Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Italian Options in Centro

Trip Advisor list 33 Italian restaurants in Merida and a quick glance tells me I’ve eaten at only about a third of them.  A second glance and recent experience tells me I won’t be eating at the other two thirds any time soon.  This year Oliva Kitchen and Bar got a head start on the newly opened Dadaumpa but the latter will give Oliva a run for it’s money. The battle of the pastas will be interesting to watch and taste. Oliva has a tiny dining room that’s charming and cozy in the 90’s woodsy bricky way.  The roomier Dadaumpa has potential but at the moment has all of the charm of the dining section of an Oxxo and only half the comforts.  At Oliva the kitchen is in the dining room and so the service is good as they can never escape your gaze.  You’re not likely to get one of the six little tables so you’ll most likely wait at the tiny little bar.  You will be rewarded.  La Carbonara seems to be everyone’s favourite dish. Both restaurants offer homemade pastas and I prefer Dadaumpa’s rustic touch to Olivas. At Dadaumpa you should try the classics like putanesca, the arrabiata and above all the spinach and cheese ravioli, but ask for the Sorrentini sauce in place of the cream.  Dadaumpa has not quiet mastered the art of the cream sauce. At Oliva try the hearty Della Nona a yummy ragu or La Mora al Mare with calamari and shrimp in a saffron tomato sauce or my favourite the Raviolis stuffed with portabellos, pecans and Ricotta.  You’d be a fool to have a pizza anywhere in centro except Rafaello’s.  The thin crust pizza cooked in the wood oven on the patio by an equally crusty southern Italian are as good as anything you’ll find in Napa, Brooklyn or dare I say it Milan.  The pizza’s are big enough to share but you should order the anchovies so you don’t have too.  Rumor has it that Oliva is looking for a second larger location.  Dadaumpa has ordered new tables and chairs and has promised to replace the cold florescent lighting and put a candle on the tables…I’d take my own just in case.  Mercifully Oliva delivers, albeit tardily. We recently took out from Dadumpa and the pastas were equally good at home and the environment infinitely more charming.  I look forward to reviewing these restaurants individually as I gain more experience at their tables….or mine.

November 2014  another Italian restaurant has opened on calle 43 x 58 & 60 called La Casa de la Nonna.  Haven't tried it yet.  Tried it and it was absolutely awful.  February 2015

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Great Expectations and Greasy Donuts

As the food critic for The Times (Joanna Weinberg) was staying at Rosas y Xocolate and her two adorable kids were sleeping in the room down below we met on the terrace for drinks on a recent saturday night.  The overpriced wines went down smoothly and the New Yorkers in the group (Richard and Laura) explained the beauty of tequila and sangrita which lead to the merriment and the wish to have a little something to snack on.  We ordered 4 appetisers for the 6 of us and settled in.  The first two came amid the sound of plates crashing and smashing on the stairs...  The fritura del pescado was stone cold and it was explained to us by the waiter that the fried fish was always served stone cold (duh) Laminas de Atun in garlic cream was also refrigerator fresh though tastier than the insipid fried fish.  We asked if that sound of broken crockery had been our other two dishes and promptly canceled the order and moved ourselves down the road to Noche Mexicana but not before passing the owner Karole at the top of the stairs.  Luckily for Rosas y Xocolate they do not need my custom to thrive as they seem to be doing.  It's a truly lovely place to have drinks on the upstairs terrace and the jazz band is just jazzy enough.  The little patio downstairs is where I would always choose to dine were I to dine.  It's already time to redo the lobby and the dining room decor and I would recommend the design team who recently revamped the Hyatt's restaurant Amusa.

It's the first time I'd been to Noche Mexicana in a decade I guess.  Loved the kitsch stage setting it reminded me of the Saturday nights on the naugahyde sofa with wagon wheels watching Grand Ole Opry of my youth in Texas.  We had Ana Sabrina's famous tacos as the Tequila buzz waned...then to console ourselves the very wise and grease loving food critic from the UK ordered a dozen fresh hot Churros.  I shall no doubt go back for hot churros long before I find myself having frozen fish sticks at R & X again.   I'm looking forward to Joanna's article on Merida for Conde Nast Traveller UK and until then I'll check out her blog to see if gets around to reviewing the greasy fries at The Smoking Club No. 1 or panuchos in the Zocalo on Sunday.