Category Archives: Casual Restaurant Critic

The Casual Restaurant Critic is where you can read all about restaurants both in Merida, the Yucatan and beyond.

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Santiago Market – Itzalana

The Critic knows for a fact that many of the 19 readers of his ramblings have been – probably repeatedly – to eat at the market in Santiago, so he will just post a few photos of the delicious breakfast enjoyed recently in the company of the always charming Better Half and a group of amigos.

Salbut and panucho ‘especial’ which means a ton of turkey meat

Salbutes de asado

Torta Cubana, the only one with no eggs. The Critic is not a fan of things eggy

Torta cubana with agua de watermelon and chaya in the background

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Miyabi Plaza Arbol

The Casual Restaurant Critic recently had the opportunity to have dinner at the new Miyabi location on Prolongacion Montejo at 17 street, in the Colonia Mexico section of northern Merida. It is in a little shopping plaza called Plaza Arbolm named after the arbol (tree) that was incorporated in spectacular fashion into the design of the new Miyabi restaurant.

The sushi is as good as usual, nothing new to report there, and they are working out some kinks with the service due to the fact that waiters that want to work in a very busy environment are hard to come by, according to one of the owners.

The Critics only quibble would be the 3 point font used on the menu, which is impossible for most anyone to read, especially in the subdued lighting.

Kudos to the architectural firms who design the place (there were two) who decided to go against the time-honored local tradition of cutting down the tree that was obviously in the way. Maybe some other architects can learn from this, especially those charged with designing new residential developments.

The Critic recommends going if just to experience the amazing surroundings. And a little sashimi, why not.

 

Pueblo Pibil on a Monday – Frijol con Puerco!

Traditionally, in the Yucatan you eat frijol con puerco (pork and beans in English speaking countries and feijoada en Brasil) on Mondays and if you are in the town of Tixcocob, a half hour from Merida, you can enjoy this classic dish prepared in the pib, or underground pit oven.

Pueblo Pibil is a beautiful restaurant, with attentive and courteous service and the food is really outstanding.

Highly recommended!

Start with an appetizer of chicharrones while waiting for your pork ūüôā

Also, more pork in the form of this achiote-soaked grilled rib appetizer

The happy moment the lata (tin) comes out of the pit or pib

Close up of the bubbling deliciousness or frijol con puerco

Garnishes for your frijol con puerco

Handmade corn tortillas

The puerco

The frijol

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Partners and Brothers Burgerlab

Once upon a time, on a Merida intersection, there was a great property to build a city park. Unfortunately, this being Merida, it became yet another shopping mall, complete with a hotel, a Best Buy, another Walmart (Merida needed another Walmart) a movie theater and the obligatory Telcel store, along with VIP’s, Fridays and some other lesser-known restaurants. Today the Critic will discuss one of these, the interestingly-named Partners and Brothers Burgerlab. Or Burguerlab.

Accompanied by the MiniCritic, the CRC went for a late lunch, around 4 PM which is neither here nor there in terms of dinner or lunch, to try out this burger option in the formerly white city.

Why is it called Partners and Brothers? I had a look at the website to find out more, and found the typical message of FUN! and FRESH! and COOL! with lots of really great English words sprinkled throughout (at the top of the website: HOME / SOMOS / FOOD / DRINKS / CONTACTO – why?) to make it all so much more international. Burger is spelled Burguer and then it isn’t, which shows an impressive eye for detail considering it is in their name. The annoying video on the home page says that at this restaurant, which seems like a clone of the Fridays or Bostons concept, at one point says:¬†enjoy…¬† partners, with your brothers. Um, OK. I don’t understand, but maybe it’s in English so that’s cool in itself, regardless of any possible meaning. By the way, the video and its ear-worm jingle will continue playing as long as you are on the website, ad nauseum.

