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Old 04-19-2011   #1 (permalink)
añejo
 
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Recent meals in and around Playa

Disclaimer: Playa is a rapidly evolving place. What you read here today may not be true tomorrow, chefs move on, restaurants change hands, owners go back to where they came from, kitchen staff moves around, entire neighborhoods pop up out of thin air... ymmv

Luna Maya - The Best fancy restaurant in town, serving refined versions of Mayan cuisine at prices that are high for Playa but still very reasonable (appetizers around $10 US, main courses around $17). Some very fairly priced bottles from Casa Madero on the wine list. The chef seems like a nice guy too.

Como Como - Modern Italian-ish food using local fish and better quality seafood than the frozen mixes you find in many of Playa's non-Mexican restaurants. Service doesn't always match the level of the food, but given how successful this place has been, it obviously doesn't matter. Slightly lower prices than a Luna Maya, good wine list.

The above two restaurants are the first ones, as far as I know, to serve food that justifies such prices. Other than them you should really be focusing on Mexican food meant for locals because that's where the value and quality are. eta: of course there's some decent Italian food too, Playa being a veritable Italian colony, but how much of that are you really looking to eat on your Mexican vacation?

Cocteleria El Pirata (not the one on the beach, the one on 40th St.) - a mainstay of Playa - great ceviche and salpicon, choose your fish and they'll fry it up for you, the cazon empanadas are very tasty but seem like 50% oil, good shrimp caldo. Lunch/Late Lunch only.

Aguachiles - the hipster / health conscious version of a cocteleria - ceviches, tostadas, tacos, all made from shrimps, steamed fish and tuna (raw or smoked). Delicious stuff at fair prices. Lunch/Late Lunch only.

Canibal Royal - from the same people as Aguachiles, with a slightly different menu - sit on the top floor if you want to focus on food (great view too, but more of a restaurant upstairs vs beach club / lounge downstairs). Their octopus is fantastic.

El Camello Jr - In downtown Tulum, at the very southern end of town, another cocteleria with very good ceviche, tasty and huge seafood soup, fried fish, etc. Try the chivita snails. Open for lunch and dinner.

El Faisan y El Venado - A Yucatec restaurant that has very good days, okay days, and pretty weak days. Best to go for a late lunch on Sunday when they're relatively busy and have a wide selection. Cochinita Pibil, Longaniza de Venado, Papadzules, Pan de Cazon and lots of other goodies to be had.

La Bamba Jarocha - Only tried a couple of things here - Cazuela de Mariscos - an irresistibly cheesy seafood soup, and crabs in garlic sauce. Both good, very generous portions. I have a feeling it doesn't rank as high as El Pirata or El Camello in terms of fresh fish quality and variety, but lots of good stuff other than that. Very popular for lunch. We tried the location on 30th Ave near 38th St. there's a smaller one a bit further down the avenue that doesn't seem nearly as nice.

Juarez Carts - not much to write about them that hasn't been written - a very small premium to pay for the touristy location vs. tacos uptown, good quality overall, just keep in mind that the tip of Juarez is at a slope that seems to make it the warmest place in Playa.

El Epazote - 50 pesos buy you a nice three course lunch made with care by the owner. Soup, two choices for main course, and dessert, that's it.

Cava Veinte33 - good cheeses, not very good wine, further exploration required.

Pozoleria Mi Abuelita - good pozole and mondongo, excellent tostada de pata.

Manne's Biergarten - a jolly good place to go drinking. The only food item we had was a ham hock (by special order, Fridays only). One is more than sufficient for two people, pretty darn good fatty gelatinous deliciousness.

La Borrega - this lamb barbacoa specialist seems to be on its last legs. The food didn't seem as fresh as in previous visits, although the barbacoa itself and the huitlacoche quesadillas were still very nice.

Labna - a Yucatec restaurant in downtown Cancun. Actively unpleasant atmosphere, the kind of place where they'll ask you which hotel sent you (for kickbacks?) and add a service charge to the check that says "service not included". Despite that, local duck in pumpkin seed sauce, and cochinita pibil were both very good. Go if you're cheerful enough not to mind the service, or stuff yourself silly in one of the many carts/kiosks in the nearby park.

Isola Dolce - an excellent Italian pastry and coffee shop. Please support them so they're around next time we come. The espresso is so strong you'll be bouncing off the walls for hours.

Chez Cecile - French bakery with cafe aspirations. Good croissants, decent espresso, the cooked food we saw looked pretty miserable.

Pummarola - If you make sure to ask for your Pizza to be well done, I think it's the best in town. Lasagna is very homey and nice if you're into that. Not a bad neighborhood Italian.

Piola - an international chain of not-bad Pizza places. Useful if it's very late and you want to have a drink at the bar with some Pizza.

