May 25, 2008

Chili's Altabrisa

The Casual Restaurant Critic is deeply aware of the fact that no one wants to read reviews of this American chain restaurant. But since it is the only restaurant visited lately and something must be said about all the available options in Merida, here goes.

Chili's Altabrisa (in the new Altabrisa mall) is a notch above the Chili's located in Liverpool, where the Critic was amazed at how bad the service was. Here, in the sparkling new mall and across from the already reviewed Fogoncito taqueria, the service is a little better while the food is the same gringo fare found at the other locations.

The Critic's better half ordered her usual hamburger which was good enough (Carls Jr. is better), the MiniCritic ordered her favorite, cream of broccoli soup which she enjoys, and the curmudgeonly Critic ordered baby back ribs. All the food arrived without utensils of any sort and the party had to resort to hissing and whistling and finally just grabbing a bus person walking by to get some forks n knives. The burger was good, the soup was good, the ribs were OK (Friday's has better ribs). Basically they were dry and the extra sauce asked for when the food was brought to the table took an eternity to arrive.

An on the rocks "Top Shelf" Margarita was served without any of the problems and difficulties encountered at the Liverpool location and was delicious and refreshing as usual.

The bill was asked for and once the money had been placed in the little bill-thingie, it took another eternity to get the change back. Finally the party's waiter approached the table with the bill holder tucked under his armpit. However, he was distracted by the bus station and stopped to help roll up cutlery elegantly in wrinkled paper napkins (do not use the wrapping napkin to wipe your mouth - trust the Critic on this one). The Critic assumed he was going to do two or three to take to a table, but after watching him complete his seventh roll, he realized that the waiter had forgotten the change and bill holder in his armpit and so the waiter was called by name and he promptly came over with the bill at that point.

Please keep in mind that a Chili's hostess will attempt to sell you a 'membership card' that is good for 10% off your bill at any of the participating restaurants. There are about 8-10 listed of which one is in Merida. The rest are in the D.F. You decide if it is worth your while.

Again, nothing that Chili's did here made the Critic change his mind about the fact that this chain should be - with the notable exception of their great margaritas - near the bottom of your out-to-dinner list when in Merida.

May 6, 2008

Walk the Wok

Merida has a new restaurant that you might want to check out if you are in 'el Norte', that part of town where all the action is.

The Casual Restaurant Critic first heard of this place in Plan B, that information-packed, Thursdays-only supplement in the local Diario de Yucatan newspaper. There was a catchy ad, and lo and behold, a whole page dedicated to the restaurant, which has, apparently, two locations on the entire planet: the first one, located in Amsterdam (Holland aka Netherlands for those geography-challenged, Left Behind readers) and now Mérida.

Amsterdam and Mérida share little else (understatement of the year, perhaps?) but now they share this cute little restaurant idea where the signage is funny, the food is interesting and they even have those little oriental food take out boxes complete with chopsticks.

It works like this - you pick your base, which can be rice or noodles, the latter of the rice or egg variety, which come with a bean sprout-y mix of basic veggies. Then, you add ingredients according to the contents of your wallet, the size of your appetite or your delusional thinking that you are a great chef and will invent something new. There is everything from shrimp to peanuts to choose from, each with it's own price. Finally, you have a choice of about 7 salsas or sauces to bind it all together. Black bean garlic, Thai curry and coconut, that sort of thing. The cashier takes your money while the cooks whip up your concoction right there and then in one of two enormous woks being slaved over behind a protective sheet of glass.

The result? Before you can finish a cigarette outside, your little boxes are ready to go. The
food itself, the Critic found a little bland. Of the three combinations ordered, the Shanghai sauce was the only one with enough kick to make it tasty. The other two were rather bland, in the Critic's humble opinion.

What about price you ask? Well, since you add your choice of ingredients and the prices are all over the map, you could probably eat cheap. The Critics meal, three orders for three people, two with shrimp and shiitake mushrooms, ran $250.00. Pesos of course.

On a scale of 1-5, the Critic rates this one a 3 for now. Take it or leave it.