Monthly Archives: October 2013

Casual Restaurant Critic visits the Santa Rosa Hacienda

On a recent trip to Maxcanú, the Critic along for the ride noticed signs for the hacienda Santa Rosa (a Starwood-run luxury hotel) and decided that a stop might be in order, to both see the hotel and if possible, have something to eat there.

Familiar with the strict entry procedure at Temozon, another Starwood hacienda, the Critic was surprised that the gardeners out front just said “adelante” when asked if he could pop in for a look. It turns out that all the guests had left and the Critic was the only non-staff person in the hotel.

In spite of this, the outdoor restaurant was set up with fresh flower arrangements and cutlery on each table, ready in case someone (like the Critic) showed up hungry. A friendly receptionist ushered the Critic to the table and a very friendly and deferential waiter proceeded to take the order. If you, dear reader, have been to the Temozón hacienda for a meal, you know that the waiters are not at all at the same luxe level as the place they are in and the food they are serving. Here at Santa Rosa, the service definitely and happily is.

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Homemade bread and butter (two kinds) were brought out and the bread, lo and behold was warm. Delicious.

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A pasta dish was ordered – spaghetti in a chaya pesto sauce with fresh cherry tomatoes and some parmesan cheese. Simple, pretty and very tasty.

Spaghetti w Chaya Pesto

Spaghetti w Chaya Pesto

The bill came to $215 pesos, which was the pasta and a glass of refreshing jamaica.

The thing that made the meal exceptional was the service and the fact that they were perfectly happy to serve just one person when they could easily have closed the place while they awaited more guests. It is a very civilized place to have a meal if you are in the area exploring and the receptionist said that meals are always available, but to check first, in case the hotel is full or there is a special event like a wedding.

More info on the hacienda Santa Rosa on the Starwood website here.

 

 

Casual Restaurant Critic in Campeche

If you like seafood, and who doesn’t, then Campeche is the place for you. The Critic has been told also, that the fine Yucatecan traditions originate in Campeche, which was where the best cooks came from. The person that told me had relatives in Campeche so they might have been somewhat biased.

Campeche was once of course part of the Yucatan, even though they hate to admit it now. It was the main port of entry to the entire area and much wealth concentrated there before being either loaded onto ships or distributed into the countryside. So in a nutshell you have great cooking talent plus an abundance (up to recently anyway what with all the oil rigs out there) of fresh and varied seafood; all of this adds up to some pretty fine eating.

La Pigua

The best-known of the seafood places in Campeche also has a branch in Merida; called, believe or not, La Pigua. Known for it’s excellent dishes it became THE place to go for anyone of any importance visiting Campeche and in it’s former location/presentation it had many signed photographs on the wall from dignitaries real and imagined that had eaten there. The Pigua has been renovated and renewed. The look is sleek, minimalist and upscale and the food is as delicious as ever. The service, however, remains firmly rooted in the lackadaisical 1970’s, completely at odds with the modern and upmarket rest of the restaurant. The Critic was there before, and a recent visit confirms that the review stands as is.

Marganzo’s

The new CRC’s favorite, the restaurant is down by the wall in the old section of town and features all-women servers, dressed in traditional Campeche garb (think hipiles, Campeche style) and a terrific seafood menu from which anything you order will be delicious. The Critic always ends up ordering the Marganzo fish fillet and is never disappointed; but their coconut shrimp are a mouthwatering appetizer that should not be overlooked.

Gelateria Tigela 

There is, along the gorgeous malecón, a shopping center that advertises itself as the place to buy artesanias or crafts from Campeche artists. Inside, you will find several stalls featuring all kinds of cheesy trinkets made from shells as well as other pirate or ocean related items that will end up in your basement (if you are from up north) much like that purple-sequinned sombrero you got from your parents when they went to Tijuana in the ’70’s.

However, right around the corner on a side street leading back into the city is a terrific and authentic Italian gelato place with real, smooth and refreshing gelato, from limoncello to nocciola. Absolutely worth finding and enjoying after a seafood lunch at one of other places mentioned. Service is lackadaisical at best but the gelato more than makes up for the employee’s indifference and the pirated movie on the television screen which they are far more interested in watching than helping you, the inconsiderate interruption of their shift.

More info on it here.

Casual Hotel Critic in Houston – Indigo at the Galleria

In the ongoing interest of commenting on all things Yucatan, it is useful to include information on the those points of entry into the Yucatan, of which Houston is an important one as the United (formerly Continental) flight into and out of Merida is the only American airline covering that route.

And for Yucatecans, Houston is an important and attractive destination for all sorts of reasons; medical, financial and of course touristic.

The Casual Hotel Critic doesn’t appear often on this blog, but he is back and this time he comments on a recent stay at the Indigo Hotel at the Galleria.

This is a funky hotel with friendly staff, especially the Mexican ladies working the breakfast shift in the café/restaurant/bar just off the lobby. Funky because the colors and feel of the hotel will almost convince you that you are in Miami Beach and not Texas. The rooms are all handicapped accessible, if that is a term that can still be used and remain politically correct (not that the Critic is particularly concerned about such matters) which makes for an interesting closet situation, where the bar that you hang your shirts on is at waist level and the longer items of clothing will reach the bottom of the closet furniture mueble.

An important point to note for those with noise vs sleep issues: the air conditioning is loud. Very loud. It is a constant loud so it wouldn’t be bad – at least for the Hotel Critic – as it masks out outside and hallway noises, but unfortunately the a/c clunks off when the room hits the temperature set on thermostat and the switch from buzzing hum to silence will wake you. Every. Single. Time. The only way to ensure that the air conditioner does not go off is to set the temperature at the beef-aging meat locker setting and tuck yourself in very well.

The location though can’t be beat and is just behind the Galleria mall, at the Nordstroms entrance, so it is perfect for those who come to Houston to shop. The parking is free, another nice touch and right outside the hotel, something that definitely does not happen for example at the Westin Galleria where gigantic corner room 1906 is a personal favorite of the Hotel Critic.

Plenty of restaurants nearby both on Westheimer and up on Richmond, ranging from Starbucks to Pappas luxe steakhouse to Mexican and a gazillion Asian places that range from Vietnamese to Japanese to Thai.

Good place to stay? Yes. But the sleep vs noise issue is one that needs to be considered.