Tag Archives: shrimp

The Casual Restaurant Critic at Kraken

Remember the movie with Liam Neeson about the Kraken? The Critic is sure it was a fantastic movie with plenty of Oscar potential but for some reason he never had the opportunity to see it. Of course the Critic is being somewhat sarcastic in his appreciation of the movie’s merits.

Kraken the restaurant, on the other hand, would definitely be an Oscar contender if there was a category for best local seafood.

Chef Eduardo Estrella and his crew have created a restaurant that looks like your average seafood place from the outside, but when you talk to him and try his food, you will quickly realize that he is in another league entirely. He and his family are from Isla Arena, Campeche and if you dear reader know anything about gastronomy on the Yucatan peninsula, you know that the best recipes and most amazing cooks come from the neighboring state of Campeche; Eduardo is one of these people. Not only does he come by his skills naturally, he also formally trained in the US and applied the techniques he learned there, to the abundant local ingredients he can get here.

Chef Eduardo Estrella (middle) and his hard working team

All the seafood is fresh, and brought directly from Isla Arena. He will not purchase frozen seafood from the many suppliers who have stopped by to offer their products – and you can tell when you taste the food.

The Critic and the always amazing Better Half visited Kraken for lunch and it was probably the best seafood either have had in a long while. For starters, the menu was set aside as chef Eduardo suggested that he would prepare a series of plates for the table so as to be able to sample as many different flavors and textures as possible.

First up was a mixed ceviche tostada. Tiny ria (think Lagartos or Celestun) shrimp, literally bursting with flavor, unlike the flavorless shrimp one so often gets in a cocktail or ceviche these days, mixed with fish and octopus. This was glorious.

Next, aguachile in both red (shrimp) and green (fish) styles, with both items marinated in a lemony and very spicy broth, full of flavour. Notice that the dishes are beautiful to look at as well; presentation is top notch.

The third dish was a shrimp broth (caldo de camaron) full of flavor and some larger shrimp along with assorted minced veggies chopped in for texture.

Two plates arrived next, both octopus. The charred octopus is the Kraken octopus and the other was del Capitan. The Critic is not a huge fan of octopus since it is so often poorly prepared and impossible to eat unless you are a cat. These two samplings were perfect.

Then, what was probably the favorite dish of the meal, shrimp wrapped in bacon and cooked to crisp, on a lake of home-made tamarind sauce that was out of this world. The kind of sauce you want to stick your fingers in and get the last drops off the plate. And, something original and unseen in many restaurants, perfectly cooked vegetables on the side. Who does green beans in Merida?? And a black rice cooked in octopus ink. Amazing!

At this point the Better Half and Critic both were thinking that this couldn’t go on much longer as it would be sheer gluttony but there was one more plate to come: a pasta dish, with a cream sauce and fresh crab, baked over with parmesan and panko. This too, proved to be fantastic and was finished to the last noodle, much to the dismay of the ever-expanding waistlines.

Obviously there was absolutely no room whatsoever to even think about a dessert!

The room is casual; there are two televisions with music videos and a Kraken mural on one wall. The service is laid back but friendly. But the food! It is absolutely worth the drive, for drive you must to this location in Caucel, just past the periferico about a kilometer from the Walmart. The restaurant is located in Plaza Boulevard, behind Lapa Lapa which is what you will see first when you are arriving at your destination.

 

Casual Restaurant Critic re-visits Peruano

Just a quick update on this great Santa Lucia restaurant, in the heart of Merida – it’s still fabulous as of this writing. Don’t miss the ceviches – on this occasion we had two different tuna ceviches and one warm shrimp ceviche – and drink a Pisco Sour or two: refreshingly delicious but strong, so don’t be getting into your car after this!

Highly recommended!

Tuna ceviche I

Tuna ceviche II

Warm shrimp ceviche

Pisco Sour

The Casual Restaurant Critic revisits SOMA, now in Merida. Multiple mouthgasms result.

If you didn’t read the previous great reviews on SOMA you can have a look at them here and here.

SOMA, run by the talented Alberto and dulce Linde, is a restaurant that really stands out from Merida’s other restaurant offerings not just because of the food, which is truly extraordinary, but also the warm and fuzzy (and authentic) attention you get from the owners and staff alike.

The Critic won’t get into an entire review again, because it is just as good as ever and the new Merida location is a blessing to those who live in the formerly white city and are too lazy to trek out to Chelem (that location is closed by the way – sorry beach people).

On this occasion, Better Half and the Critic made it simple. Looking at the appetizers, it was decided to just order one of each. Six in total and each one better than the last. The grits with Spanish chorizo and sauteed shrimp were outstanding and Better Half raved about the calabaza soup, a creamy concoction bursting with squash flavor. The salad with real oysters and Spanish chorizo, the warm bread and butter, the ginger peach tea – everything was absolutely scrumptious.

