Tag Archives: pasta

Casual Restaurant Critic revisits Eureka

Eureka is probably one of the Critic’s favorite restaurants in Merida. It is the only place where instead of looking at the menu, he will just take the chef’s suggestions as he is always offering something new and interesting that he wants to try out. This is great since the Critic doesn’t order the same thing as always, a bad habit based on fear of the unknown and love for the dishes already tried and can expand his palate to other options that might not seem as appealing as the carbonara pasta.

A recent visit with the Better Half confirmed that the restaurant is still as good as ever.

Olives and that addictive warm bread

A special of the day/week: lobster tail with a cream sauce and fresh pasta

All seafood. The broth was outstanding

A new cheese had arrived, so chef Fabrizio offered to whip up a little something to try it out – amazing!

Il Casual Restaurant Critic Visita il Ristorante Scatola a Merida

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The Casual Restaurant along with BetterHalf, MiniCritic and NewAdditionCritic  met at the latest pizzeria in Merida, which of late have been popping up all over the place. There was a time when you could only eat pizza at Messinas, then the chains came with their corporate American style pizza, then Boston’s arrive to reaffirm one’s faith in the possibility of a good chain restaurant pizza and then the Italians who were getting tired of sand in their pasta and hurricanes on the Riviera Maya themselves came and said what the hell are all these crappy excuses for pizza and started making the fantastic crispy thin crust version that you can now find all over Merida from El Centro to El Norte (de Merida).

After that run-on sentence, perhaps it’s time for the restaurant critique portion of this essay.

Scatola is the newest of the Italian thin crust pizza places, having just opened the day before yesterday. In fact, there was no one else in the restaurant except for one table and the hosting and wait staff was apparently glad to see someone and made a real effort to be welcoming and friendly. As is always the case in Merida restaurants, a solid training program would make these friendly people much more professional and basic errors, such as reaching across the front of the client to place a glass on his/her left therefore subjecting said client to back, shoulder and arm in face as well as thumb getting dangerously close to food on plate, could be avoided.

The food, mainly appetizers and pizzas, was great. The mushroom appy has real, thick and juicy mushrooms, cooked to plump perfection with chipotle chile and what the Critic supposes is olive oil. Delicioso. The salmon carpaccio is not razor thin and could be a little more marinated/flavorful for the Critics’ taste, but if this is the way they make it here, who is he to argue. Critic prefers the La Tratto version of this dish, where it is thinner and has a little more flavor for some reason. The third appetizer was the Mejillones al Tequila. It seems that mussels are another item that is popping up on menus all over Merida and while these ones are very tasty indeed (and huge), the flavor of the spicy cream sauce of the mussels at Hennesseys are still the Critics favorite. However, the Scatola mussels hold up well in comparison, especially if you can tilt the dish they are in and get some of that broth to dribble over each mussel before popping it into your mouth.

Pizza: The group ordered three pizzas. A vegetarian pizza, which looked really great but the Critic wasn’t in the mood for anything remotely health-friendly; a Spanish pizza, with fresh red onions on top of some ham, olives and other goodies and the BetterHalf favorite: the Cold Cuts Pizza. Pizza de carnes frias, which was a sodium packed treat with delicious and quality cold cuts like jamon (not FUD or BAFAR brands thank you very much).

Now the more careful reader among you might be thinking “How can this pizza be the BetterHalf’s favorite since they just opened the day before?” Well it turns out that Scatola is a chain of restaurants operating under the same name, with locations in Campeche and Puebla, among others, and BetterHalf had eaten at the Campeche location and loved it.

No desserts were ordered as the food was just too filling and there was nothing light and fresh on the menu; mostly cheesecake, creamy things that one would need to leave room for. A sweet clericot was offered for dessert, compliments of the house. Very nice.

A couple of glasses of over-chilled Concha y Toro wine (some confusion exists about which wines are available by the glass) and some refrescos and the food above, came to 900 pesos for four people.

La Scatola is located across from Tacos PM on the Prolongación del Paseo de Montejo, in that part of the city that some new NOB arrivals don’t like to visit because it’s not the “real” Merida. And you all know how the cantankerous Mr. Lawsons feels about that misguided perception so the Critic will not comment further.

Enjoy your pizza!

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Pimienta – Good Seafood-y Pasta

The Casual Restaurant Critic had driven by the restaurant called Pimienta, located just a few blocks beyond the Consulado de los Estados Unidos de America, when heading south-north, just before the street opens up to reveal the estadio Salvador Alvarado on the left.  The Critic had also heard some rumors and whispers that this little restaurant was actually pretty good.

So, upon hearing that dear friends were going to visit and were requesting the dubious pleasure of the Critics company, he dusted off his dancing shoes and took the Better Half along with Miss Tenerife and joined aforementioned DearFriends for dinner.

