Calle 61 between Calles 58 and 60 across from the Cathedral Merida, Mexico
OPEN HOURS: 10:00 am – 8:00pm Daily
The beauty of Mexican dining is that everyone seems to just do it right. Taking the time and effort to combine the ingredients in perfect order and letting them combine as long as needed. This patience is something declining in today’s immediacy.
While in Mexico, we dined in some of the finest restaurants in the world (Biko, Pujol) and ate blue-corn tortillas made by hand in the street. Somewhere in between these two lies Las Quekas, who, just like everyone else, takes the time to do it right.
While we were walking through downtown Merida looking for a calling, just across from the cathedral, we stumbled onto an unassuming little place decked out in orange and yellow. It was such an unwavering duo-tone that the instant thought is “franchise”. As we watched a steady crowd brought us in for a closer inspection. Once in nasal proximity, the fresh smells of steaming huitlacoche and melting cheese got us through the door and into a lasting relationship.
With other 5 locations throughout the city of Merida, Las Quekas is a sort of franchise. One that offers exactly what you want at times; Practically instant quesadillas that feel more like a guilty dessert then the hearty meal they are. We were in Merida for only 2 days, but at 5 different occasions we found ourselves lifting the mouth-wateringly good quesadillas to our lips. Crispy tortillas with steaming fillings of Rajas Poblano (strips of poblano peppers with onions in a creamy sauce), huitlacoche and corn, zucchini blossom, and of course the requisite meats stewed chicken or shredded sausage. Each combined with the beautiful soft white cheese that melts in a smoldering bliss.
At a little less then $1 each Las Quekas’s Quesadillas are just about the perfect meal, Healthy, Hearty and Happy.
As noted previously, Tulum is a hippy-chic hangout that makes room for all demographics. It is basically one beach road and all the hotels, restaurants and hangouts that fit long its 5k corridor. Sitting about in the middle is the the kitchy Mateo’s Mexican Grill.
Some might complain that Mateo’s is not “authentic” and too gringo friendly, but they would be missing the point. Like modern television, Mateo’s is a comfortable, friendly, easy place to go when you don’t want to think to hard about what you are doing.
They seemed to be open whenever we needed them to be and had the best coffee in the area. Sorry to report, this is not saying much as Mexican coffee in general is almost always like bad camping coffee, over-boiled café con leche. They do have a nice breakfast selection, tasty fajitas, totopos and of course a range of tacos. The kitchen is open and colorful with pyramids of fresh produce displayed in brightly painted crates.
Perched above is a viewing platform that in theory is an evening cocktail lounge for sunset viewing or maybe its a yoga platform? or a tanning deck? While it looked very interesting, it somehow wound up being closed for 3 different reasons over the course of our 3 days in Tulum. Maybe they just have it open in high season? Still it looks like it would be a lot of fun!!
While in Tulum we stopped by Mateo’s almost daily for the excellent smoothies and juices (and coffee fixes). Our favorite smoothie, which we have been recreating at home is the ‘Mayan Power Boost’. A vitamin packed cocktail 0f chaya (spinach), strawberry, pineapple and lemon. A wonderful way to get the day going as you head out to check some cenotes.
We can just about promise you that if you stay in Tulum, at some point you will find yourself at Mateo’s. Enjoy it for what it is and you will be a happy person!
papaya agua and ‘Mayan Power Boost’. A vitamin packed cocktail 0f chaya (spinach), strawberry, pineapple and lemon.
Biko, another of Mexico DF’s restaurant jewels, is full of surprising textures, colors, flavors, scents and emotions. Looking at the two extremely artistic and diverse chefs, one can see where all of this creativity comes from.
Mikel Alonso is originally from Biarritz, part of the French Basque country. He majored in chemical engineering, and then decided to delve into Culinary Artistry at one of the most prestigious schools in Spain – the Luis Irizar in San Sebastian. Soon after, a job offer brought him to Mexico where he met Bruno Oteiza, a young Basque with an extensive resume, having worked in top restaurants both in Europe and Mexico. From these two wonderful minds, comes the creation of Biko.
