Tag Archives: queso relleno

Casual Restaurant Critic at El Manjar Blanco

After a while, you tend to get a little tired of the same old same old when visiting Yucatecan food restaurants, so it came as a nice to surprise to find yet another Merida restaurant offering all the same recipes, but with a twist: a novel and appealing form of presentation!

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El Manjar Blanco is owned and run by some nice people loosely related to a local legend in the newspaper business: Antonio Peraza aka Tony, whose smart, funny and biting social commentary in the form of political cartoons are featured in the Diario de Yucatan newspaper. No politician or businessman, no matter how prominent, self important or powerful, is immune to the barbs and jabs that come out of Tony’s talented inkwell. The Critic only mentions this because when you enter the restaurant, you will notice a lot of familiar (if you peruse the local newpapers at all) art on the walls.

Once you order the food, you will see what the Critic is talking about in terms of the presentation of each platillo, Yucatecan cuisine classics all, from luscious papadzules and crunchy smoked longaniza appetizers to cochinita, queso relleno (the Critics personal favorite) and lomitos de Valladolid. They are all there, and they are all not only pretty to look at and photograph, but also taste as good as they should.

Service is very friendly and adequately professional and the prices are well within the bounds of reason for what you are getting.

For dessert, order some corn ice cream and an order of caballeros pobres and you will leave stuffed, satisfied and ready for a nap!IMG_0102 IMG_0100

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Traveling to Chetumal? The Restaurant Critic Recommends…

There’s not a whole lot to motivate you to want to go to Chetumal, the capital city of the neighboring state of Quintana Roo unless you have business with the state government there or are enroute to points further south via Belize. As a city, it has a somewhat provincial feel completely unbecoming a state capital. Everything there revolves around government jobs, real and imagined and the economy is based on the circulation of  government money. Also, as part of the now historic so-called zona libre, exempt from taxes levied against consumers back in the day, Chetumal became synonymous with cheap imported stuff that folks from Merida would drive hours for to buy and smuggle back into the Yucatan. Smuggle, because there was an actual border checkpoint on the Chetumal and Cancun highways where these entered the state of Yucatan. Cheeses from Holland, candies from all over, cookies from Denmark and butter in blue cans from New Zealand all became staples in the Yucatecan diet in the 60’s and 70’s, long before Costco, Sams and Walmart. Or Pacsadeli.

Enough with the history already!

Nowadays Chetumal will remind those who have lived here for some time, of a late 70’s, early 80’s Merida. There is nothing historical to look at really, except for the occasional wooden house, a tradition that made the place charming but wiped out by a hurricane in the 1950’s and never rebuilt. Everything is modern, square, unimaginative concrete with garish paint and horrific signage everywhere. There seems to be a problem with providing folks with garbage containers and so garbage can be seen most everywhere, including among the mangroves at waters edge. Chetumal is a popular place for folks from Merida to go when they head over the border into Belize to buy inexpensive Chinese junk and for Beliceños who want to step up and out from their border area to see something more modern. Granted, the state of Quintana Roo is one of the newest states in the United Mexican States (official name of Mexico did you know) but still, and for the same reason, you would think a somewhat more dignified city would carry the label of state capital.

On that 70’s-80’s theme, the fancy restaurant described a continuacion, is very much like what the Critic recalls from fancy restaurant experiences in Merida 30 years ago. The formal service, the elegant table-side dessert and salad preparation, the hygiene-challenged, poorly lit and charmless bathrooms completely at odds with what is happening out front, is a throwback to an earlier, less sophisticated time at least in terms of restaurants.

El Faro

El Faro, which means The Lighthouse, is undoubtedly one of Chetumals’ better restaurants. Ask a local which place is the best and the name will come up. Featuring formal service, lots of glassware and cutlery, real tablecloths and the stuffy feel of a tropical restaurant gone formal, the food is presented in a way suggesting that the chef or whoever is in charge of the kitchen has seen a few magazines and websites. It is good without being great and combined with the attentive yet cool service, the experience is decent enough.

Bucaneros

Bucaneros surprised the Critic because not only was the food great, but also the service was the friendliest experienced at any commercial establishment in Chetumal. Highly recommended for fun ambience and tasty, generously-portioned seafood creations including seafood-stuffed queso relleno!

The Casual Restaurant Critic reviews Habaneros Yucatecan Restaurant

It has been a while since the Critic has reviewed anything and for that he expresses his most heartburn felt apologies.

