Tag Archives: mexico

Brown People

There is and always has been a palpable racist element in this country and you will see, in the hundreds of interactions the well-to-do Mexican upper classes have with their supposed inferiors, a total disregard for these browner versions of themselves.

Look around. You will see it everywhere.

Privileged kids at private school
dropping wrappers and plastic bottles
Brown People

Dirty dishes in the sink
greasy pots and pans
Brown People

Enemas and bandages
bedpans and injections
Brown People

The Lincoln on Montejo
garbage out the window
Brown People

The traffic accident
blue lights flashing
Brown People

The Barbie Mom
coffee after the gym
Brown People

Babies in strollers
families at the mall
Brown People

The busy executive
car at the valet
Brown People

Gym workout
towels, wrappers, water everywhere
Brown People

The children’s party
the piñata bursts open
Brown People

The drug war rages
who to fight the cartels
Brown People

Fortunes made
henequen industry families
Brown People

A stray shopping cart
supermarket parking lot
Brown People

Political unrest
thugs beating up citizens
Brown People

Morning TV show
the silver-toothed buffoon
Brown People

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Crabster in Progreso

Crabster is the newest addition to the food scene in Progreso, which until now, has been made up entirely of plastic Coca Cola chairs, familial service (cousins and siblings doing the serving with no training whatsoever) and the same tired menus at each and every restaurant. Thankfully, they have taken the bar and raised it substantially, which means you can now have a great meal right on the malecon in Progreso!

A recent visit impressed the Critic – the menu is vast, the actual restaurant is beautiful and the service is professional. The food? Fantastic. Highly recommended when you want to take someone to a civilized lunch or dinner overlooking the waterfront and not be kicking dogs or cats under your table or getting your food as it comes out of the kitchen meaning everyone in your party eats at a different time.

Enjoy the photos and plan a trip to Progreso’s Crabster soon!

 

The Casual Restaurant Critics Re-Visits Merci

It seems amazing that THREE YEARS have gone by since the Critic first tried breakfast at Merci! It has, in the interim, become a definite go-to place not only for the delicious breakfasts but also the very good lunch offerings.

Merci

You can read the previous mentions of Merci here. And for some more photos of the menu items off the breakfast menu, here.

This mini-review is just to keep the Critics’ faithful seven readers up to date and in the loop, in case you are not, on the latest and greatest at Merci.

Owner Regina has been busy making changes both to the menu and to her operation, and has expanded the locale to make it a bit larger, thanks to demand from her loyal following. The changes are palpable, as the service has become more professional, the ambience is more relaxed and seems less stressed (due to her amazing success) and the menu features new and tasty options.

It remains a top choice for breakfast and lunch and is an excellent spot to have a meal if you are in the northern part of the city, doing your non-colonial Merida errands. 🙂

Enjoy the photos, from a recent lunch visit with the always charming Better Half!

Interior shot

Seared tuna tostadas

Fish of the day – spectacular!

Salad

That’s pork belly. Can’t beat pork belly

Pear crumble could have been better with a more tart fruit to offset the sweet

The Casual Restaurant Critic visits Peruano

The Casual Restaurant Critic and his lovely Better Half were celebrating. It was an anniversary and that dangerous time of the year was coming up (pib season in the Yucatan) and so, the Critic thought, something light, but special. He had seen the Peruano on the occasional drive-by near Santa Lucia in el centro de Merida, but had never stopped in.

What a pleasant surprise!

A colorful, beautiful little restaurant serving all things Peruvian with a few local touches. The famous ceviches are very present, as well as other combinations that have put Peruvian cuisine on the map in the last decade or so.

The house drink, a Pisco Sour, was absolutely fantastic. It was necessary to repeat the drink order as the first round went down far too quickly.

The ceviche trio – a sampler, and perfect for two people – makes for a great appetizer. They are fresh, zesty and refreshingly cold. Critic liked the tuna ceviche best. Fried yuca was great. The little bowl of crispy but not rock-hard corn, lightly salted and with that smoky flavor of the fire, was a nice touch.

For a little bit of carbohydrates, some coconut rice was ordered which was delicious and accompanied perfectly the ceviche.

Service was great, from the on-site Peruvian waiter who seems to be in charge of things. Make sure you get him to help you with your menu choices as he knows what he is talking about. Air conditioned and beautiful little room.

The bill, which you must find in one of the drawers of the little piece of furniture brought to your table, was completely acceptable, given the level of food, the location and the service.

Another – thankfully great – addition to the Santa Lucia restaurant scene.

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The Casual Restaurant Critic is buying new pants – Hermana Republica reviewed!

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Hola!

