presumably somehow related to the women in the kitchen, also eating their lunch. They later provided sound effects and background noise in an otherwise empty restaurant.

Gone are the days of the charming Italian host, the sangria, the restaurant set with white tablecloths. Gone is background music, any ambience whatsoever or any feeling of being welcome. A meek, unsmiling individual with the personality of a sea urchin – a traumatized sea urchin that has suffered parental abuse as a baby urchin and moves like it expects a whipping any minute – set the one table and proceeded to take the order. Two of the dishes ordered were not available due to the absence of gorgonzola in one case and basil in another. This is an “upscale” Italian restaurant, you will recall. Orders were modified and eventually arrived at the table. The food was fine, in fact it was pretty darn good, especially the fish, a robalo in a tomato and black olive sauce that was succulently flavorful, albeit raw on the inside. The Critics pasta was tasty but non-descript and the other pasta dish, fetuccine carbonara, apparently was decent enough also.

Did the Critic already mention the noisy children who were now playing hide and seek and shrieking in delight as they skidded through the restaurant from one end to the other. The waiter, if one could call him that, would hide near the kitchen and when forced to come out to set another table for yet another couple (also foreigners who spoke no Spanish) would pass the Critics table and make a determined effort to not establish any eye contact or look at the table, choosing instead to look nervously the other way lest the Critics table asked for something he might have to respond to.

The Critic can not in any good conscience recommend this place any longer, at least not for lunch. What a disappointment.

The Critic Visits Los Huaraches de Doña Mary

Driving around one weekend morning, looking for someplace to eat, the Critic found himself in Francisco de Montejo, the sprawling mega-thriving housing development filled with families starting up and a lot of families from central Mexico and more specifically, Mexico DF. There, on the main avenue (see photo) was a promising sight: a garage filled with people and chairs and a colorful sign looming overhead in that profoundly Mexican way that would never pass muster in most North American cities (except of course parts of east L.A.) that said Los Huaraches de Doña Mary.

A quick call to the Better Half and the Critic was seated, waiting for BH to arrive and order. And what an order! Quesadillas and sopes and gorditas are on the menu, and are stuffed with all sorts of artery-pluggin goodies. Papa con chorizo, cheese and poblano chile and many more. The Critic and Better Half were hungry and ordered too much, evidently. Check the photos for an idea of the generous portion sizes. The food was all good, very good and the salsas bitingly spicy. Service; well the restaurant is in a garage so don’t expect the Tour d’Argent but the one girl looking after all the hungry folks there did a good job of keeping everyone happy.

La Pigua, revisited

La Pigua!

A recent visit with the MiniCritic confirmed to the Cantankerous Casual Restaurant Critic that La Pigua continues to be one of Merida’s finer restaurants with delicious, freshly prepared and tasty food and great service. In the photos, from top to bottom: Coconut Shrimp, Ceviche de Salmon, Tostadas de Callo de Hacha (scallops) and the Critics personal favourite, Calamares Sir Francis Drake.

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