Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oaxacan Food in Yucatan

Merida finally has a real “Mexican” restaurant.  Apoala in the newly renovated Santa Lucia parque is a dream come true.   I was reluctant to even try it until one night this month when four foodie New Yorkers and Josh and I were looking for a place to have dinner.  Three of the NY’ers had been to Apoala the previous night but didn’t say a word until we sat down.  They recommended the grilled shrimp on a bed of polenta and I was amazed.  Josh loved quesadillas with Oaxacan cheese and squash flowers and the tacos barbacoa.  Then Sunday night after a movie we went again with friends from Paris/Oaxaca/New York and three of us had the quesadillas and Josh had the octopus tacos.  We were all thrilled.  Last night, 3rd time in a week I had dinner with friends from NY who bought a hacienda 5 years ago and know my eating habits, as Laura said last night I was born jaded.  When everyone ordered top shelf tequila and appetizers I felt my wallet contract in my back pocket.  The place is a little bit too pricey for Merida Centro at least for expats who didn’t sell out soon enough.  Astonishingly everyone was happy with the first course and all six of us shocked and awed by each dish.  The house salad with seared tuna was perfectly dressed and fresh.  The conch ceviche I shall be having again as soon as possible.  The stuffed squash blooms would please any vegetarian. Apparently all of the tacos on the menu, especially the suckling pig, are divine though as a pescatarian I’ll never know.  The bill quickly disappeared as the New Zealander, our newest best friend, whisked it away. Twelve very happy customers in so many days.  Three excellent dinners for me and in my twelve years in Merida I’ve never been so happily fed after dark.  My one complaint would be the expensive bottles of water on the small tables. 

Update 8 December 2013  Inevitably I would discover another flaw in the best new restaurant in Merida dream.  This weeks meal was with friends in town from San Miguel de Allende and Los Angeles.  They were disappointed that there weren't more typical Oaxacan dishes on the menu.  That doesn't bother me so much.  What disappointed me was that for the first time we ordered more main courses than appetisers.  Not one of them was anywhere near the quality or taste of the starters.  The fish of the day I had was overcooked to the point of being rubbery and tasteless and served on a bed of tasteless floury mush they called gnocchi.  Josh's filet had all the charm of a freshly thawed steak which he ordered rare and it was in fact cold when served and tasteless.  The pasta, which I never ever EVER order in a restaurant was bland, boring and banal.  Apparently the Sopa de Lima de rez was OK (not stellar).  So my advise is to really just stick to that first section of the menu as that continues to be exciting and flavourful.

Update 15 January 2014  I continue to frequent Apoala and when I took the food critic from The Times there last week I gave them a little warning in advance that their entrees were disappointing and I had had reports about bad service and long waits.  I listened to their excuses and then told them that basically in a restaurant there are no valid excuses.  If the menu is too long for the kitchen to provide reasonable service from order to table then reduce the size of the menu.  The service was just a little too attentive after that and some dishes were better than others but over all it continues to be the best place in centro for gastronomy or just a decent plate of quesadillas and mescal.  Yes I meant the UK times not the Yucatan Times.

Update November 2014 Apoala now all the waiters know my name and I've settled in to my routine habit of ordering the same thing each time I go which is the house salad.  A mixed green salad with lots of grilled baby vegetables and seared tuna.  I never order the fish because I eat fish else where every week and I'm mostly vegetarian.  I do sometimes order the shrimp posole ceviche which has great flavor but strange texture for a ceviche.  Mostly I have salads or the excellent mole emoladas filled with quinoa (not pc) but delicious.  The squash flowers are always great too.  A friend recently went with out me and never got her guacamole after an hour's wait.  That happens to me all over town and I usually get up and go to the kitchen and ask WTF is going on and voila....guacamole!