Tag Archives: meat

The Casual Restaurant Critic visits Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos, the latest entry into the expensive and hipster steak restaurant category has the distinctive pedigree of being owned by the same folks that own and presumably operate 130 degrees, where the Critic once had the most expensive meal ever in Merida, is now open in what used to be the Tony Roma’s restaurant spot, near the periférico and across the road from City Center (Walmart). Whether or not this opening caused the demise of the Gloria Cantinera directly in front remains – at the time of this writing and to the author of said writing – a mystery.

Cienfuegos (literal translation; a hundred fires) is a beautiful restaurant. Potentially award-winning interior design and details abound that make the space very photogenic indeed. If you pick up on some similarities between the newest Miyabi restaurants and this place, it is probably because the same architectural firm designed and executed this. CHECK THIS

Besides the great room, you want to hear a bit about the staff. The hostess was on her cellular when the twenty-something MiniCritic arrived, ignoring her at the door for some time as she finished up with her phone call. The Critic, being a 50-plus male, had no waiting at the door.

The Mini Critic and Better Half had arrived before the Critic and so when the Critic sat down, brought in by the hostess, he expected a waiter to pop by to see if he wanted a drink but alas, this was not to be. The Critic flagged down what turned out to be the waiter and asked if a drink order was possible. The waiter seemed a little upset and perfunctorily answered the questions without much in the way of friendliness. Throughout the lunch, the service was lacking and every time something was needed, Critic and Co had to flag someone down. At one point the Critic stepped outside for a phone call and when the waiter also stepped outside, there was not a flicker of recognition on the waiter’s face as they crossed paths.

Now it may seem petty and trivial to narrow in on these details but when you see how much money they have invested in the decoration and architecture, this lack of training by management is unforgivable in the Critics never humble opinion.

The food, including some XXX and a rather massive cowboy steak (it was the Critics birthday) was excellent and cooked to order as asked. There was a lost sales opportunity in that the waiter did not mention the sides that were available. These were on the menu, but the wait staff should – again in the Critics never humble opinion – reinforce these options and make the effort to get the sale.

The Moscow Mule was great and did pack a kick, as it should, but here, no one came around to ask if another drink was desired. Another missed sales opportunity.

In the appetizer department, the bone marrow topped with escamole or ant eggs (popular in Oaxaca) won the Most Exotic prize, while the pear carpaccio with goat cheese and other curious ingredients, took the award for most surprisingly delicious appetizer. The dry noodles were tasty but eat too much of this and you will not have room for your main course.

All in all, the restaurant is a beautiful place and is new, which means it is full of the young rich hipster and NiNi crown who have more money than you probably do and can afford such luxuries without having the neurotic demands that someone like the Critic manifests in his picky observations. The food is good, albeit expensive. The service, like so very many restaurants in the formerly white city, is not at all commensurate with the quality of the food and beverages and the decor. It seems that Merida restaurant owners are not too concerned with providing a quality experience in every aspect and frankly, the clientele apparently attaches precious little to the concept of being served decently.

Tal para cual.

Tuna, crusted with pistachio

Ceviche with fried calamar

Here you can see a little of what they have done with the ceiling. This is wood.

Another shot of the pistachio-crusted tuna

The cowboy steak, a bone-in rib eye cooked to perfection, no sides and no distractions

Cowboy meat and fat close-up.

Bone chunks (marrow inside) topped with escamole ie ant eggs. Really. Quite Decadent. (appetizer)

Fideo Seco, or Dry Noodles (appetizer)

Pear carpaccio (appetizer)


Casual Restaurant Critic visits La Gloria Cantinera

img_5007In the strangely named Plaza Mangus, which is home to several culinary offerings including the heavily overpriced and nothing special yet somehow still around Tony Roma’s, there is a new restaurant that the Critic can recommend highly, based on now two visits.

Located in the space once occupied by the Bodeguita and directly across from Los Trompos at City Center, La Gloria Cantinera is a cantina run by the folks who own La Recova and it is a quality operation from the food to the service to the actual room.

The guacamole presented in a molcajete is excellent, as are the spiced tostadas accompanying the fresh and zesty salsas, served tiny stone pots. Anything pork has proven to be outstanding including the chamorro cooked with mezcal, the slab of ribs with a hint of spice cooked to tender perfection and the chicharron which makes an appearance here and there. The sirloin tacos with tuetano (bone marrow) are fantastic, the tortillas are hand made, the cucumber lemonade is a great non-alcoholic drink and the salmon tostadas that the critic tried on this visit were amazing.

The churro cart for dessert is not only original, it’s contents are amazingly addictive. Have them take those crispy sugary treats before you eat them all, which you might, and then regret as your stomach protests. The churros are accompanied by three dipping sauces: berries, chocolate and Bailey’s. You have been warned.

