Oct 27, 2009

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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Bubba Gump, Cancun airport

Bubba Gump. In a sentence? Don't bother; the food is fattening, bland and expensive. Service from Sofia was very good. But the eats? Naah. Bring a sandwich from elsewhere. Forrest would have hated it.

Oct 24, 2009

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.

Oct 19, 2009

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.

Oct 18, 2009

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

Oct 16, 2009

Fishy Finger Food on Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA, USA

There is nothing the Critic can critique about the great seafood delights you can eat at Fishermans' Wharf in sunny (and chilly now) San Francisco!

From the whole crab to the cocktails to the fried offerings, it's all fantastic! Highly recommended!

Oct 14, 2009

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.

Oct 8, 2009

What Merida Restaurant Would You Like To See Here?

In between all these Houston restaurants, what Merida restaurant would you like to see reviewed here, to keep things local and focused?

The Critic would love to hear your suggestions!

From Luby's to Pappas Steakhouse, Houston, TX, USA

The Critic went from popular Texas favorite Luby's to Pappas Steakhouse in one day, driving around in Houston.

First, lunch at Luby's. The Critic had always heard of Luby's but never actually been. Thinking it was one giant all-you-can-eat buffet featuring deep fried southern food, the Critic was surprised to find all kinds of real food, healthy and attractive and definitely not all-you-can-eat! The grilled salmon was excellent as were the accompanying veggies and the Better Halfs' salad was fine. The Critic will re-visit Luby's, definitely!

Later that day, in a fit of steak craving, the Critic and the always acquiescent Better Half visited Pappas' Steakhouse on Westheimer near the Galleria area. Having been there before, they knew what to expect and boy, was it good!

The Critic had a daily special for an appetizer; a delectable partially de-boned quail while the Better Half had the soup of the day, leek and potato. As a main course, a perfectly grilled Rib Eye and a special Texan Venison steak with a Huckleberry sauce and sauteed chanterelle mushrooms. Perfect! There was barely room for a dessert but the Gooey Pecan Pie had to be tried. As a friend in Vancouver would say: to die for.

Oct 4, 2009

Tampico - Mexican Seafood Restaurant, Houston, Texas, USA

Since Houston is really in Mexico, it should come to no ones surprise that there are a gazillion Mexican restaurants in Bush-ville, catering to every possible permutation of Mexican food lover, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The Critic, the BetterHalf and a local (let's call him CookieMan) had the opportunity to sample such a Mexican restaurant; the Tampico Seafood Restaurant down on Main Street in Houston. After passing by other Mexican places with names like Flores Mexicanas and Teotihuacan, the trio arrived at Tampico.

This restaurant, lit up by neon so bright that the half-blind Critic was unable to capture the actual name of the restaurant with a new camera, is huge! It seems like the original room was added to a number of times leading to a jumble of rooms all interconnected somehow. The Critic and Co sat on the deck outside, where smoking is still permitted in a civilized gesture that the authorities in Vancouver could learn from.

For appetizers, there was queso fundido (melted cheese) with chunks of shrimp and tostones (fried platano macho aka banana chips) with a guacamol-y mayo dip.

The main course is whatever you want it to be and so the Critic ordered Red Snapper, shrimp and scallops. Everything was dusted with what seemed like fine red pepper dust and was extremely tasty. Served with rice, the food was too much and some was left over at the end.

CookieMan ordered a flan, just to try it, and seemed very pleased with it.

Along with some real and truly refreshing Micheladas to start, this was a taste of Mexican seafood in Houston, served by very friendly latino personnel.


Last is First* - Uptown Sushi, Houston

In the Galleria area, where so many Yucatecans love to come and shop, the Critic found this great sushi restaurant in an upscale outdoor shopping center just off the 610 which is much like what City Center strives to become in Merida. Alas, it's probably not to be, but that is the subject of another post, at another time.

Let's call this shopping center Uptown Center for lack of a better name - it might actually be it's name, actually. There's all kinds of upscale boutique and eatery action going on: from Crave, the extremely fashionable cupcake bakery to the Potbelly Sandwich Works restaurant. And Uptown Sushi, the subject of this review.

The place itself evokes a Jayne Mansfield vibe, as the Critics' Better Half pointed out. Discreet lighting, comfortable booths, draped lamps and wall treatments are everywhere in creamy white and salmon colors. The music is 70's and the wait staff is Japanese, while the sushi chef is, of course (this is Houston) a Latino. The Critic and his BH sat at the sushi bar, which is set up in such a way that one can't really see what the chef is doing, which is unfortunate in the Critic's sometimes humble opinion.

Two rolls were ordered, along with an absolutely amazing Key Lime Pie martini. You have to order this delicious and refreshing martini should you find yourself here! The rolls were house specialties: the Lickety Split roll and the Don's Roll. Exceptional and imaginative, the flavors appeared on the tongue like actors on stage, one after the other, perfectly choreographed. If that sounds pretentious, it probably is, but if you slowly savor each piece of these creations, you will understand where the Critic is coming from!

Then the Better Half ordered some specialty sushi, which is in the next photo - at the front is sushi with smoked salmon, strips of mango, topped with masago which has been prepared with wasabi. In the back, scallops with avocado and the wasabi masago.

Fantastic sushi!

Highly recommended should you be in the area and are looking for great sushi. And not as expensive as the Critic had feared: the bill, with the martini and a couple of hot teas, came to $60 USD.


*last is first refers to the fact that this restaurant was one of the last restaurants on this trip, but since the Critic has camera issues at the moment, the photos available were these ones.

Test Post w/ New App

While on this latest foray into the wilds of the United States gastronomical landscape, the Critics' biggest frustration was not being able to share his findings, ridiculous as they may be, with his loyal readers.

Fussy and inconsistent (or outrageously overcharged) hotel WiFi, a practically nonexistent public option (much like health care) and a finicky browser running Safari on a tiny iPhone screen with no photo upload capability made posting difficult if not impossible.

Until now, when the Critic finds himself back in Mérida with new 'app' to play with. If this works, there will be more updates from the road as the Critic travels here and there.

UPDATE: blog posted edited 'cuz it was ugly.

The Critic is Back! Reviews Pending - Stay Tuned!