Tag Archives: restaurants

A Re-Visit to Merci

Merci on a Sunday is guaranteed to feature a wait and sure enough, when the Critic and his Better Half arrived this past Sunday to have breakfast, several people were parked on the bench outside the door. Dalia – next door and on the Critics list based on Better Half’s recommendation – was the backup plan and it was evident that tables were available there.

Nevertheless, a table for two was not a problem and Critic and Better were seated upon arrival. Brunch is available on Sundays from 8:30 to 4:00 and features breakfast items as well as more lunch-y options.

The Critic opted for chilaquiles, served up here with a sunny-side-up egg, a longaniza tomato sauce, avocado, some cheese, and fresh radish garnish. And a smattering of shredded chicken to round out the caloric intake. Better Half ordered what appears to be a sort of Croque sandwich which, she assured the Critic, was delicious. Coffee (latté) was great, as was the almond and pepita croissant and home-made papaya jam.

Recommended? You bet.

Two café lattés and the day’s agua de naranja con mango

Le croissant

L’autre pain whose name the Critic cannot recall. But it was flaky and deliciously warm and with some butter… yum

The chilaquiles rojos

Le sandwich d’oeuf

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)

 

A Second Visit to Maya de Asia

The Critic loved that duck so when another opportunity arrived to go eat at Maya de Asia, well, he was all over that idea. This time with the MiniCritic and BetterHalf to better sample more dishes (besides the aforementioned duck) the late lunch early dinner was great.

With the first-date wow factor somewhat diminished, the Critic had time to notice other things besides the mostly spectacular food. The waiters are somewhat professional and friendly enough but they don’t seem, well, happy. Perhaps they get shat on a lot or they are practicing their all-black-uniform ‘cool’ thing, but they don’t seem to be having a particularly good time. Yes, it’s a job, but in a nice place with a great kitchen and whatnot, you would think a few more smiles would grace the faces of these servers.

The other thing the Critic took notice of was the weird bathrooms on the second level. The restaurant is so expansive and grandiose, that these mini bathrooms seem like an afterthought. It’s almost like – as Mini Critic pointed out – that perhaps the architect was so concentrated on creating an award-winning design and interior treatment that he or she forgot about the bathrooms and this was the only space left. Who knows.

Enjoy the photos and don’t let potentially sad wait staff or a climb to the bathroom put you off. Try this place and enjoy the experience, which is totally worth it.

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Bistro Cultural

It was their anniversary, it was very busy and the Critic won’t pass judgement on the experience he had this morning with the Better Half and several other, local guests. Breakfast was long, leisurely (not for the two waitresses desperately working the entire restaurant inside and out) and the food delicious. Good coffee too.

The space is cozy and attractive and chef Yohann kind in his attention to his guests.

Some serious swinging music in the garden

Some serious swinging music in the garden Part II

The garden patio, full of happy eaters

Inside

View to the street, from the inside

Pretty flowers as centerpieces throughout

Creme brulee

Isla flotante

Casual Restaurant Critic Breakfasting at Habanero’s

A quick breakfast at Habanero’s which at 11 AM was surprisingly full of people. Better Half and the starving Critic had 30 minutes to snarf down a breakfast. Both had been here before and were always happy with the food and the service, and today was not disappointing at all.

The food is great and comes out of the kitchen fast, the salsas are still made to order (you pick the chiles and ingredients and they hand-grind them for you in a metate and the service has only gotten better with time. Everyone is friendly and people stop by the table check to see that everything is good.

Highly recommended for a filling breakfast or some real Yucatecan food at lunch. Valet parking too, if you are in a hurry.

Chilaquiles w mole and dos huevos

Salsa de tomate made to order with the chiles of your preference

Huevos with longaniza sausage. There’s enough huevos to feed a small village here

crabster photo, napkin

Almadia which quickly turned into Crabster

Late Seafood Lunch /Early Dinner in Progreso Part I

Better Half and the Critic were in the mood for fish and since a new restaurant had been announced, it was decided that they should go and try it out.

Almadia is a beautiful beach-front restaurant that looks like something from an architectural magazine, a stunning new addition to the restaurant scene at least in looks. For one thing, it sits diagonally on the malecon, just a few houses from the famous Casa del Pastel, and not aligned with the street out front, which sets it apart immediately from all its competitors, as do its modern columns and glass.

