After a while, you tend to get a little tired of the same old same old when visiting Yucatecan food restaurants, so it came as a nice to surprise to find yet another Merida restaurant offering all the same recipes, but with a twist: a novel and appealing form of presentation!
El Manjar Blanco is owned and run by some nice people loosely related to a local legend in the newspaper business: Antonio Peraza aka Tony, whose smart, funny and biting social commentary in the form of political cartoons are featured in the Diario de Yucatan newspaper. No politician or businessman, no matter how prominent, self important or powerful, is immune to the barbs and jabs that come out of Tony’s talented inkwell. The Critic only mentions this because when you enter the restaurant, you will notice a lot of familiar (if you peruse the local newpapers at all) art on the walls.
Once you order the food, you will see what the Critic is talking about in terms of the presentation of each platillo, Yucatecan cuisine classics all, from luscious papadzules and crunchy smoked longaniza appetizers to cochinita, queso relleno (the Critics personal favorite) and lomitos de Valladolid. They are all there, and they are all not only pretty to look at and photograph, but also taste as good as they should.
Service is very friendly and adequately professional and the prices are well within the bounds of reason for what you are getting.
For dessert, order some corn ice cream and an order of caballeros pobres and you will leave stuffed, satisfied and ready for a nap!
It came as news to the Critic that Piola was a chain or franchise restaurant. Having tried the food at their Cancun location below the Ibis hotel and absolutely loving it, the Critic was happy to learn they were opening a new restaurant in Merida and although it has taken a while, he finally got around to trying the place here.
Located in one of the 21 or so plazas that stretch along the street from the “pozito” glorieta to the City Center exit at the Periférico, Piola sits next to an outdoor furniture place and a new Starbucks. Also in that plaza is the newly re-opened (this week) Nectar which has been the subject of many a review in the past, mostly favorable. The Critic popped in to check out the menu and it looks promising and not overly expensive. The waiter informed the Critic that it wouldn’t be possible to eat there that night, however, as the entire place was reserved. Probably for chef Roberto Solis’ family and friends; after all it was his father who built the new plaza that his restaurant is now located in. But the Critic digresses.
Piola has a great outdoor seating area right up front where you can smoke and drink and feel like you are anywhere in the world, what with the trees overhead poking between the exposed metal beams of the little plaza. It’s also a great place to watch people parking, always a fun activity here in the formerly white city. The Critic ordered a glass of (over-chilled as is the norm here) Merlot which tasted fine, probably because it was so cold. The house will set out a bruschetta for you to keep you from gnawing the furniture while you get your order to the kitchen via some friendly and attentive wait staff, mostly male.
The Critic ordered the Santa Fe pizza with an order of prosciutto thrown in for some extra sodium and the verdict is: a perfect pizza. Thin, wood fired oven crust, with a few fire-charred bits here and there, scrumptious multi-cheese, tomato and olive toppings and some quality ham on top. Absolutely heavenly and now, there is no more reason to make the trek to Rafaello’s downtown on 60 at 49 with it’s indifferent service. Their pizza comes in two sizes: a small version for yourself and perhaps a weight-conscious date, or a larger table top version that could comfortably satisfy 3-4 people, as long as they are not voracious teens.
Good service, fantastic pizza and a lovely little location. Don’t miss it.
Their website is: http://www.piola.it/index.php?page=show-local&menu_number=3&lang=es&id=67