The experience was a mix. The food is perfectly acceptable: the MiniCritic had a half kilo of BBQ ribs, which were tasty enough and the Critic had the Louisiana Burger, a monstrously high collection of many ingredients stacked on home-made bread. The bread kind of fell apart quickly, with the juices of the meat and the caramelized onions, but the flavor overall was very good. Home-made chips (as in potato chips) are an option and while they were fine, they seemed to have been sprinkled with either lemon or vinegar and the sour taste was not to the Critics liking. A dessert of apple tart, described in flowery terms as soaked in Jack Daniels blah blah blah, was frankly, inedible. The coffee is of the Nespresso machine variety.

Quibbles?

Service, as is so often the case in Merida, was spotty. The waiter was friendly enough, when he was around. To get the drink order, one must get up to get a waiters attention. Many staff members are lounging about, absorbed in their smartphones and whatever exciting stuff is going on in there.

Considering the place had been open for three hours, you would think that things would be ready for the evening rush. However, sauces in glass bottles on the table were not full and had that look like they had been there since last month, with crusty bits inside and a generally unappealing look to them.

A visit to the bathroom revealed that there was no paper towel in the dispenser to dry ones hands after washing, that in spite of the obligatory cleaning schedule on the door which obviously no one was paying any attention to.

Dirty dishes on the table containing rib bones and burger/burguer carcasses had to be looked at for the longest time until the Critic, on his way to the bathroom, interrupted the waiter who was smartphoning with his compa√Īeros, and mentioned that he might want to clear away the dishes.

That caesar salad! A caesar salad is a caesar salad. If you leave out the dressing with the anchovies, throw in a tomato and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds you no longer have the right to call this a caesar salad. Call it a bloody pumpkin seed salad, or a Mayan salad, or make up another name. It’s NOT a caesar salad for crying out loud.

So overall, this restaurant does not impress. The Critic suspects that it is popular with the drinking crowd in the evenings, especially on the terrace where there is a nice breeze and it is quite pleasant, in spite of the horrific view of traffic and concrete that makes up the area around Altabrisa. Then again, with drinks on the expensive side, including a bottle of scotch you can enjoy with your brothers (or partners) for a paltry $13,000 pesos, the target market might be a bit fuzzy.

Verdict? Don’t bother. Friday’s is directly across the hall from them, on the second floor of the mall, and they have their act together and will provide you with a more predictable American-style food experience. Partners and Brothers is a poor imitation.

 

That habanero sauce really does look disgusting

The room. There are over 30 TV screens all around

Amstel Ultra chelada

The Caesar salad that isn’t

The burger/burguer. You can squish it down so it fits in your mouth. Best part of the experience (the burger, not the squishing part)

Burger accompanied by chips

BBQ ribs, corn on the cob and in the little bowl, mashed potatoes that the MiniCritic said were tasty

This apple tart, in spite of its flowery description on the menu, was pretty much inedible

 

 

 

 

Highlights from the Club Sibarita Festival Gastronomico 2019

The Critic and his Better Half bought tickets for several culinary events for this year’s version of Club Sibarita’s¬†Festival Gastronomico 2019, the third such festival in Merida and now recognized nationally as an event worth attending. Chefs from all over Mexico (including Merida of course) and places further afield are in attendance, showcasing their talents with exquisite creations for attendees to swoon over.

Events at Pueblo Pibil in Tixcocob, Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca in Merida and the Hacienda Xcanatun were packed and the food was truly amazing. It made for some very late nights, and often the Critic and BH were home around 1 in the morning, full of great food and excellent wine courtesy of Casa Madero.

Enjoy some photos of the highlights of the events! First up: Pueblo Pibil, in Tixcocob for a leisurely and delectable lunch. Click on the photos to make them grow magically.

Next stop: Hacienda Xcanatun for the Fine Dining signature Sibarito event.

Lastly, Taste the Best at Altozano:

El Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca

The Critic and BH along with MiniCritic, enjoyed a solid, good, Yucatecan lunch on Sunday at the new-ish and already very popular Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca. (Note and hola to Jan Morgan: the information on where it is etc. is in the link which is the name)

First of all, this is a gigantic restaurant especially compared with the cramped quarters of the also popular Chaya Maya or others, probably because it is an old colonial-era home of one of the henequen barons from back in the day. So you have a huge interior open-air patio surrounded by terraces and rooms which make up the area for tables. Each of the rooms features a henequen (sisal) based theme that is still being completed and will be finished very soon.

