Tag Archives: oriental food

The Casual Restaurant Critic Hitting and Missing at the Gran Plaza Mall

Every once in a while, the Casual Restaurant Critic finds himself in the mall – the Gran Plaza mall to be exact – to do some banking, pay the CFE or TelCel or whatever, and the timing works out in such a way as to necessitate a bite to eat.  The question is always: where will it be this time? Such a situation occured twice in the past week, resulting in one hit, and one awful miss.

Besides the one or two restaurants in the mall, there is the hilariously-named Food and Food food court. Choices abound! Will it be the MSG-laden offerings of Win Fa’s Chinese food, with the promise of ever-lasting thirst for hours; or the line-up infused hamburgers of Burger King? Or perhaps deal with the indifferent doñas at Doña Gorda, who make deep-fried and oily gorditas that will inspire a rush on the local omeprazol supply? The salad place is sadly dead and gone with its healthy options and so other choices might be Alabama Mama with “southern food” or some fairly decent Trompos tacos (try their heart-valve-bursting nachos especiales if you really want to gorge yourself with calories.

The Critic, however, found two new additions to the Food and Food food court, one was a definite and resounding miss, while the other promises to be a hit.

The Miss

The Critic has a soft spot for entrepreneurs who make the effort to provide something new and in this case, it was a Yucatecan food outlet that calls itself Pibilxito (which in Mayan means absolutely nothing), among all those tacos and hamburgers and cheap pasta. It is exceedingly hard to please Yucatecans with Yucatecan food since everyone has an aunt or a mom or a grandma or a suegra who makes their favorite dish just so. It’s an impossible situation, the Critic believes, and this place will go the way of another attempt at Yucatecan fare that met its demise in this very same Food and Food food court years ago.

Some of the most famous Yucatecan items are on the menu like cochinita pibil, relleno negro and the Critics favorite, queso relleno, which he proceeded to order from the rather bored and uninspired young man alternately playing with his smart phone and looking up blankly at the zero clientele stopping there. The Critic paid his 70 pesos for an order, a full 10 pesos more than the other orders, a price point explained to him by the hapless employee with the help of a prop: an actual Queso de Bola marca Gallo kept under the counter to prove the worthiness of that 4 dollar expenditure.

The food, ordered to go and unpacked from its mismatched plastic and styro containers at home, was pretty well inedible. The Critic’s cat did, however, get into it and managed to down a few swallows of the unappealing white ground meat that had not a hint of a raisin, a caper or an almond, let alone an olive, accompanied by the afore-mentioned Gallo brand cheese, all served in the traditional corn flour kol. The tortillas that came with the order were of the store-bought variety, rounding out the exceptionally gnarly experience.

Highly not recommended. Avoid at all costs.

The Hit

Having just opened, the new Thai Bistro Express, an offshoot/expansion of the popular place by the same name in Chuburna (beach, not colonia) promises to be the real deal. The super-friendly, engaged and energetic owners are right there and are happy to see you, happy to explain their food offerings to you and happy to cook it for you too. What a difference a smile makes!

The Critic had the Pad Thai, with pork. It could have a little more punch to it but was very good in any case. The iced coffee is absolutely delicious and a treat in the land (Food and Food food court land) of Coca-Cola and other gaseous beverages. What the Critic liked best was the fact that the owner asked how it was and seemed genuinely interested in some constructive criticism, offered with the sincere interest in making their place a well-deserved success. Price of the meal? $120 pesos for Pad Thai and Iced Coffee.

Thai food in Merida at last? No, but…

This past weekend was quite a culinary-intensive experience, with Friday night at Elio al Mare, Saturday night at Rosas y Xocolate and, in between, an extremely pleasant and totally unexpected surprise for lunch. Lovers of exotic food rejoice, because this is a good one.

It turns out that the Casual Restaurant Critics brother in law found out about a Thai restaurant in, of all places, Baca. The Critic knows this is hard to believe, but it is true, there is a place where one can eat real, authentic Thai food made by a Thai chef in the bustling town of Baca. Located on the grounds of a holistic health center, you will find yourself on a covered deck made entirely of bamboo. Look up, look around, everything including the roof, is made of bamboo. Only the tables and chairs are dark teak. There is no electric power as the place is on solar cells and therefore the restaurant portion, open on a limited basis to the public, is only accessible during daylight hours and only until 3 PM at that. And for those of you that like to take picture of your food (which includes the Critic) you will be out of luck as no cameras and no cell phones are allowed to be used on the site. Smoking of course is also forbidden.

BIL had ordered food beforehand and so, once the party of 11 was seated, real, freshly prepared Thai food started arriving at the table. First off, a ginger tea/lemonade combination that was deliciously refreshing. Then, the Critics favorite Thai soup:  ต้มข่าไก่.

OK that was unfair.

The soup is called, in English, Tom Kha Gai and the temperature, the flavors, the aroma were all exquisite. Next up, a small appetizer plate with a spring roll cut in half alongside a grilled satay chicken kabob. There was a plum sauce for dipping, as well as very spicy black sauce and some toasted garlic to add an additional kick to the dishes.

After the appetizers, plates for the center appeared with a rice noodle dish, a rice dish, chicken in a coconut milk curry sauce and finally shrimp with snow peas. The Critic couldn’t get enough of everything and hardly had room for dessert, which also arrived promptly at the table in the shape of creamy Arroz con Leche paired with chopped, fresh, tart mango chunks. Coffee, strong and black, was also available.

Interesting, this humble bamboo deck in the middle of the town of Baca, had better service than most of the restaurants in Merida. The service was prompt, attentive, and courteous. Most impressive of all was that for each course, the ladies at the table were served first, without exception, then the men. A small detail perhaps but nevertheless one that the so-called finer restaurants in the formerly white city have not been able to master.

Unfortunately, the Critic doesn’t know what the bill came to on this occasion, being as he was a guest, but whatever it is, it’s worth it. This is the real deal. Neither is there an address. Please contact the Critic directly for instructions on how to get there.