And what a surprise! Pimienta, whose owner was on hand to welcome the group, is indeed a little gem of a restaurant with great food, an elegant room and a waiter with a personality.

As far as food goes, there was pasta had by all. From green linguine buried in a delicious red sauce that the BetterHalf raved about the next day to the scallops in the Fruti di Mare pasta had (for the first time ever) by Miss Tenerife to the Mona Lisa had by the Critic to the pasta with shrimp and an appetizing chunk of meat whose names escape the Critic as usual; all were delicous!

Appetizers included tender, zesty flavored mushrooms sauteed with guajillo chile and sprinkled cheese on top and bruschetta.

Desserts were had as well, although there was absolutely no need to subject the groups digestive system to such abuse; a homemade Tiramisu, a light, just right lemon mousse and a dark chocolate pyramid.

Service was friendly and for the most part right there when needed (ocasionally he could have been a little more attentive) with the only quibble being that the he could have ironed his shirt to be more in keeping with the rest of the dining room which was impeccable.

All in all a pleasant surprise. Recommended!

Elio al Mare, Progreso, Yucatan

Better late than never, is the Critics motto when it comes to trying out restaurants that have already been commented on by others; take the Wayan’e case for example, where the Critic waited 20 years to try the famous tortas and tacos and lo and behold, when he did get around to trying them, he was convinced that the mythical reputation was justified.

Elio al Mare, located between Progreso and Chicxulub right on the beach, has not been around for 20 years, but it has been commented on and recommended by Italian friends in Merida (OK one Italian friend) and several other people as well. In fact, it has become such common knowledge that an article even appeared on the restaurant in Plan B, the Diario de Yucatans colorful Thursday supplement featuring fun, exciting activities and places to go as well as the latest photos of Meridas beautiful people having a great time at Fridays.

So the Critic, with the Motley Crew, an assortment of friends who occasionally dine and travel together and is made up of several entrepeneurs, including the Better Half, a doctor and his wife and an engineer set out for Progreso. Why the Critic is even mentioning the existence let alone the composition of the group is not entirely clear, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the comment at hand, which is Elio al Mare.

Elio al Mare is in a converted house, right on the beach and open to the breeze that on this occasion was just perfect. Sometimes that breeze is too strong and no amount of gel will keep your do in place and you end up looking like Mickey Rourke in any of his latest films with your hair standing on end. At other times the breeze at the beach is too weak, thereby allowing the mosquitoes to get a wing-hold in the sticky humid night air, and your legs will become an “All You Can Suck!!!” bloody nightmare. As mentioned before, the breeze was perfect.

The man in charge, an Italian one assumes, as were several key people in bar and kitchen areas, greeted the party and threw together two tables on the deck/porch and the Crew was seated comfortably. A menu was presented and then everyone was served a sangria, cortesia of the restaurant, from a large punch bowl in the middle of the restaurant. A refreshingly original way to start a great meal!

So how was the food you may be wondering?

From the bread (warmed) and mushroom dip, through the octopus carpaccio, which was more like a cross between carpaccio and ceviche served with parmigiano chunks, onion and tomato, through the main courses, all pastas, were incredible. The other appetizers, an ensalada Caprese and a Greek salad, were delicious.

The Critic ordered a Carbonara, which in Merida usually means loads and loads of cream and a hint of bacon; all that cream has nothing to do with a Carbonara pasta; and this time, it was perfect. Not good, perfect. The pasta itself, homemade and cooked to al dente perfection. The egg and olive oil in the pasta, perfect. And the crunchy bacon chunks were not hiding timidly under bits of parsley, but out there in full force and in your face. The seafood pasta ordered by the doctors wife was a-ma-zing. The doctor, the Crews most finicky eater and skeptical sampler of menus, was motivated to enthusiastically exclaim that his lasagna was excellent, a comment that rarely escapes his lips with such feeling.

It might be because the Critic was hungry, that all this seemed so wonderfully delicious; however, avid readers may have deduced by the previous review that the Critic had in fact lunched rather heavily two hours earlier on Progresos malecon, so the rave review is not a result of an empty stomach.

The one quibble was with a glass of red wine ordered by yours truly, which was chilled to room temperature in Inuvik, but that was it.

The service was fine and the bill for 6, with only a little alcohol served, came to about 1800 pesos before tips.

Elio al Mare is one of the best restaurants the Critic has had the pleasure of reviewing in a while. Open from 1 – 10, they don’t take credit cards, only cash and will modify their operating hours during the summer months, opening a little later, from 3 – 12.

To make this review a classic Casual Restaurant Critic review, there is no address. The fine folks at Yucatan Today have one though, click here and you shall find it!

Happy eating!