In the back, there is a re-creation of a small Mayan “village” complete with the requisite kitchen structure where two or three mestiza women make hand-made tortillas. Other chozas feature information and displays on ingredients¬†used in Yucatecan cooking. Explanations are in Spanish and English, and the Critic is happy to report that the translations are pretty good. Also in the back yard is the pib area, or cooking pit(s) where the food is cooked, in the traditional way of the Yucatecan pueblos. On this visit, the Critic arrived in time to see, along with a dozen or so other interested diners, the moment when the ‘relleno negro’ was pulled out of the pib, and samples were given out – delicious!

In addition to all this, there is a gift shop and a small museum-like display of artifacts and ingredients typically used in the preparation of Yucatecan food and it is evident that someone took their time to arrange and present all this in an attractive and professional manner.

The food was excellent. Well prepared and tasted as it should. BH enjoyed one of her favorite dishes, a Sunday Merida classic called puchero de tres carnes, MC and the Critic both had queso relleno, which is the standard (for the Critic) by which all Yucatecan restaurants are measured. This queso relleno, complete with capers, raisins and almonds is the real deal and is up there with the best of them. Brazo de reina and a small mucbilpollo or tamal were had as appetizers. The first was good, while the tamal was just OK and lacked the crispiness of the fresh-baked version.

Keep in mind that this is heavy food; very filling and you will need a siesta afterward. Don’t feel the need to try everything the first time you visit. You can come back. And don’t eat this at night, for crying out loud: Yucatecan food is a mid-day thing.

What really blew the Critics mind, however, especially after recent forays into various “fancy” restaurants and their indifferent or just plain inadequate service, was the service at the Museo. Santos arrived at the table to introduce himself and when offering drinks made a smooth, professional, sales pitch that convinced all three members of the Critics lunch group to try the house cocktail. Throughout the meal, Santos was not more than a hand-wave away, in spite of having several tables under his charge. There was no intrusiveness, no slinking up to the table, no mumbling and no arriving with the dishes and not knowing to whom they belonged. So, a big shout-out to Santos – keep it up!

The location will make this place very successful and if they keep up the quality of the food and service, this place should be around for a while. Enjoy the photos!

The least photogenic of any appetizer in the world, these are black beans (l) and sikil pak (r) along with tostadas. The sikil pak is excellent.

Shot of the museum part of the restaurant

Gift shop

Museum from the other side

A little pueblo in the back yard – your clue that you’re not somewhere else is the building poking out between the trees

One of the chozas and the display

Inside the choza: here we have an explanation of recado verde

There’s cooking going on right now, under there.

Pueblo in the foreground with a giant hotel in the background for context

A fizzy but not too sweet opener

Brazo de Reina I

Tamalito known as mucbilpolloI

Mucbilpollo II

Brazo de Reina II

Preparing to uncover the pib

The chef explains what is happening here

After carefully removing the earth, the laminated tin sheet is taken off the pit

With the tin sheet removed, this is what you see. Jabin leaves and branches aromatize the food

A treasure chest, waiting to be opened

Forget gold coins and trinkets. This treasure chest contains something much more memorable

Preparing a sample for those watching

Aguas frescas de chaya y ramon. Yes, ramon.

Puchero!

Queso Relleno!

The Casual Restaurant Critic – A Sake Experience at Irori

 

Irori at night

Thanks to the beloved Better Half and her connections, the Critic was able to join BH at the inauguration of the new Roberto Solis project Irori, a sushi bar to rival what Merida already has in that very popular segment.

 

This was not a restaurant visit in the normal sense of the word; there were lots of samples generously served by the restaurant along with sake and sake-based drinks, all of which was not only delicious but¬†much appreciated. The restaurant has been open for a few months now, but this was the ‘official’ opening.

