Tag Archives: Thai food

The Casual Restaurant Critic Hitting and Missing at the Gran Plaza Mall

Every once in a while, the Casual Restaurant Critic finds himself in the mall – the Gran Plaza mall to be exact – to do some banking, pay the CFE or TelCel or whatever, and the timing works out in such a way as to necessitate a bite to eat.  The question is always: where will it be this time? Such a situation occured twice in the past week, resulting in one hit, and one awful miss.

Besides the one or two restaurants in the mall, there is the hilariously-named Food and Food food court. Choices abound! Will it be the MSG-laden offerings of Win Fa’s Chinese food, with the promise of ever-lasting thirst for hours; or the line-up infused hamburgers of Burger King? Or perhaps deal with the indifferent doñas at Doña Gorda, who make deep-fried and oily gorditas that will inspire a rush on the local omeprazol supply? The salad place is sadly dead and gone with its healthy options and so other choices might be Alabama Mama with “southern food” or some fairly decent Trompos tacos (try their heart-valve-bursting nachos especiales if you really want to gorge yourself with calories.

The Critic, however, found two new additions to the Food and Food food court, one was a definite and resounding miss, while the other promises to be a hit.

The Miss

The Critic has a soft spot for entrepreneurs who make the effort to provide something new and in this case, it was a Yucatecan food outlet that calls itself Pibilxito (which in Mayan means absolutely nothing), among all those tacos and hamburgers and cheap pasta. It is exceedingly hard to please Yucatecans with Yucatecan food since everyone has an aunt or a mom or a grandma or a suegra who makes their favorite dish just so. It’s an impossible situation, the Critic believes, and this place will go the way of another attempt at Yucatecan fare that met its demise in this very same Food and Food food court years ago.

Some of the most famous Yucatecan items are on the menu like cochinita pibil, relleno negro and the Critics favorite, queso relleno, which he proceeded to order from the rather bored and uninspired young man alternately playing with his smart phone and looking up blankly at the zero clientele stopping there. The Critic paid his 70 pesos for an order, a full 10 pesos more than the other orders, a price point explained to him by the hapless employee with the help of a prop: an actual Queso de Bola marca Gallo kept under the counter to prove the worthiness of that 4 dollar expenditure.

The food, ordered to go and unpacked from its mismatched plastic and styro containers at home, was pretty well inedible. The Critic’s cat did, however, get into it and managed to down a few swallows of the unappealing white ground meat that had not a hint of a raisin, a caper or an almond, let alone an olive, accompanied by the afore-mentioned Gallo brand cheese, all served in the traditional corn flour kol. The tortillas that came with the order were of the store-bought variety, rounding out the exceptionally gnarly experience.

Highly not recommended. Avoid at all costs.

The Hit

Having just opened, the new Thai Bistro Express, an offshoot/expansion of the popular place by the same name in Chuburna (beach, not colonia) promises to be the real deal. The super-friendly, engaged and energetic owners are right there and are happy to see you, happy to explain their food offerings to you and happy to cook it for you too. What a difference a smile makes!

The Critic had the Pad Thai, with pork. It could have a little more punch to it but was very good in any case. The iced coffee is absolutely delicious and a treat in the land (Food and Food food court land) of Coca-Cola and other gaseous beverages. What the Critic liked best was the fact that the owner asked how it was and seemed genuinely interested in some constructive criticism, offered with the sincere interest in making their place a well-deserved success. Price of the meal? $120 pesos for Pad Thai and Iced Coffee.

The Casual Restaurant Critic meets The Thai Flasher

Way out in the far reaches of the expanses of ocean front property and ocean front wannabe property, there is a small gringo-run restaurant called Progreso Pastas. Or rather, there was a restaurant called Progreso Pastas but since the owners decided to take a break and go to Thailand for a while, a new owner came along and took over the place and guess what kind of cuisine he is offering? Oh. You read the title of this article already.

The Critic was sitting in his office, mindfully minding his own business when what on the computer screen should appear, but a man and a dog in the form of video star Erich Briehl interviewing Chris Zimmermann (of The Sean Hennessy Theater fame) who is the man behind the Facebook phenomenon Thai Flash which brought the concept of flash mobbing and Thai food together at predetermined times and places in Merida. Chris has opened the Thai Flash restaurant in Progreso (just off the road to Chicxulub, actually) and the Critic suddenly became very very hungry.

A quick drive out to the temporadista-infested coast and after briefly losing his bearings, the Critic found what he was looking for. Unfortunately he found it too soon – at 5 PM the place was still being set up and so the Critic went for a drive around the area, taking photos of flamingoes and trying not to get crashed into by gangs of pre-teens on four wheel drive off road ATV’s barreling along the sandy byroads around Chicxulub. This is where the money is so the kids are white and blond, while further inland – just a few rows of houses in fact – the populace becomes significantly darker and the ATV’s vanish to be replaced by the occasional horse or good old foot power.

Finally it was 6 PM and the Critic again got lost trying to find Chris’s Thai emporium. At last, and finding a parking spot on the street behing a car with plates from Texas and across the street from another with Manitoba plates, the Critic was in and ready to order. Only gringos occupied two other tables in what used to be the house’s garage which has been turned into a small dining area with some rather pretty Thai lamps at one end.

A new waitress, freshly installed and featuring a southern accent (not Peto; Texas) took the Critics order while a local celebrity from the world of real estate, completely over qualified for the job, manned the bar with ease and prepared the house specialty: a lemon grass Mojito. This drink is the best Mojito the Critic has had in Merida, as most places overdo the soda, others the sugar and usually the plant ie the mint, is flavorless and too subdued. This lemon grass version, invented by the Thai Flasher himself, is deliciously refreshing and dangerous because before you know it you will have drained your glass and picked out all the green stuff and ordered another, only then realizing that each of those Mojitos pack an alcoholic punch!

The Tom Yum soup is a work in progress and the recipe is still being tweaked to get it just right. The spice is there, the veggies and coconut milk too, but there is a little something missing and that is being worked on. Probably even as you read this, dear reader!

The Pad Thai however, has been perfected and due to a small snafu with the ordering process, the Critic had his with peanut sauce, which apparently is not always the norm. This Pad Thai, with fresh sprouts on top and plenty of Tofu and veggie goodness, will feed a small family, tastes as good as any Pad Thai the Critic has had and is extremely satisfying. Highly recommended. There was no room for the curry and so that will have to be eaten on another occasion, perhaps with the Better Half.

There was no room for dessert either but Chris graciously invited the Critic to a Thai Iced Coffee. Slightly sweet and served on the rocks, it was a perfect way to finish off the meal.

How to find the place you ask? If you are coming from Chicxulub along what is Calle 29 (please don’t bother memorizing this, the whole beachfront area is far too rustic to have signposts with street names or numbers on them) you are basically SOL as there is precious little in the way of markers to indicate a right turn onto Calle 32. Keep in mind that if you hit Progreso you have gone too far. Pass the parque, an optimistically-named area devoid of houses and featuring a tree or three and some shack-y constructions. Continue on for a few more blocks and hope for the best. If you make it up to the other one way street running from Progreso to Chicxulub and you hit the end of the wall of the Neek Kaan condos, you are in the right place so back up and look for a cross street.

Confused? You should be. Here is their Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/285262688201534/

That should help. Contact them and have them explain it to you!