Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Kraken

Remember the movie with Liam Neeson about the Kraken? The Critic is sure it was a fantastic movie with plenty of Oscar potential but for some reason he never had the opportunity to see it. Of course the Critic is being somewhat sarcastic in his appreciation of the movie’s merits.

Kraken the restaurant, on the other hand, would definitely be an Oscar contender if there was a category for best local seafood.

Chef Eduardo Estrella and his crew have created a restaurant that looks like your average seafood place from the outside, but when you talk to him and try his food, you will quickly realize that he is in another league entirely. He and his family are from Isla Arena, Campeche and if you dear reader know anything about gastronomy on the Yucatan peninsula, you know that the best recipes and most amazing cooks come from the neighboring state of Campeche; Eduardo is one of these people. Not only does he come by his skills naturally, he also formally trained in the US and applied the techniques he learned there, to the abundant local ingredients he can get here.

Chef Eduardo Estrella (middle) and his hard working team

All the seafood is fresh, and brought directly from Isla Arena. He will not purchase frozen seafood from the many suppliers who have stopped by to offer their products – and you can tell when you taste the food.

The Critic and the always amazing Better Half visited Kraken for lunch and it was probably the best seafood either have had in a long while. For starters, the menu was set aside as chef Eduardo suggested that he would prepare a series of plates for the table so as to be able to sample as many different flavors and textures as possible.

First up was a mixed ceviche tostada. Tiny ria (think Lagartos or Celestun) shrimp, literally bursting with flavor, unlike the flavorless shrimp one so often gets in a cocktail or ceviche these days, mixed with fish and octopus. This was glorious.

Next, aguachile in both red (shrimp) and green (fish) styles, with both items marinated in a lemony and very spicy broth, full of flavour. Notice that the dishes are beautiful to look at as well; presentation is top notch.

The third dish was a shrimp broth (caldo de camaron) full of flavor and some larger shrimp along with assorted minced veggies chopped in for texture.

Two plates arrived next, both octopus. The charred octopus is the Kraken octopus and the other was del Capitan. The Critic is not a huge fan of octopus since it is so often poorly prepared and impossible to eat unless you are a cat. These two samplings were perfect.

Then, what was probably the favorite dish of the meal, shrimp wrapped in bacon and cooked to crisp, on a lake of home-made tamarind sauce that was out of this world. The kind of sauce you want to stick your fingers in and get the last drops off the plate. And, something original and unseen in many restaurants, perfectly cooked vegetables on the side. Who does green beans in Merida?? And a black rice cooked in octopus ink. Amazing!

At this point the Better Half and Critic both were thinking that this couldn’t go on much longer as it would be sheer gluttony but there was one more plate to come: a pasta dish, with a cream sauce and fresh crab, baked over with parmesan and panko. This too, proved to be fantastic and was finished to the last noodle, much to the dismay of the ever-expanding waistlines.

Obviously there was absolutely no room whatsoever to even think about a dessert!

The room is casual; there are two televisions with music videos and a Kraken mural on one wall. The service is laid back but friendly. But the food! It is absolutely worth the drive, for drive you must to this location in Caucel, just past the periferico about a kilometer from the Walmart. The restaurant is located in Plaza Boulevard, behind Lapa Lapa which is what you will see first when you are arriving at your destination.

 

The Casual Restaurant Critic Slumming at KFC

With all the culinary options out there, why the hell would anyone go to KFC you might ask. Well, a lot of people do, at least at the one located on the Avenida Itzaes, next door to the Merida’s hospital for the clase acomodada, the Clinica Merida. There was a lineup on this particular day when the Critic made the fatal mistake/decision to stop for lunch.

Interestingly with all the fuss about obesity in Mexico and junk food and the like, the closest restaurants to the hospital, where they must be dealing with a lot of obesity related illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems etc., are Burger King and KFC. And both are packed with folks in regular clothes as well as several mestizas with hipiles, which seems to indicate that this is the informal ‘waiting room’ for family members of patients at the nearby hospital where the cafeteria is probably an overpriced disgusting and depressing option. Just guessing of course.

Anyway, the Critic was driving along and suddenly had a hankering for some crispy KFC.

I don’t know if this is your case as well, my dear 18 readers, but the Critic has fond memories of Kentucky Fried Chicken – remember when the crust was tasty with just the right amount of spice and salt and crispiness, and the chicken inside cooked just right, not too dry and not pink either?

Well, it seems you can’t go back. The food ain’t what it used to be. And service sucked big time.

The cashier was a robot dressed in khakis and a polo shirt embroidered with the KFC logo.

Some sample snippets of conversation from the people ahead of the Critic in the lineup:

“Can I get 3 pieces?”

“Can’t do that. Chicken comes in 2, 4 and 6 pieces.”

“I just ordered two packages of 6 pieces each. Can I change that to the giant bucket with a dozen pieces etc.?”

“Nope. Already rang it into my cash register.”

“OK, I’ll have an orange soda.”

“We’re out of orange soda.”

YOU’RE OUT OF ORANGE SODA!

Someone picks up their tray and the large order of fries is strewn across said tray. No one seems to mind. One of the mestiza ladies asks where her chicken whatever is. The robot answers “you didn’t specify which chicken whatever you wanted” To his credit the robot does change the order for mestiza lady.

Anyway. Critic gets his order – the tray has a mountain of at least 20 small packets of chile, jam and ketchup – and goes to the table. Sits and bites into a piece of chicken which pops open and sprays table and Critic with hot oil. Well, it’s comforting to know that at least the chicken has been cooked recently, as he wipes oil off the various surfaces and items of clothing now permanently ruined.

But the chicken inside is rubbery, soft, like those horrible marinated arrachera steaks that have the consistency of ham, not actual meat. It’s flavorless too. And that crispy, perfectly seasoned crust? Not happening. highly unsatisfying, to say the least.

Ugh.