Just when you thought it was safe to visit a restaurant without some idiot snapping photos of every single dish, the Critic strikes again, camera in hand, to review the Hermana Republica on the Merida-Progreso highway.

If you haven’t seen it, you have been spending far too much time in El Centro de Merida, where admittedly the offerings have been improving and where the Critic does not often venture, what with the dearth of parking and the enormous amount of time it takes to get there from his casa.

The Hermana República (sister republic) is an affectionate term for the Yucatan, employed by long-time fans of an independent Yucatan and the occasional jokester who understands that the Yucatan is a different place from the rest of the República Mexicana.  The restaurant that bears this name is located just after the Xcanatun exit on the afore-mentioned highway and features a very large, very in-your-face Yucatecan flag flapping proudly. This flag was the actual flag used when the Yucatan was an independent state back in the day, separate from the hated waches and other foreign meddlers (except for International Harvester – that was alright)

But, and in the keeping of this long-standing blog, the Critic digresses once again.

You want to hear about the restaurant and the Critic can tell you without hesitation that the food is great! While Better Half had pork cooked with mushrooms and a delicious gravy that warranted ordering the excellent (really – excellent!) french fries to soak up the juice, the Critic ordered the pork ribs cooked in smoky adobe. To the side of the ribs was sour and crunchy esquite corn, sans cream thank god. Both dishes were fantastic. Five stars on the food. Again, just to be clear, the french fries are disturbingly delicious – the Critic had to have them removed from the table in order not to devour the entire generous helping.

Appetizers included the guacamole with chicharron and sikil-pak, which is a must for any restaurant flying the Yucatan flag so proudly. That was really the only ‘typical’ dish on the menu. No queso relleno, no poc chuc, no relleno negro. The truth is, no hacen falta. No need to duplicate what others are already doing, in some cases well.

There was also a trio of very fresh salsas: tomate verde, chiltomate and habanero. It’s been a while since the Critic had such fresh salsas; they literally dance on your tongue and don’t just lie there like a tomato-flavored piece of sock as is so often the sad case in many Merida restaurants. The tostadas too, deserve special mention. They are baked apparently, thick and smoky tasting, like in some pueblo – and anyone who appreciates such subtleties can not stop eating them.

Service is adequate and friendly with the usual quiet/shy/unsure component shining through ; the room is essentially a box but a tastefully decorated and well air-conditioned one so it feels cozy. The furniture is real, no plastic.

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Skip dessert; the apple pie with vanilla ice cream was the choice but the pastry is too dough-y, which is overbearing and those poor apple chunks (and there aren’t that many of them) get lost in their heavy casing. It is warm though and potentially could be good with the ice cream on the side. Perhaps switch to a crumble? No photo because by the time the Critic remembered, the poor tart had already been jackhammered to death.

It should be noted that this is (out back) the actual brewery where Patito beer is made. You have heard of Patito beer? It along with Maneek and Ceiba are the microbreweries that are putting Yucatan beer making back on the map where it should be. So of course beer is highlighted on the menu also and one can order 2 samplers with four beers each (5 ounce glasses – you can do this) to try all eight varieties of local, microbrewed cerveza.  From stout and porter to Weizenbier, there is surely a cerveza for you here. Critic’s choice? Vanilla Porter and Belgian Blonde. Take a chew of a tostada between each beer to cleanse the palate.

Outside, there is a courtyard with wooden picnic tables and a row of food trucks that start up in the evenings, creating a biergarten atmosphere, hidden just a few meters from the busy highway. No retenes either out this way!

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Chichen Itza – Random Imagery

A menagerie of tourists
wandering herds of pampered human flesh
bright white sneakers, tomato-red faces, tank tops with sunburnt arms dangling

scrawny brown vendors en masse
hogging shady trees,
waving shiny trinkets, “Juan Dolla!”

weary, burnt-out guides
in mirrored sunglasses, white guayaberas washed to the point of transparency
“now look over here, my friends” ad nauseum

wrinkled wizened face
the ancient tiny Mayan lady’s sad eyes
“hankie 10 pesos” her only English

sweaty lineups
crowded bathrooms and overpriced ice cream shops
tourists in heat-exhausted stupors, indifferent employees

“hat my friend, hat my friend”
brown woman ignored by the pale masses
climbing the stairs to their overheated destiny

flocks of silver buses
motors racing, air conditioners on high
parked, waiting for their victims to return, the driver snoring in his undershirt

Wonder of the World
Chichen Itza Disney-fied
and cash cow to the government

Casual Restaurant Critic – Truck Chef

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Here’s a little mini-review from the Casual Restaurant Critic on just one of the many food trucks now sprouting up all over the place; Truck Chef is one of the more popular options.