This restaurant is heads and shoulders above what some of the more ‘famous’ restaurants in Merida are offering, no offense.

Directions to this restaurant (in a car) are below the photos. Note that there will be a Christmas Eve day serving as well as New Years Day brunch. What a perfect way to start 2015, ¿no creen?

Hush puppies!

Hush puppies!

Mac and cheese (and bacon, yum)

Mac and cheese (and bacon, yum)

Crispy oysters on a salad

Crispy oysters on a salad

Squash soup!

Squash soup!

Close-up of the salad

Close-up of the salad

Grits, SOMA style

Grits, SOMA style

The famous cookie w ice cream dessert

The famous cookie w ice cream dessert

Coming north from el centro along Montejo, turn left at the Burger King fountain and the silly underpass. Note: you need to get in your right lane to do the roundabout and make that left. Proceed to Calle 60, where you will turn right. At the calle 21 lights (car wash on your right), make a left, cross the train tracks and calle 60 and straight ahead on calle 21 for a block to where the trees are. SOMA is on your right.

Coming south on Montejo from the beaches, turn right on calle 21 (burnt out Parisina textile store and Waldo’s on your right) and proceed to the lights at calle 60. Go straight over the train tracks and 60 and then about a block down, where the trees are, is where SOMA is, on your right.

 

 

La Pigua, revisited

La Pigua!

A recent visit with the MiniCritic confirmed to the Cantankerous Casual Restaurant Critic that La Pigua continues to be one of Merida’s finer restaurants with delicious, freshly prepared and tasty food and great service. In the photos, from top to bottom: Coconut Shrimp, Ceviche de Salmon, Tostadas de Callo de Hacha (scallops) and the Critics personal favourite, Calamares Sir Francis Drake.

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El Pez Gordo – Monterrey Style Seafood in Merida – This One’s a Keeper!

After a recent – and stomach stretching – visit to the Casual Restaurant Critics favorite Merida sushi restaurant, Miyabi, who continue to remain in the running for the Slowest Waiter in Merida Oscar, the Better Half pointed out a new restaurant right next door, called El Pez Gordo (literally, the big fish) which looked very eclectic and hip. The Critic and BH popped inside for a better look and wow! The place looks amazing; a funky bar counter covered in colorful broken tile, plenty of mirrors, themed vinyl decorations and phrases on the wall and loud rock music and the most friendly of owners, who hails from Chiapas but lived in Monterrey and wanted to bring some of that cuisine to Merida.

Seafood in Monterrey you ask? Yes, and the Critic reviewed the fabulous Pacifica restaurant there.

Today, it was the El Pez Gordos turn for a visit and the food did not disappoint! Not at all, not even close. It was amazingly delicious and fresh; nothing like yet another seafood restaurant with the same old tired creations.

To start, a warm shrimp broth in a little cup to open up the stomach and get the gastric juices flowing. Then, three scrumptious appetizers and three orders of delectable seafood tacos for the Critic and his beloved Better Half washed down with an icy Coke and a spicy Michelada were enough to convince both that this was their new favorite seafood restaurant in Merida!

First up was a mixed seafood ceviche, featuring shrimp, fish, calamar and octopus soaked and cooked in lime juice. The twist here was that there was also mango, jicama and pineapple chunks in that ceviche! Refreshingly cool and different and very good. Then, a pair of calamares stuffed with shrimp, cooked in a very spicy tomato-y sauce and served on a bed of guacamole. Hot, spicy and bursting with flavor, these were the best of the three appies. The third appetizer was a crunchy corn tostada topped with a smoked tuna and mayo salad and garnished with raw red cabbage. Unusual and pretty to look at, but the tuna was a little overpowered by the mayo, although I would order this dish again without hesitation if it wasn’t for the fact that there are a hundred more little items on the menu that need to be sampled first.

The tacos were delicious and the Critic cannot, unfortunately, recall their names, but one that stands out even now, several hours later, was a shrimp, chorizo, onion and tomato concoction that came in a melted cheese tortilla. That’s right, a melted cheese “tortilla” and it was absolutely fantastic.

Service today was a little on the slow side, but not as bad as our friends next door. And the bill? About 13 dollars per person for the meal described. Highly recommended!!


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Elio al Mare – Round Two

Last night the Casual Restaurant Critic revisited, in the company of some other critical foodies, the fabulous Elio al Mare restaurant near Progreso. If you read the previous review, you know that the Critic was blown away by the quality of the food at this beachfront Italian restaurant, especially the delicious pastas.