Almadia is a stunning addition to the Progreso waterfront

If only they had spent the tiniest fraction of what that architect charged on training staff! BH and CC went in, met no one at the door, had several wait staff pass right in front without so much as an hola and finally a hostess appeared in 4-inch heels and showed the Critic to a table. There, the Critic and Better Half sat and sat for the longest time, waiting for someone – anyone – to return to the table to offer a drink, at least. The hostess returned to her duties of doing Something Important on a clipboard with one or more of the staff members in another part of the restaurant.

Still hungry and bemoaning the tremendous waste it was to spend this much money and effort in creating a new restaurant and then not have anyone trained to run it, the Critic decided that enough is enough, and got up, took Better Half by the arm and left. There was no effort made by anyone to stop the Critic from leaving or even to say hasta luego.

Still, knowing the owners, there will be another attempt at this beautiful restaurant!

Late Seafood Lunch /Early Dinner in Progreso Part II

Crabster is, even when busy and everyone is running around like headless chickens, pretty much a guaranteed thing and after the disappointing experience down the street, the hustle and bustle of Christan Bravo’s seafront restaurant was a welcome sight.

Here, Better Half and the Critic enjoyed what they came for. A view of the beach, the smell of salt air and some good seafood washed down with some frosty micheladas. The awful street entertainment out front and the garbage trucks picking up trash from bins was a distraction, but not anything that Crabster could do something about.

Fresh guacamole, a deep fried grouper, some shrimp. Delicious. Gracias Christian!

Crabster in Progreso was reviewed previously in February of 2017 here.

Michelada!

Guacamole

Shrimp

Pescado frito – deep-fried grouper

 

El Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca

The Critic and BH along with MiniCritic, enjoyed a solid, good, Yucatecan lunch on Sunday at the new-ish and already very popular Museo de la Gastronomia Yucateca. (Note and hola to Jan Morgan: the information on where it is etc. is in the link which is the name)

First of all, this is a gigantic restaurant especially compared with the cramped quarters of the also popular Chaya Maya or others, probably because it is an old colonial-era home of one of the henequen barons from back in the day. So you have a huge interior open-air patio surrounded by terraces and rooms which make up the area for tables. Each of the rooms features a henequen (sisal) based theme that is still being completed and will be finished very soon.

In the back, there is a re-creation of a small Mayan “village” complete with the requisite kitchen structure where two or three mestiza women make hand-made tortillas. Other chozas feature information and displays on ingredients used in Yucatecan cooking. Explanations are in Spanish and English, and the Critic is happy to report that the translations are pretty good. Also in the back yard is the pib area, or cooking pit(s) where the food is cooked, in the traditional way of the Yucatecan pueblos. On this visit, the Critic arrived in time to see, along with a dozen or so other interested diners, the moment when the ‘relleno negro’ was pulled out of the pib, and samples were given out – delicious!

In addition to all this, there is a gift shop and a small museum-like display of artifacts and ingredients typically used in the preparation of Yucatecan food and it is evident that someone took their time to arrange and present all this in an attractive and professional manner.

The food was excellent. Well prepared and tasted as it should. BH enjoyed one of her favorite dishes, a Sunday Merida classic called puchero de tres carnes, MC and the Critic both had queso relleno, which is the standard (for the Critic) by which all Yucatecan restaurants are measured. This queso relleno, complete with capers, raisins and almonds is the real deal and is up there with the best of them. Brazo de reina and a small mucbilpollo or tamal were had as appetizers. The first was good, while the tamal was just OK and lacked the crispiness of the fresh-baked version.

Keep in mind that this is heavy food; very filling and you will need a siesta afterward. Don’t feel the need to try everything the first time you visit. You can come back. And don’t eat this at night, for crying out loud: Yucatecan food is a mid-day thing.

What really blew the Critics mind, however, especially after recent forays into various “fancy” restaurants and their indifferent or just plain inadequate service, was the service at the Museo. Santos arrived at the table to introduce himself and when offering drinks made a smooth, professional, sales pitch that convinced all three members of the Critics lunch group to try the house cocktail. Throughout the meal, Santos was not more than a hand-wave away, in spite of having several tables under his charge. There was no intrusiveness, no slinking up to the table, no mumbling and no arriving with the dishes and not knowing to whom they belonged. So, a big shout-out to Santos – keep it up!

The location will make this place very successful and if they keep up the quality of the food and service, this place should be around for a while. Enjoy the photos!

The least photogenic of any appetizer in the world, these are black beans (l) and sikil pak (r) along with tostadas. The sikil pak is excellent.