If you are tired of the Chaya Maya and La Tradicion, both great options for Yucatecan food and yet, you want something new every once in a while, you might try the relatively off-the-beaten track Habaneros, located next to Puerta de Campeche behind the Siglo XXI Convention Center and the ex Carrefour Chedraui supermarket.

The restaurant is small, the tables and chairs are real ie not plastic donated by a beer company and the service is friendly. There is a complete menu featuring Yucatecan food on one side and Mexican dishes on the other.

The Critic and his Better Half found the food tasty and took some photos to illustrate the care taken in the presentation; the plates look quite pretty when they appear before you.

 

Los Almendros – Ticul, Yucatan (it ain’t pretty)

Yesterday the Casual Restaurant Critic, along with the always lovely Better Half and two other guests of Yucatecan extraction were in sunny Ticul, the clay pot and shoe capital of the area. Ticul is also home to Los Almendros, the Yucatecan restaurant to go to back in the day.

No longer.

The Critic was aghast at the decline of this once-great culinary destination. The restaurant itself looks pretty much the same, with plenty of religious paintings hanging on the walls, above aesthetically-challenged lamps with energy saving bulbs protruding from their petal-like openings and non-functioning mini-split air conditioner units. One must assume that the air conditioning is for a) really hot weather (hard to imagine it getting any hotter than April) or b) for when the restaurant is full, which might be never.

The courtyard in the back has been converted to a hotel and the lobby entrance is at one side of the restaurant. Evidence that the breakfast for the hotel is served here includes the buffet table, still strewn with coffee machines, cups, a few boxes of Zucaritas mini cereal boxes and some thermoses; this is at 4 in the afternoon. The Critic suspects this makes setting up the next mornings breakfast service so much easier; a quick rearranging of these items will greet guests when they wake up for their all-inclusive 60 peso breakfast.

Orange juice was refreshing and tasted fresh, the pitchers are filled from bags of orange juice stored in the fridge behind the bar. Guacamole, ordered by the afore-mentioned Yucatecans, was fresh enough and came with crunchy tostadas. Everyone ordered Poc Chuc and the pork was tasty, tender and there was lots of it on the plate. The big dissappointment was the Critics favorite, Queso Relleno which was nothing like a queso relleno eaten – and enjoyed – elsewhere. A bit of cheese covered meat, which looked like a pate, swimming in a large bowl-like plate filled with corn-starch kol which was strewn with bits of cheese, tomato sauce and turkey. What the hell the turkey was doing in there baffled the Critic who was unable to finish the unappealing dish as it just seemed like the kitchen had combined a bit of Queso Relleno with some Pavo en Relleno Blanco that was lying around.

Tortillas were fresh and decent enough and of the hand-made variety, although they weren’t nearly of the consistency, flavor or freshness of those served at the Principe Tutul Xiu in Mani. Usually Poc Chuc is served with a small bowl of Frijol Colado, which is cooked black beans, strained (not ground up in a blender) served like a soup on the side. The beans only came along after being asked for and to the Critic, tasted a little off, but everyone else seemed to think they were beyond excellent, so the Critic must have been negatively influenced by the horrendous queso relleno, which surely clouded his judgement.

Service was poor to average at best, what with the television blaring over the cash register area and providing entertainment for the staff from which it was necessary to tear them away to get any kind of service. Dirty dishes remained on the table for ever, and don’t even get the Critic started on the coffee.

The coffee! This was very possibly the worst “coffee” ever encountered by the Critic or his guests, anywhere in the Yucatan, ever. With a bouquet that was distinctly reminiscent of burnt tortillas, the hot, dark water in the cup tasted like the proverbial agua de calcetin (dirty sock water) and was literally undrinkable.

Lunch as described, for 4 persons with two pitchers of orange juice came to about 500 pesos and really, they should be paying the guests to eat here, not the other way around.

What a shame that this once-proud and fine Yucatecan bastion of good eating has degenerated to such absolute misery.

Avoid, avoid, avoid.

La Tradicion Yucatecan restaurant

The Casual Restaurant Critic and his Better Half once again enjoyed a fantastic Yucatecan lunch at La Tradicion on Merida’s calle 60.

The restaurant has finally been enlarged, almost doubling it’s original capacity, and this new space was also full with visitors.

Great food, good service as usual.

And don’t be alarmed if you see machine guns and armed police; it’s to protect the US consulate nearby.