For the last three years Biko has been included in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants and this year (2012) it has been awarded with the #38 position. Biko offers three menus: ‘Creative’,’Traditional’ and a chef’s tasting menu. The orientation is avaunt-grade Basque with a Mexican adaptation.
We were welcomed with a foam of beetroots, quite very gentle flavour and ethereal texture, while retaining the robust earthiness of the beet. Happily, we chose 5 dishes and desert from the Creative menu- as it seemed the most exciting! The staff was very knowledgeable and accommodating. An amiable touch was that when they noticed we were sharing, they plated each dish into half-portions for each of us, so we could better share the presentations individually.
Unfortunately, we were not able to take photos of our meal as we were only able to visit during dinner service. We think it is a bit rude during that time to bring out the camera and lights, etc in such a formal environment. So the photos do not match up with what we so scrumptiously enjoyed. Hopefully the words will bring out the flavors that live on in our pallets!
“Espárragos con Aromas de Campo” – White asparagus braised in the salamander with a mojo de alcaravea, rosemary and verdolagas bathed in a vinaigrette of green and white asparagus, topped by a sheet of camomile and flowers.
This dish could have been an example in any of the Modernist Cuisine Cookbooks. Delicate and delightful, truly giving off the smells of a sunny alpine meadow. A bit of gelatinized chamomile suspend over the bed of asparagus below. Each bite was light and promising, like the first day of spring.
What we found very impressive over the course of the meal was how each dish was more powerful then the prior. We ordered in no particular sequence, but the kitchen presented each dish in perfect progression. With the flavors continually growing stronger and the denser. As an accomplished sommelier will trot out white wines, then roses and finally the reds during a tasting. Such that the heavy flavors do not overwhelm the palette and hide the finesse of the lighter grapes.
“Hamachi y Aguacate” – Hamachi marinated in mirin, dark beer and soy sauce with avocado and micro croutons.
We just about ordered this simple yet exquisite dish again for dessert. The perfectly supple Yellow Tail was bathed in a sweet and sultry glaze. The fish was so soft that it reviled the avocado. Simple idea with mouth-watering results.
“Nuestro Frijol Liquido” – Liquified beans poured over a dumpling of shrimp with Avocado with a touch of Avocado leaves
The bowl arrived with a perfectly spherical ball of shrimp melded with avocado, surrounded by a sprinkling of herbs. This treasure was then buried under a bean broth poured over the top by the waiter, after we had a chance to take in the composition. Strong in flavor and delicate in texture, this was an outstanding soup breathed the aroma of earthiness from the pureed beans.
“Pescado con Costra de Hongos y Refrito Aireado” – Robolo (Sea Bass) grilled with sauce of mushrooms and almonds, with potatoes and fried quintonil and an espuma of fried garlic oil, vinegar and porrusalda.
A very nice fish that would have been much more memorable had it not been for the life-altering dish that came after and wiped it from memory ….
“Pescado en Pipián” – Robolo (Sea Bass) with a light pumpkin seed mole sauce, subtly flavored with purslane radish
One bite put me into shock. I was not able to take another bit of food, and could barely move, for approximately 3 minutes. Stunning in the literal sense of the word. I believe that this Pescado en Pipián is the perfection of Sous Vide cooking. The fish was moist and fresh and little puffs of steam came up and it just melted in your mouth. It was wrapped in a green cake of pumpkin-seed (Pipián) mole. Mole is almost never used for seafood, but in this case you can see how tradition can better for change. After having the Roboalo with Habenero and Polenta earlier in the day at Dulce Patria, we were very worried that it was not possible to produce a better Robolo.. Happily we were so very wrong!