On this second occasion, there were a couple of things that stood out, one way or the other:

  • the off-menu Juanita shrimp were, as the photo suggested, scrumptious; succulent shrimp thick with tomato-y and cheesy goodness.
  • a fantastic risotto! The Critic is not a huge fan of risotto, but decided that Elio al Mare was the acid test to see if risotto was a good thing or just the mediocre pasty rice of yore; lo and behold this seafood risotto was extremely good!
  • on the not so great side, there was no welcoming sangria to be had and the service was a little on the slow side with a bit of waiting between courses and so on

Still, Elio al Mare is well worth the drive out from Merida to have a fantastic Italian dinner while watching the sunset.

Pacifica – Monterrey

Fantastic seafood! The first photo: pozole rojo but not pork, lobster! The second photo, a selection of Baja style tacos, all featuring seafood of course, the most interesting a sope with chorizo made of shrimp and a taco of pescado al pastor, which tasted a lot like tikin xic and was served on a red corn tortilla.

The overly ambitious Critic ordered ‘1 of each’ from that section of the menu, but this would have been 9 tacos and the waiter, somewhat alarmed, advised paring it down a little. The Critic heeded his advice and still was unable to completely finish all of this delicious assortment!

This restaurant was recommended as an alternative to the well-known, and apparently tradition, seafood institution known as Los Arcos, which according to some locals in the know, was becoming a bit dubious since some of their clientele included people possibly involved in northern Mexicos burgeoning drug trade. It is within walking distance from the Novotel Valle in San Pedro and located under large palapa roofs behind the Sirloin Stockade, a place you wouldn’t want to spend money or time in, based on the Merida version anyway.

The room was packed, there was a smoking section (gasp!) and an outdoor deck lounge scene complete with thumping electronic music by a D.J.

Not shown in these photos is a ‘shot’ which is a large, salt and chile rimmed tequila shot glass, filled with warm cocktail sauce, tequila and one whole oyster. An interesting opening act!

Pacifica is highly recommended by the Casual Restaurant Critic!

Local 3 – Fresh, New Restaurant in Merida

Local 3 is an ambitious new restaurant, run by the people from COVI, who sell a great assortment of wines and liquors and who are a go-to source when looking for something beyond the scope of the wine selection at Sam’s Club and Costco; and Culinaria, the new cooking school here in sunny Merida.

The Critic and group of friends went the other night based on a recommendation by the Critics BetterHalf, who had had lunch there and raved about the delicious offerings, and the food, to be sure, was impressive. There was a salmon ceviche, served in little cubes piled in a cylinder and doused with what seemed to be a light cream or yogurt. Not sure if that is a ceviche purists dream, but it was good and innovative in its presentation. The tuna tartar was served the same way and the flavor of the tuna was excellent and hard to stop eating once the Critic had a taste. Last on the list of appetizers was an octopus carpaccio style, thinly sliced and lightly seasoned with lime. Refreshing but just a tad sparse for sharing among 6 persons, even with the other two appies on the table.

Bread, in the form of croissant-like rolls and bread sticks, brought earlier to the table was homemade and served with a creamed butter, also quite good.

For the main course, there was an arrachera steak, which was apparently very good as it disappeared before the Critic could finagle a bite to try. There was a goat cheese foccacia also, which, although advertised as warm, unfortunately arrived quite cold (¡está helado!) as the Yucatecan who ordered it, put it) and was sent back. It returned warm, perhaps heated in a microwave judging from the inconsistent temperature throughout. The Critic sampled the Sea Bass, one of the day’s specials which was excellent; as was a strange concoction of seafood served in a small casserole dish and baked with choclo, a kind of creamed corn mixture which rendered the dish a little sweet but served as an interesting counterpoint to the savory seafood – shrimp and scallops – within.

There was no room for desserts.

The big problem on this occasion was the fact that the main dishes took over 45 minutes to arrive at the table, from when the appetizers were finished. This is a huge time lapse and by the time the dishes did make it to the table, the stomach was sending messages to the brain that with the appetizers and bread already ingested, it was full, thank you very much. Apparently, this delay was due to the fact that there was some filming or photography going on and dishes were being prepared for the shoot. Not a good plan, unless the other diners were informed of this and offered a round of drinks or some other form of compensation in exchange for being ‘extras’ in their promotional piece.

Service by Danae was very good; she was calmly professional and completely unflappable by some of the slight whining going on at the Critics table regarding the tardiness of the food.

The Critic recommends you try this restaurant, as it has some imaginative ideas on the menu, the room is comfortable (and cold, especially by the window facing Montejo) and if you are lucky enough to have Danae as your server, you will be very pleased indeed. Just look out for a professional photo session first.