Service is professional, cordial and the way it should be – attentive but not intrusive.

This restaurant may well be on the Critic’s short list of best places to eat in Merida, based on the experiences had so far!

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The Casual Restaurant Critic at Tio Ricardo


The TV. Perfect for sports events and not thinking about the service.


If you have lived in Merida for any length of time and have had the misfortune to have to listen to a local radio station, you may have heard the ads for this restaurant, which have not changed in the last 5 or more years, where two males with fake northern Mexico accents make the smooth transition from talking about how difficult life is to deciding to go to the Tio Ricardo restaurant, “un rincon de Monterrey en Merida

Yesterday the Critic and a supplier of shirts who we shall call Mr. Shirt went for lunch at this restaurant, located at the corner of 8 and 23 streets in Itzimná in the formerly white city. Not because life is particularly difficult but because Mr. Shirt thought that it would be a good place for lunch and that the guacamole there was the best in town.

The Critic hadn’t been at Tio Ricardo for at least 20 years and was surprised to hear it was still around. It was, although how they manage that is a mystery.

The tables and chairs are real (not plastic) which is always a plus in the Critics book, and the walls feature a lot of wood paneling and photographs in black and white of things from northern Mexico. The waiter who the Critic saw upon entering the place with Mr. Shirt was busily stuffing something into his mouth, half hidden behind a wall. The place is essentially a house, with the different rooms turned into dark, woody caves that would be ideal if you were planning on a secret meetup with someone and needed discretion, perhaps.

When the waiter – and here the term is used loosely to describe an individual who has the task of taking food orders and bringing them to clients tables – came and asked what would be the order. Mr. Shirt began by asking about a “package” for two people that had an assortment of meats and so on.

“We don’t do packages” was the curt reply from the unsmiling, unwelcoming and evidently uninterested individual brandishing his little notepad and pen.

Mr. Shirt, unfazed, continued “but I am pretty sure there was a parrillada (grilled platter) or something for two, no?”

Curt was equally unfazed. “No, we don’t have that” No mention of anything that might please his client or a suggestion perhaps. No additional information came out of his unsmiling mouth as he impatiently waited, pen poised at the ready over his notebook.

Finally, a pair of steaks were ordered, along with the entradas, apparently a “package” but for one person at a time. “What appetizers do you want to repeat?” asked Curt, since each steak plate came with two appetizers and there were only three on the menu – melted/baked cheese, guacamole, and grilled sausages. Since Mr. Shirt had mentioned the great guacamole, the Critic said “bring us two guacamoles” and Curt left without further comment.

Curt returned with the drinks and eventually the appetizers. The guacamole was good, served in the form of a block on a side plate like it had been prepared in a tub, refrigerated and then sliced off like a huge swath of green banana bread. The chips were crunchy and they have the giant flour tostadas that one could find in Monterrey restaurants. Tortillas too. The sausage was, in the Critics opinion, the cheap fatty kind and not great, while the melted/baked cheese was pretty tasty.

The steaks finally arrived, while Mr. Shirt and the Critic were treated to an episode of SmokeJumpers with Spanish dialogue on the large flat screen TV on the wall, being watched by another table and two waiters who occasionally glanced down at their cell phones to update their Facebook accounts or whatever they were doing. The steaks, one rib eye and one New York, can be ordered medium rare or medium, blue rare or tres cuartos but however you decide you want your meat done, it matters not and the steaks will be (and were) well done. OK. The Critic was not going to fight with Curt on this occasion, and especially not since Mr. Shirt had picked the restaurant. But, really?

Other things the Critic noticed included the fact that there were other waiters in the restaurant, none of whom seemed particularly pleased to be there and perhaps were only filling in time on a prison work release program. The men’s bathroom, thoughtfully and overwhelmingly perfumed with Pinol floor cleaner has no door, and there is no evident ventilation system so if you do have to eat here, I would suggest a table as far away from the mens’ room as possible, as the possibility of bathroom smell interfering with the enjoyment of your well done steak might be less than pleasant.

The Critic always enjoys a lousy restaurant and this one is not worth the time or the calories or the money – not much, the bill came to $250 pesos per person with a 10% tip and no alcohol – and there are SO many new and infinitely better options in Merida now. While the food is not horrible, the “service” certainly matches that description perfectly. How this place survives is one of those mysteries that Gordon Ramsey might enjoy.

You have been warned.


On the plus side: real chairs.


They are crunchy and that’s another positive.


A chipped salsa bowl that should have been thrown out years ago.


A guacamole brick. It is cold and tastes fresh.


The melted cheese is a highlight.


Skip these. Your arteries will thank you.


Order it anyway you want. It will likely be well done.