This food truck features burgers for the most part and they are good; worth hunting down a location which you an do my checking their Facebook page, which also features a lot of really enticing photos that will make your mouth water. Besides burgers there are also some healthier options (pork belly tacos are not only delicious, they are healthy. Aren’t they???) and the whole menu has a rock and roll theme, in case you hadn’t picked up on that.

https://www.facebook.com/TruckChef

Verdict? Good stuff!

 

 

 

The Casual Hotel Critic visits Hyatt Zilara in Cancun, Mexico

The Casual Hotel Critic doesn’t show up as often on this website as the Casual Restaurant Critic, but occasionally he pops in and offers observations on a hotel or two, which might or might not help you with your travel planning.

This time, the Casual Hotel Critic and his lovely Better Half – yes, like the Casual Restaurant Critic – this one also has a Better Half – visited the number three hotel in Cancun on TripAdvisor, as numbers one and two were already booked due to it being Semana Santa aka Easter break. The hotel, formerly called The Royal, is now the Hyatt Zilara and the overall impression is positive.

For the money, this hotel should be perfect. And in many aspects, it is.

A positive, no kids. Nothing against the little critters, but the CHC has been there and done that and occasionally he likes to relax in an adult environment, devoid of screaming, crying and whining by the kids, followed by reprimanding, cajoling and wimpy caving in by exhausted parents.

It’s all inclusive. Normally the Critic eschews this kind of accommodation, but when all one wants to do is vegetate in the sun and eat and drink at will, not having to fish out a wallet or sign a bill is very welcome indeed. And the Hyatt Zilara offers up quality drinks (would that restaurants in Merida understand how to prepare a decent mojito like the one served here) and tasty, quality food, from its silly little billiard room where people are playing Jenga that offers a delicious chili that would do well in the Merida English Library’s Chili Cookoff competition to the Chefs Plate restaurant (more on that later).

Large Asian clientele. You can’t help but notice that you are surrounded by young Asian couples, mostly Japanese and Korean. A waiter informs the CHC that the hotel is a destination for honeymooners from Asia and that all the people one sees are on their honeymoon. This is an advantage because they are not raucous and screaming, although there were some partiers from Quebec at the beach who insisted on screaming their French Canadian jokes across five beach cabañas and would follow up each ‘joke’ with loud nasal cackles not unlike a gaggle of geese discovering a previously unseen dish of corn feed.

Hands on hearts. One is taken aback at first but comes to expect it from even the gardener or the painter who is touching up some railings. Each greeting and question is answered with a slight downward nod of the head and a hand placed over the employees heart. In some cases it works, while in others it seems a little forced and still others forget to put their hands on their hearts when they say ‘hola’ as they pass you by. Apparently this is to convey to you, the honored guest, the sincerity of their commitment to you. Again, sometimes believable, other times not so much.

A fantastic beach. When you come to Cancun you don’t come to experience the noise of the Kukulkan boulevard with its polluting noisy buses racing side by side cutting off little green and white Tsuru taxis with their fist-banging, head-shaking irate drivers. You come for the beach, which is what Cancun was all about back in the day before the spring breakers came and it went from ‘exclusive destination’ to Daytona Beach with chiles. And the Hyatt Zilara still has that beach. The entire front of the hotel is beach and it is carefully tractored and groomed each morning so that people will not find any nasty seaweed as they make their way, like baby turtles, to the waves crashing out front. It’s mostly too rough to swim, but there are lifeguards and one can wade out a little and getting refreshingly battered by the waves that, once, they have reached the shore, come back with equal strength the other way, challenging you to keep your footing and not get sucked out to sea. A lifeguard watches this and will blast a short whistle if you get anywhere near waist-deep.

Good food. It’s always a toss-up as to whether or not one will get decent food at an all-inclusive, but the CHC is happy to say that the CRC would be happy and well, there would be happiness all around. Good food. Not over-the-top unbelievable, but good. There are several restaurants to choose from:

Spice is the go to buffet standby when everything else is booked, closed or too fancy. It’s not Caesars Palace and the Bacchanal Buffet by any remote, way off-in-the-distance stretch of the imagination, but there is a small variety of items that are of acceptable quality.

Asiana has – you guessed it – Asian food and a teppan-yaki ‘show’ that is borderline cheesy but the honeymooners seemed to enjoy it. Sushi is available as an appetizer before the teppan-yaki but this is nothing to send pigeons home about. Mostly rice with a hint of fish, it made the CHC almost cringe in embarrassment for the Asian couples around him and Better Half. What were they thinking? The final product is a lot of food so don’t overdo it on the rice-y sushi.