“Frutas con pieles de otras frutas“ (Fruits with the skin of other fruits) – Roasted seasonal fruit wrapped in skin of other fruit (yes you read that correctly!) and topped with puree of raspberry and green pepper. Accompanied pulque bread ice cream
Ok, this we ordered just for the name and concept, and conceptually it is amazing.
“Trufas Bronceadas“– Spheres of molten chocolate dusted with bronze, served beside wine cured strawberries, an oven-dried fried pulque & nut cake, served with butter & lemon ice cream.
However, no dessert can stand next to the ‘Bronzed Truffles’. Easily one of the most spectacular of desserts we’ve ever had! Spectacular being also in the form of spectacle – an amazing performance by a dessert! This was a 4 stage process that was a true culmination to an evening of gastronomy that had built from the first bite.
Fill your mouth with the malto-dextrin and let it melt on your tongue. (Think powdered sugar).
Place the spherified molten chocolate truffle in your mouth with the wine-marinated strawberry and wait until it explodes, a chocolate bomb going off in your mouth.
Follow this with the dehydrated cake to soak up the chocolate and add the slight woodiness of the nuts.
Taste the completely opposite, yet complimentary pallatte cleansing flavor of the lemon butter iced cream.
We immediately ordered the Trufas Bronceadas a second time. It is not meant to, nor do you wish to, share!
After a short, but impressive, time in Mexico enjoying the barrage of flavors that assaulted us each time we ventured outside. It was amazing to see a restaurant really stand out above the rest. Biko is true 3 hour culinary artistry journey that had us traverse a perfect plot triangle.
above – Trufas Bronceadas
(52) 55 5282 2064 Presidente Masaryk 407 Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, 1550 Mexico City, DF, Mexico
El Tábano is first on the list of many a foodie review of Tulum. So it was with some excitement that we ducked through the driftwood gate, into the open garden littered with tables and easing with well curated music. The short answer is that El Tábano has by far the best dining in the area and owners Paf and Laura deserve all the kudos they receive.
Our lead was the cold tomatoe and papaya gazpacho. Spectacularly refreshing, cool and sweet it was an instant winner, reinvigorating the palate on a hot afternoon. Next the plates started coming quickly, a fresh guacamole salad, an organic bean salad, huitlacoche crepes, chili ancho stuffed with shrimp and nuts – each plate radiating forth with its own perfumed flavor contour, as dishes in Mexico tend to do.
The fresh fish tacos were quite good, but not quite as mind-boggling as those from the Viceroy in Playa del Carmen, which are very very very hard to top. A highlight was the hot pepper salsa which was made fresh on our request. The tomatillos and chillies were still warm from the stove top!
The menu changes consistently, and is quite malleable, as it is only chalk on the large blackboards by the entrance; easily alterable. It is good to arrive early as items are only available until they run out, which they did 3 of the 3 times we were there. Pricing is quite reasonable and many of the ingredients organic. El Tábano was also where we were able to purchase the flowery local Yucatan honey (you should do this too!).
In the evenings bug spray and/or long pants and chosed shoes are recommended for dinner. As you are dining in a garden, there are plenty mosquitoes at night. Though as we forgot, the waiter was on-hand with a solution! The staff is relaxed and friendly, happily chatting about each dish. If you find yourself in Tulum, for everyone’s benefit, please remember that you are in the Caribbean, and probably in need of a vacation. So please don’t get short if the staff runs at a slightly slower speed then they do at home.
Avocado, Mint, Cucumber Soup
Fresh Hot Pepper & Tomatillo Salsa
Plantain Rolls filled with Cheese
Roasted tomatoes with Goat Cheese and Diced Apples
At the entry of the hotel Yoga Shala is the lovely outdoor Mexican café, Bless. Nicely integrated into the landspace, this roadside eatery features healthy quick meals, such as quesadillas, sopa de lima and has a nice amount of vegetarian options. Yummy juices and the thankfully ever present, aromatic Aguas round out the menu.