Dec 31, 2009

Dang Ren Chinese Food - Merida, Yucatan

The Critic thinks he has found possibly the worst Chinese food in Merida. It's a little place called Dang Ren, located across from Costco on Calle 60 and the Critic was hungry while waiting for his vehicle to be serviced at nearby Radial Llantas and decided to get a little MSG fix.

There are plastic chairs and tables, of the Coca Cola variety in what used to be this house' garage. The sign says something about 'art in Chinese cuisine' or something equally ambitious and slanderously incorrect. The food, in steam table recipients on a couple of plastic tables where one notes a complete lack of any steam, looks Chinese enough.

A Chinese man pops out of the house and asks if you want one guiso or two and if it's to go or to eat here. The Critic says to eat here. The difference is that one gets a plastic fork. The styro container is the same. One guiso and rice today.

The Critic sits, sticks the fork in the rice and puts in his mouth. The undercooked ie hard rice is between lukewarm and cold. Ugh! The chicken? Same thing. If there is one thing the Critic hates it's buffets and their lukewarm food. That's where all the tourists in Cancun get sick.

A moment later, the entire 27 peso package was in the garbage at Costco, where the Critic picked up a turkey and cheese sandwich at their deli, which was much better.

This place is just gross.

Dec 10, 2009

Italian Coffee - Merida-Cancun Toll Highway

A new Italian Coffee kick the 'isla de servicio's offerings up a notch!


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Doña Tere, Merida-Cancun Toll Highway

Last night, on the way back from Cancun, the Critic and guests stopped at Doña Teres' eatery at the Isla de Servicios on the Cancun-Merida toll highway. If you haven't had a chance to try their Yucatecan food, you should definitely put this place on your to-do list.

The Critic and guests enjoyed tacos de cochinita, lechón, relleno negro and lomitos de Valladolid on hand-made corn tortillas. Everything was lip-smacking delicious.

The bill, including a café con leche and two cheese empanadas to go, came to a whopping 197 pesos.

This will be the high point of your trip on the toll highway which is otherwise mind-numbingly boring.

Thank you!

Thanks to those who took the time to write a note in response to my previous posts' request for feedback. It is much appreciated!

Dec 8, 2009

Feedback Please

The Casual Restaurant Critic needs some feedback here folks; it's evident that someone is reading the charming reviews posted - note the live feed on the right hand side of the page - here but the Critic is getting no feedback and since there is no monetary reward for spewing forth unsolicited criticisms of Meridas' culinary scene, such as it is, your feedback is what keeps the cantankerous Critic motivated.

Thank you.

Dec 6, 2009

Acitrón - Gourmet Mexican Cuisine, Merida, Yucatan

Last night, the Casual Restaurant Critic, Better Half and friends had dinner at one of Meridas' newer 'upscale' restaurants, Acitrón.

The Critic had heard of the place and the wonderful food that the two chefs were preparing, and was expecting to be amazed. Unfortunately, the experience was underwhelming.

No doubt, the much commented-on Chaya Frita appetizer was terrific, a giant serving of chaya (a local plant always describe as a kind of spinach for lack of a better comparison) leaves, crispy, lemony and served with toasted bread and a tasty dip. Rolls are not warm, but the butter is seasoned and quite tasty.

The main dishes included Tequila Shrimp on a bed of coconut rice; the rice was fantastic with real live chunks of coconut but the shrimp, while large, had an aftertaste of frozen-ness if that is a word. They just didn't seem that fresh. There was also the fusilli in squid ink with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, which was very good. The Critic had the salmon which was slightly undercooked but not overly so. The sauce, possibly tamarind - but then the Critics' memory is failing him - was sweet enough and complemented the fish nicely, as did the green rice which was delicious. In the Critics' opinion, the food could have been hotter, as it seemed only luke warm.

The room itself is warm, minimalist and lit up in plenty of red, making it cozy and modern at the same time. There was a problem with the electricity perhaps, because the overhead halogen lighting was flickering on and off. Music was off when the party entered, but some tunes came on about 30 minutes into the dinner.

The big problem here, like the Critic mentions in the previous Sensei Sushi post, is the service. If you have creative chefs in the kitchen working wonders with exotic ingredients and creating delicious food, why in the hell can you not have someone out front handling the service so it is up to par with the food? The waiters are in the "just alright" category; however, they lack confidence when presenting themselves and describing the food, and in the case of the Critics' table, the waiter could have benefited from a course in diction. His mumbling combined with the hesitant manner in which he described the food made it hard to understand what he was saying.

And while on the subject of Front of House, to serve a glass of Merlot ice cold was not to the Critic's liking at all. This is to be expected in some Yucatecan homes where wine is still a novelty but in a restaurant like this? Almost a sin. As well, maybe it's old fashioned but the Critic thinks it is a good idea to serve the ladies first. The mens' drinks arrived at the table several minutes before the ladies' drinks appeared. And when done, and the ladies are still eating, leave the men their plates so the women don't feel pressured. Just a few humble suggestions from the cantankerous Critic.

The chefs are doing their thing in the kitchen and doing it well. With a few tweaks here and there, they could eventually give Nectar a run for their money. But whoever is looking after their front of house needs to find work elsewhere to make room for a professional who knows what service is about and can bring that part of the experience up to the level the chefs are trying to reach with their imaginative culinary creations.

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Check out photos of the restaurant on FaceBook

Sensei Sushi, Merida

The CRC, on a neverending quest for decent sushi in the formerly white Merida, had a go at Sensei Sushi, yet another Japanese restaurant to recently open its' doors to Meridas' undemanding sushi fans. If it's got cream cheese in it, it must be good, seems to be the motto.

The cantankerous Critic, along with the Better Half, had a quick lunch there two days ago.

The room is much nicer than what the Critic had come to expect after putting up with the faltering Campay, tolerating Shaolin and surviving the ghastly Konsushi. Quality furnishings in an airy, bright, well put together design that evokes a sense of purpose; as opposed to the amateurish and the frankly chaotic of the other restaurants mentioned above.

The Better Half had ordered 3 rolls off the table card and so the Critic is not sure what their names were, but all three were better than expected. A salmon nigiri ordered for dessert (a Casual Restaurant Critic sushi tradition) was perfect; the salmon cut thick and ice cold, served on a perfect portion of rice with a light brush of wasabi.

Sensei made a good first impression, with of course the usual exception typical of all Merida restaurants:* the service sucked. Slow, inattentive and sloppy, it was embarassing.

It is decent enough as a sushi option in Merida if you aren't particular about the service end of eating out.

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*Two Merida restaurants come to mind if good service is important to you: La Recova and La Susana. The rest, and I'm sorry my dear Yucas, all suck to some degree.








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Dec 1, 2009

Crunchy, Crappy, Crisps

As we all know, crisps are potato chips in the land of Ali G. In Merida, they are 'papitas'.

This brand, 'Caseras by industry giant Sabritas, are crunchy but unfortunately devoid of any flavor and salt and only have a hint of 'picante' and vinegar-y aftertaste. Horrid. Do not buy.

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There was a photo of the bag of chips in its' clear polyprop plasticicity, but somewhere during the upload, it desintegrated. Sorry 'bout that.



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