Today the Casual Restaurant Critic, with all the related Critics (Midi, Mini and Better Half) away, decided on having a Chinese lunch at the Nao de China restaurant, formerly known as Hong Kong. The Critic had been wanting to go back after a long absence, but somehow it never happened. Until today.
The draw at this place is the lunch buffet, which at present runs at $82 pesos and includes a soft drink.
Besides the restaurant being a lot larger - the patio in back is now covered and air conditioned and the buffet has been moved from the entrance area to the newer part - the place is basically the same as always.
The food on the buffet steam table is still exactly the same as 5 years ago or so when the Critic was last there. The same stuff! There are spring rolls, fried chicken wings, roasted chicken, a curry dish, a chop suey, some pieces of sushi, the gelatin desserts and a watery soup. Once they were novel and tasty; now they are all really quite horrendous and completely forgettable, bordering on the inedible.
First of all, nothing tastes even remotely fresh. The spring rolls used to be flaky and crunchy, now they are thick and crunchy and rather bland. The chicken wings are lukje warm, not at all crispy; more like chewy and feel as if they have been there for a day or so. The curry and chop suey dishes are warmer, but as bland as eating a paper placemat. The roast chicken was as dry as one of those steer skulls in the desert and needed water to force it down. The gelatinous selection of desserts was not tried, neither was the soup or the plain, unappetizing looking "sushi".
A complete bust. Even if they charged $25 pesos for this unappealing and extremely limited selection, the Critic would not return.
The Critic was so disgusted that he couldn't manage another trip to the buffet. A menu was asked for and Chi Maa chicken ordered. The Critic remember that this was always good before, and he wasn't disappointed when it arrived at the table. Crispy deep fried chunks of batter stuffed with chicken and drizzled with honey and topped with chopped green onions. A huge portion, hot and tasty and served with steamed rice. Much better!
The service was fair, the hostess completely indifferent as was the person in charge of the buffet. They could care less if you were there or not.
Critic's recommendation? If you have to go, choose the menu over the buffet and watch the people stare enviously as you eat well while they suffer through the tasteless crap from the buffet. Hey it's their own fault for being so damn cheap.
Total bill was 114 pesos ($82 for the buffet and the rest for the Pollo Chi Maa). Refresco included with the price of the buffet (Pepsi products only, no Coke; even the uniforms have Pepsi embroidered on them).
You are better off at Win Fa or one of the other new Chinese places sprouting up all over Merida as the Oriental Invasion finally comes to the Yucatan.
One to five? This place rates a "don't bother" - 2.