The restaurant is beautiful and is an offshoot of the original and highly successful Irori in Cancun. The sushi bar, in particular, is inviting – ie. you are not staring at the back of a refrigerated countertop fish container – and a real option for those who enjoy sitting there and talking to the chefs as opposed to a table. Chef Solis commented that he will be presenting omakase tasting menus in the near future which the Critic will happy to experience.

Good music, good food, a beautiful room and plenty of beautiful people made this a stand-out event.

Below is a selection of photos featuring some of the people attending, the food served and of course the restaurant itself.

The sushi bar

Rolling up some sushi

A few words

Ribbon cutting I

Ribbon cutting II

 

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Tostada Madre, Food Court, La Isla

Every once in a while, you will find yourself in a mall. And if you are in Cabo Norte, you will find yourself in La Isla, the new behemoth just north of the periférico at City Center. The mall has a food court and after careful examination and trial and error, the Critic has decided that the Tostada Madre restaurant is the best option, as long as you like seafood. And tostadas. Priced at between 70 and 120 pesos, each tostada is a mountain of deliciousness and the Critic highly recommends you give them a try.

For drinks of an alcoholic nature, you can order them from waiters passing by or the bar located in the middle of the food court. At the restaurants, the offerings are mostly sodas and local drinks like iced tea, horchata or jamaica.

Mojito from the bar

This is octopus, battered and deep fried on a corn tostada

Shrimp

Arrachera

Tuna, avocado, on a crispy cheese tostada

 

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Tatemar, Cabo Norte

Tatemar, the latest restaurant from the masters that created the uber-popular Apoala, is in the new La Isla Mall, inside another upscale area known as Cabo Norte. There is a dearth of marine references lately that was only hinted at with the arrival of wind-themed Altabrisa . You have La Isla (the island) and now The Harbour or Via Montejo. All with artificial lakes and a definite Miami look. Very aspirational, to put it nicely.

But the Critic, as he so often does, digresses and spouts commentary on things not related to the restaurant in question.

When you arrive at Tatemar¬†you may recognize a few faces from Apoala among the wait-staff, which will indicate to you that you’re in the right place, and not accidentally in the Brazilian rodizio¬†next door which is always packed by the way.

The restaurant is of course, beautiful and situated in front of the ‘lake’ with what will soon be a condominium background, the setting is very pretty. One thing the developers of this mall and it’s water feature perhaps didn’t contemplate was that water attracts flies. There were some fruit flies buzzing around inside the restaurant to remind one that one was in the tropics – something to think about for both future water-themed mega projects and present-day restaurants where the last thing you want is for your diners to have to be swatting insects away from their pricey entree.

The Critic and his always charming Better Half arrived as a staff meeting was taking place so there was a momentary lull during which no one arrived at the table for any reason, least of all to take drink orders. No one minds sitting out a staff meeting, but throw a few peanuts and a drink to those waiting in the restaurant, would be the Critics suggestion.

Drinks to start: Mayahuel, a Critic favorite from Apoala and BH had the Mezcal Mule. Both were deliciously amazing and pretty to look at.

A selection of tostadas; tuna, shrimp and fish, to start and for the main dish, a pescado zarandeado, split open and cooked on the grill, the robalo (sea bass) was terrific and too big (sizes vary) to finish after the fishy tostadas.

While it’s not cheap, Tatemar is a great place for a fancy night out dinner away from El Centro.

The room (staff meeting underway)

Mezcal collection

Mezcal Mule (that’s a bit of real honeycomb)

The Mayahuel cocktail, with its signature smoking rosemary

Mezcal Mule close-up

Home made salsas verde y roja

Pescado zarandeado

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Kinich yet again

Kinich, in Izamal, is the bomb. Go have lunch there if you haven’t, for some of the best Yucatecan food on the peninsula, served by smiling young ladies in a beautiful thatched roof restaurant.

Smoky longaniza

Salbutes

Sikil pak

Queso Relleno

Relleno negro

Nance and coconut sherbet/ice cream. Flan in the background