Monthly Archives: October 2009

Watch your departure time!!

My wise words of advice if you are flying to Houston from Merida: check your departure time!!

While the time change in Mexico is not synched with the USA, Continentals’ flight to Houston leaves at 6 not 7 AM.

Learned this the hard way on Monday!

Hats off to the Continental staff at the Merida and Cancun airport counters who were so helpful and patient!

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Real Food – Houston airport, TX, USA

Real Food is a new restaurant featuring different kinds of food prepared or served at stations; like sandwiches, bakery, salads, barbeque, burrito and more.

Located near Gate 42, the place looks great. Unfortunately, the food is lackluster in the taste department.

The Critics’ recommendation? Skip it and go eat “real food” at Pappadeaux.

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La(s) Mestiza(s) Restaurant, Piste (Chichen Itzá) Yucatan, Mexico

The other day the Casual Restaurant Critic found himself in the charming hamlet of Pisté, adjacent to the majestic Mayan ruins of Chichen Itzá, where Sarah Brightman will sing at the end of this month.

Having heard of this restaurant, the Critic stopped for a quick breakfast of huevos con longaniza which seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to arrive. This was, as the Critic later discovered, because the kitchen was taking the trouble to accompany the plate with fresh, thick, hand-made tortillas! A real treat in this age where Maseca cardboard tortillas are the accepted (by some) norm.

Food was good, the tortillas excellent, service fine and the coffee awful.

Campay Sushi – Merida Japanese

The Critic is not sure what is happening at Campay but things are not as happy in this sushi place as they once were.

The room feels smaller than usual, perhaps because it has been given a new coat of paint. The Critic feels that there used to be something on the walls that made it feel a little more spacious, but that could be an optical illusion.

The sushi is still quite acceptable but there is no effort made anymore to decorate the plates in any fashion. Rolls are put on a plate and that’s it. Edamame is a tiny portion worthy of derision; a few soy bean pods dumped on a side plate. The waiter, who has ‘served’ the Critic on the last few occasions he has been there, always has something negative to say or there is some problem with something that has been ordered. The customer is asked if he or she wants ginger and wasabi. The ginger tastes nothing like the pickled ginger once offered – it seems like they have decided that buying real pickled ginger is too expensive and have decided to make it themselves with decidedly unfortunate results.

While it is not as bad as the sushi place by the gas station, Campay is definitely off the list of places you should try, at least until they get their act together.

Not good.

What’s the Name of this Fondue Restaurant?

Fondue in Merida? Yes!
Here is a little gem of a restaurant that the Critic had recommended to him by his better half, who had been there already twice before.
XX is a tiny little restaurant located on Circuito Colonias next to TIGSA (a propane gas installation company) and across from a flashy new gas station. It is really a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, so tiny that only three or four tables fit inside, while another two await you outside unless, of course, it is raining, like it was last night.
Unassuming though it is in that there is no huge neon sign, the furniture is plastic red Coca Cola modern, one gets a warm vibe once inside. The welcome is friendly and your attention is seized by the sight of at least a hundred (or so it would appear) empty wine bottles hanging directly over your head on the ceiling. They are suspended by nylon and nails which have been approved by NASA, according to the funny blurb on the back of the menu which is worth reading to get a sense of who is running the place. Hey, if it makes the grumpy Critic smile, it must be funny. Also check out the mirror and poster, hung crookedly on purpose.
There are about 30 or so combinations of fondue options (including a mole fondue!); the Critic opted for the Italian, which features pomodoro, salami, sausage and pineapple – with the pineapple substituted for grilled mushrooms.
Along with a glass or two of red wine, the fondue was spectacular! The Critic could not get enough of the tangy cheese infused with tomato and salami! And at 150 pesos, the fondue is enough for two people so it is not expensive to escape cochinita-land for a couple of delightful hours, while you converse cozily with someone you enjoy being with.
On a scale of1-5, a solid 4.

Mosaic Restaurant and Wine Lounge, Forestville, CA, USA

If you want the Critic’s recommendation for a truly great little restaurant in a non-descript little town on the way to the California coast, the Mosaic Restaurant and Wine Lounge in Forestville is that place. Located on the main drag of this tiny little pueblito on the way to Highway One, it looks like nothing special from the outside. Once inside however, one is struck by the attention to detail in the decor of the room and the beautiful back yard terrace, which is where the Critic, the Better Half and guests sat on a late sunny California morning for brunch.

There was a fresh mimosa, strong freshly made coffee and an attractively simple menu for breakfast and brunch that belied the deliciously imaginative food offered.

The Critic and Co ordered a few items off this menu: sauteed mushrooms with a softened chunk of fresh brie; crispy shoestring french fries with 7 herbs and spices; home-made lamb sausage and eggs and an order of eggs and potatoes.

All of these items were away and beyond normal breakfast food – highly recommended. A look at the pictures below gives you an idea of the care taken in the preparation.

Service was excellent.

It may seem unlikely that you find yourself in Forestville California, but you never know! And if you do, you must have breakfast here, in the Critics’ humble opinion!

Mosaic Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cheesecake Factory, Galleria, Houston, TX, USA

Not much one can write about the enormously popular Cheesecake Factory is there? Most of my readers are probably familiar with the concept, very close if not identical to the Chili’s /Fridays idea.

The Cheesecake Factory is consistently decent. And always crowded. And they do have a great selection of totally over-the-top decadent cheesecakes. Which the Critic did not sample on this occasion.

As our Houstonian CookieMan puts it: “huge portions of overpriced mediocre food”.

The Critic wouldn’t be that harsh on the poor Cheesecake Factory. Maybe it’s not the “gourmet” experience, but it is a reliable place to have lunch or dinner. Many so-called upscale dining spots in Merida strive – with little or no success – to attain this level of consistency. Maybe that’s what makes them interesting…

In the photos: fried cheese balls (if memory serves the Critic right); some adventurous (for this kind of restaurant) dates wrapped in bacon – very good; a taco salad; a greek salad; and a nacho close-up.