Shot of the museum part of the restaurant

Gift shop

Museum from the other side

A little pueblo in the back yard – your clue that you’re not somewhere else is the building poking out between the trees

One of the chozas and the display

Inside the choza: here we have an explanation of recado verde

There’s cooking going on right now, under there.

Pueblo in the foreground with a giant hotel in the background for context

A fizzy but not too sweet opener

Brazo de Reina I

Tamalito known as mucbilpolloI

Mucbilpollo II

Brazo de Reina II

Preparing to uncover the pib

The chef explains what is happening here

After carefully removing the earth, the laminated tin sheet is taken off the pit

With the tin sheet removed, this is what you see. Jabin leaves and branches aromatize the food

A treasure chest, waiting to be opened

Forget gold coins and trinkets. This treasure chest contains something much more memorable

Preparing a sample for those watching

Aguas frescas de chaya y ramon. Yes, ramon.

Puchero!

Queso Relleno!

The Casual Restaurant Critic Revisits La Pigua and Kraken

While La Pigua is the more famous of the two, Kraken is probably a little more elaborate in its recipes and presentations. Both restaurants, of course, are all about seafood and favorites of the Critic since the Pleistocene era.

In other words, for a while now.

La Pigua has the traditional coastal seafood you would expect; from seafood cocktails and salads to fried whole fish, all done with flair and accompanied by excellent and professional service. The Pigua was reviewed here (with photos) in 2012 – http://www.lawsonsyucatan.com/2012/01/08/la-pigua/

Kraken is the more recently opened restaurant, and Isla Arena (Campeche) native Eduardo Estrella is really an estrella when it comes to combining fresh fish and seafood with local and not so local ingredients and presenting the result in true top chef fashion. Service is still a little below the level of the food, but perfectly adequate.

Enjoy the photos (all from Kraken) and visit one of these classic Merida seafood dining options, both highly recommended by the cantankerous Critic.

Pulpo (octopus) Kraken

Camarones (shrimp)

Tiradito de Atun (tuna) This was the Critic’s dish and on top of the raw tuna was a mango sauce with serrano chile and sesame and a sauce on the plate featuring among other things, dijon mustard which was unexpected and delicious

Ceviche de camarones (shrimp)

Shrimp taco

Breaded shrimp taco

 

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Eureka

It’s not a screaming headline that the Critic loves Eureka. It is, in fact, the only restaurant in town where he will let the chef cook up whatever and it will be fabulous, menu be damned.

On this occasion, and in celebration of the arrival of 2019, the Critic, MiniCritic and omnipresent Better Half enjoyed a delicious New Years lunch at what is arguably one of Merida’s best restaurants.

Casual Restaurant Critic at Las Meras

Las Meras (pescadillas) is a place the Critic “discovered” (kind of like those white Europeans “discovering” the American continent)  since it already existed. Anyway, the Critic walked into this place ‘green’ which is kind of like making a cold call in sales, when you don’t really know what you are getting into.

For starters, it is fishy, and those pescadillas are quesadillas or empanadas filled with – wait for it – fish. There are also camaroncillas, which are stuffed with shrimp. You get the drift. Someone thought it would be clever, one supposes. The music is Juan Luis Guerra and the chairs and tables are real wood with a Corona stamp on them. The Critic considers this a good sign as he hates the more ubiquitous white plastic or its’ trashy Coca Cola red counterpart.

As the only person in the place, the Critic receives a menu and decides to stay. Asking about the seafood broth, the wait person promptly offers to bring out a little to try. And it is good; more tomato-y than the broth yesterday at Micaela but very satisfying.

The pesca and camaron thingadillas are fine, but fresh out of the deep frier, they are so damn hot that the Critic burns his lower lip as the steaming contents burst out and spill onto chin and plate. This hasn’t happened since the Critic was 7, so it’s a really memorable event for sure.

There is an array of home-made sauces to squirt on your tacos and such, in those nasty plastic squirty bottles that invariably are sticky and have bits of residue on the tips. Note to restaurant owners: get rid of these damn things already. You don’t know where that stickiness comes from and the dried bits at the tops of the bottles are just gross. The Critic abstained from adding any of these probably delicious sauces to his piping hot pescadilla.

The food is not expensive and it is tasty, if you are in the area or waiting on your car being washed at the VW dealership car wash. Location is on their Facebook page (link on their name at the top of the article)

Interior of the restaurant

Complimentary ceviche to start

You see the problem with these sauces

One is stuffed with fish, the other with shrimp. Hot as hell, these little mofos.

Marisco soup. This is a great hangover cure.