Pelicanos is the casual all-purpose restaurant on the beach, with a great view and great staff. Very attentive, the food is very good and with that view, it’s a winner. Portions are small so you can order lots if you are hungry and try many different items from the short but varied menu.

Chef’s Plate is the other high end restaurant that, along with Asiana’s teppan yaki show, one needs reservations for. In either case, the CHC and BH just showed up and waited for no-shows which was the case on both nights, so they got in with no difficulty. Ladies, wear dressy sandals at least for the Chef’s Plate as you won’t get in with flip flops. They are trying to maintain a certain decorum here. This restaurant was the best of the bunch. A long table for about 20 people, and a tasting menu featuring fish, duck, salad, dessert and a few more plates. The menu was explained by a talented Porfirio who spoke English, Spanish and Japanese to his guests and, as each dish was served to the diners, he would then explain what the ingredients were and how it was made, again in three languages.

Special shout out to believe it was Jennifer at the front desk who seemed genuinely concerned about everything to do with the CHC and BH’s stay, especially after finding out that the room she had assigned had a ladder in front of it and was obviously being maintained. She later approached BH and offered a spa treatment which was quite nice.

It is a very expensive hotel and so, one notices these little details a bit more. Great stay though if you can swing it or find a good promo.

Website and more info here: http://cancun.zilara.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

Another Morning in El Mercado – El Chile Pica

El chile pica” warned the waiter, pointing to the blackened chile habanero bits mushed up in the little bowl.

The gringo smiled. He had eaten chiles before. Had even watched a show by Rick Bayless once where Rick explained how to spot a particularly spicy one.

De verdad pica; tenga cuidado” repeated the waiter.

He seemed truly concerned and hovered for another moment at the red plastic table watching the gringo, who nodded and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.

The waiter turned back to the counter to pick up another order; mondongo para la mesa cuatro, his Mom told him from behind the counter, hands slick with pork fat as she worked the lechon.

He was setting down the spicy soup at table four when he heard a loud cough and the scrape of a plastic chair being violently pushed on concrete; the gringo was standing up waving his hands in the air and his mouth opening and closing like a freshly caught pescado. Comical almost, if it wasn’t for the fact that he looked like he was going to die right there.

Pinche gringo, que bruto; se lo dije” he thought to himself.

People at the other tables smiled bemusedly at the gringo’s predicament and those nearby held out their drinks or some tortillas, all of which the gringo ignored, not out of rudeness of course but because he simply couldn’t see them, his eyes were watering so bad.

Mom was already out from behind the counter, arms around the stumbling gringo and leading him towards the counter where Luisa had some milk in a glass. Mom was also stuffing tortillas in his mouth to soak up the picante.

Little by little, his eyes drying and the coughing subsiding, the gringo came back to this world. He opened his eyes to find himself sitting at a stool by the counter with everyone looking at him. He gave a limp wave with one hand.

Bien, estoy bien” he said lifting one hand and looking somewhat chagrined. Everyone smiled and returned to their meals.

He walked slowly, almost carefully, to his table and sat down to finish his tacos.

The waiter stopped by at the table.

Esta bien? Si pica el chile verdad? Se lo dije no? he asked with a not unkind smile.

Oh, si!” said the gringo and gave a feeble laugh. The waiter patted the gringo’s shoulder and moved back to the counter.

Tacos de lechon para la dos. His Mom gave him a wink.

 

Casual Restaurant Critic at the new Miyabi

As of this writing, Miyabi has moved its operation from the commercially doomed plaza on Prolongacion Montejo that features DHL, Carls Jr. (or Burger King – can’t remember which) and Walk To Wok, to a sparkly new location in the new shopping center where Merci is located, somewhere between the San Angelo condominiums and City Center.

The space is gorgeous, and the first thing you will notice when walking in is that the staff has cuadrupled. There are servers and busboys and who knows what else almost outnumbering the potential clients.

On the occasion of this visit, the Casual Restaurant Critic and better half went for a few pieces of nigiri and the always superb ramen soup. Not much to say on that end except that both were excellent.

Service was better than usual but still lacks a real friendly touch.  Many of the waiters are still as sullen as they were at the previous location and the new faces look like they are trying but the Critic suspects they will soon be contaminated with whatever grumpy virus the name carries with it.

Another thing that seemed odd and definitely detracted from the feel of the place is that all the lights were off. This was not a CFE thing as the kitchen was lit as were the little bonsai feng shui garden elements. The dining room was dark and it made for a rather cold feel.

If you are in the mood for ramen, definitely go here. It’s only 95 pesos and is a meal in itself. Sushi is fine, but you will get far more interested service at Hamachi.

Lights out!

Lights out!