Tag Archives: sushi

Casual Restaurant Critic at AOKI – Yet Another Entry in the Sushi Category

Just when the Critic thought that is was not possible to find yet another sushi restaurant in Merida, another one popped up on the radar thanks to Better Half’s socializing and lunching ways.

This one is AOKI and if you have been to the great Beer Box store you will know exactly where it is; if not, you won’t. It’s right next door. Maybe it helps that there is a glorieta with five avenues emanating from it, and in the area is the the Chevrolet Monte Cristo dealership, the Super Deli store which is more super than deli and the Jarochita fruteria where you can get the best, freshest fruit in the area.

But who cares about all that.

The fact that the hostess (who turned out to be our waitress as well) told us to just go ahead and sit wherever we wanted seemed like a rough start. The Critic has become accustomed to having someone show him to his table and maybe that’s just ridiculous, but if you are coming to someone’s house, wouldn’t you want to make them feel welcome? If you’re already at the door and have nothing else to do, take your guest to a table, make her or him feel like you’re glad they’re there.

A look from the back towards the front. Soy soaked serranos on the table.

A look from the back towards the front. Soy soaked serranos on the table.

CRC and BH chose a table along the wall, you know, the kind that have one long bench along the entire wall that serves various tables. The Critic only brings it up because when you sit down on this vinyl stuffed bench, you feel the wood and uneven filling under your butt. This is common in Merida restaurants and one day the Critic will dedicate a whole article to it. Is is possible that the owner or designer has never parked his butt on these uncomfortable homemade booth seats? If you’ve been to Brians and plopped yourself on one of those comfortable looking booth seats and felt your tailbone crush on the hardness of it all, you know what this gripe is about.

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Well, guess what, dear Reader! Things got better after that, and the food was ordered from the initially shy waitress (note to self: another article on shy and intimidated acting wait staff in Merida restaurants) who opened up, cracked a smile or three and brought all the goodies to the table.

If you are ordering rolls, make sure to notice that all of them contain cream cheese, as seems to be the custom in Merida. If this is the custom in other parts of Mexico, please can a reader enlighten the Critic on the origins of this practice and the reasons behind it? Thank you.

Niguiri pieces are rice-heavy but the fish is cold, delicious and the portion is a welcome fat chunk, not a thin excuse carefully applied on top of the rice. The stuffed squid is delectable and beautiful and for the amount of work involved in preparing this dish and the presentation, the price was ridiculous on the cheaper end of the spectrum. The tempura entree with the funny black noodles sprinkled with nori was just alright. The rolls were excellent.

Would the Critic return? Yes! Better than Miyabi? Food-wise, AOKI is a noodle below but at least they don’t have the Valium Crew waiting on tables, so big plus there.

Felices comidas!

See how fat those slices are on top of the rice. Excellent.

See how fat those slices are on top of the rice. Excellent.

Tempura Noodle Combo

Tempura Noodle Combo. Those noodles are cold.

Stuffed little Squid

Stuffed little Squid

Roll with Spicy de Atun

Aguacate and Cuke Roll with Spicy de Atun and some masago for fun

Tempura Noodle Combo IMG_3806

Tuna on the outside. It comes w cream cheese but you can ask to have it left out

Tuna on the outside. It comes w cream cheese but you can ask to have it left out

 

 

The Casual Restaurant Critic – Vancouver, Canada (Part II)

Continuing with the Critic and his neurotic reviews, here are some more notes on the restaurant scene in Vancouver which you may or may not find useful. A full refrigerator and invitations from friends for dinners and lunches have scene a drastic decline in the number of establishments visited; nevertheless, there is always something to observe, document or write about and so here goes.

VIJ

A good friend (who shall be referred to as Ms Cinci for the remainder of this write-up) of the Better Half and the Critic came to Vancouver for a brief visit and says “hey, my friend recommended Vijs for Indian food!” by way of suggestion and so the Critic and BH just had to see what the fuss was about; and were pleasantly blown away by the food!!

One arrives at Vij and sits at an outdoor terrace, where one can order an exotic drink; how does an Indian Mojito sound, with cilantro? Or a mango and masala infused dark rum cocktail called Dark Army?  Both of those were had and they were fantastic, while the little group sat outside waiting for a table in the packed, deliciously lit room. Appetizers are brought out while you wait, courtesy of the restaurant which takes no reservations and seating is on a first come, first served basis.

The food is absolutely glorious! Hearty, complex in the variety of flavors that cross your palate as you savor each and every bite. The Critic ordered the prawns, the Better Half a chicken-based dish and Ms Cinci had “lamb popsicles” which were actually little cutlets perfectly cooked – crispy, crunchy and tender chewy at the same time – in the most delectable, buttery and decadent sauce. All the dishes were served in large bowls so sharing was not only nice (inside joke) but encouraged and easy. Appetizers were fantastic as well; the Samosa with a very spicy stuffing was a meal in itself and who could resist the pork belly? Not this group!

The meal was accompanied by a bottle of crisp white wine going by the name of Joie Farm Market and was the perfect, non-intrusive complement to the outstanding food.

Service was gracious, professional and friendly by a mostly female staff who all took care of all the tables at once; none of this “my section” nonsense.

Ms Cinci picked up the bill so price information is not available, but a look at their website can give you, my dear reader, an idea.

Overall, the experience was gourmet, perfect for foodies, but not pretentious or stuffy in any way. Highly recommended!!

Website for Vij here.

Tomokazu Japanese

Tomokazu is a very popular all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant on Broadway in Vancouver. Thanks to the Mini-Critic, the Casual Restaurant and Better Half were able to experience this incredibly inexpensive sushi restaurant which is one of the few places open late in Vancouver, where you can go at 11 PM and find the place hopping.

The sushi is not the greatest in the world but for an all-you-can-eat option, and at the ridiculous price of 12.95 CDN per person, it is a bargain and you will not be disappointed. The Critic suggests ordering your limit of sashimi (there is a limit of 2 orders per person) and plenty of salmon niguiri (pieces). The fish is fresh and cold and delicious. Service is quick, with servers speaking enough English to get by. Orders are taken via a piece of paper where one marks the amount of each sushi you want and this is handed to the server. The food comes along almost instantly, so those guys at the sushi bar are really cranking it out.

Excellent value for the money.

Write-ups on Urban Spoon here.

That Mediterranean Food Store

There is a little specialty shop on Commercial Drive that has the largest selection of Lebanese and other Mediterranean food you have ever seen – the Critic and BH “discovered” this Vancouver institution while searching for lunch options to have at the vacation rental in Vancouver. If you love Lebanese food – and who in the Yucatan doesn’t – this is the place to go. The owner is there each and every day, doling out olives, humus (garbanza) and fresh-baked sweet and savory pastries and making jokes with his many customers.

Write up on Urban Spoon here.

Miyabi Sushi

The Casual Restaurant Critic thinks he may have found a new favourite sushi restaurant in Merida. Opened (and operated) by a 14 year veteran of Cancuns Yamamoto restaurant, tiny sushi-lovers delight Miyabi is tucked unceremoniously in the little strip mall on Montejo where you can also find Carls Junior (formerly Checkers), Segafredo and the underwhelming Ca’ d’Oro Italian restaurant.

Unceremoniously doesn’t mean that this is an unattractive restaurant; far from it! It is all white inside, with a granite sushi bar and many real Japanese decorations brought over from Japan by the chefs Better Half, who is charming and hails from the land of the rising sun.

The Critic and HIS Better Half sat at the slightly uncomfortable sushi bar – uncomfortable because the stools don’t have that cross brace on the bottom which leaves your feet dangling and strains the back. Does this sound like an old fart or what – and ordered directly from the chef/owner. The highlight was a special roll called Nozumi, which featured chopped scallops and heated smoked eel, but all the dishes ordered (sushi – rolls and nigiri only) were excellent. The Critic enjoyed immensely the fact that the raw fish was ice cold and fresh tasting; the chef commented that he only orders what he plans on selling so as to keep things fresh and if it runs out, well better luck next time. This was the case with the salmon (sake, or shake as they call it here) which was no more, much to the Critics chagrin, who ordered a fat slab of fresh cold tuna on a nigiri piece. Fantastic.

After the late lunch, the chef and his lovely wife comped a dessert – red bean ice cream. This is not made on the premises, but brought from Mexico City where a Japanese family makes this and other (Lychee, Green Tea) ice creams.

Miyabi has been open for about two months and apparently, business is booming. Go for lunch soon, but late, as it tends to fill up and you will have to wait in the 40 degree heat outside. And that’s not a pretty picture.