Mestizo - Not very good, not very bad, Italian with a not particularly well thought out Mexican fusion angle. Extremely slow kitchen.

Tacochido - used to be a good place for offal tacos but after three attempts when they were out of everything but chicken, chorizo and steak, we gave up.

El Fogon - tried all the locations. The Pastor is okay but overall it feels like they're using the cheapest ingredients possible and counting on pork fat and spices to make everything taste reasonable.

Dona Mary - tasteless chicken, more tasteless chicken, huge portions for extremely low prices. Caldo is the only thing to have here unless you're really broke and need to stuff yourself for very little.

HC de Monterrey (1st St. Sur location, used to be CH) - bottom quality meat marinated into submission, a waste of time and calories.

Quijote - I don't even want to talk about it.
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Last edited by ProfessorPibil; 04-19-2011 at 06:16 PM..
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Old 04-19-2011   #2 (permalink)
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thanks!

We'll be down for a glorious 30 days in June & was wondering how to decide where to eat-you read my mind!
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Old 04-19-2011   #3 (permalink)
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You had me at "fatty gelatinous deliciousness".
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Old 04-21-2011   #4 (permalink)
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Where's the "like" button?
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Old 04-21-2011   #5 (permalink)
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Carboncitos

Well it almost went without saying- Carboncito's is at the top of my list!
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Old 04-21-2011   #6 (permalink)
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weird!

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Originally Posted by hypnomom View Post
Well it almost went without saying- Carboncito's is at the top of my list!
My counter glitched & says I've arrived when I'm 6 weeks away....
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Old 04-23-2011   #7 (permalink)
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yOU SEEM TO HAVE PRETTY GOOD TASTE BUDS

I applaud your willingness to call the emperor for not wearing any clothes. I generally try to be polite in giving a poor review to restaurants, as I was once an owner of restaurants and know firsthand how difficult it is to be on top of your game every day. So as not to be badly thought of, I simply leave out the restaurants that I do not like from my list of places worth a visit. It makes it easier and a bit less contentious.

However, I generally agree with your assessments, although I disagree with your slighting of El Fogon, which has always remained on top of my preferences. Otherwise, you are right on.

Tell me where I might find El Epazote and Isola Dolce so I can give them a whirl when I am in Playa next. They both sound interesting.
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Old 04-23-2011   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dpreefer View Post
I applaud your willingness to call the emperor for not wearing any clothes. I generally try to be polite in giving a poor review to restaurants, as I was once an owner of restaurants and know firsthand how difficult it is to be on top of your game every day. So as not to be badly thought of, I simply leave out the restaurants that I do not like from my list of places worth a visit. It makes it easier and a bit less contentious.

However, I generally agree with your assessments, although I disagree with your slighting of El Fogon, which has always remained on top of my preferences. Otherwise, you are right on.

Tell me where I might find El Epazote and Isola Dolce so I can give them a whirl when I am in Playa next. They both sound interesting.

epazote is on the west side of tenth one block before blvd colosio, which i believe is calle 70
they do have a menu as well as "comida del dia"
huaraches, quesadilla, etc
son't know if she still does, but she had great pozole at her other spot

isola dolce is on 26 between 5 and 10
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Old 04-26-2011   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dpreefer View Post
I applaud your willingness to call the emperor for not wearing any clothes. I generally try to be polite in giving a poor review to restaurants, as I was once an owner of restaurants and know firsthand how difficult it is to be on top of your game every day. So as not to be badly thought of, I simply leave out the restaurants that I do not like from my list of places worth a visit. It makes it easier and a bit less contentious.
I understand that approach, but I feel the value in presenting both the good and the bad that exceeds the cost of being badly thought of. Remember that these days no restaurant list is going to be a single source, so omitting a place from your list may just mean someone finds a rave review elsewhere and nothing to balance that.
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Old 04-26-2011   #10 (permalink)
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Have you tried anything but the pastor at El Fogon?

The arrachara nortena and the bean soup have never disappointed me, and would be my last meal if I were on death row.
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Old 04-27-2011   #11 (permalink)
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Pastor, rajas, arrachera nortena, bean soup, chorizo, some other juxtapositions of cheese, meat, and chorizo. Everything but the pastor tasted almost the same - fat and spices*. Specifically the arrachera seems like very cheap south american beef, marinated in meat softener and injected with water and modified starches, with probably one form or another of msg in the marinade along with the spices, not for me.



* except the potato that came with the arrachera... that tasted like something from a Charles Dickens orphanage - and once you see what the potatoes at Marsan often look like, you know why
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Old 04-27-2011   #12 (permalink)
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Finally! Someone else who was not enthralled with the arrachera at El Fogon. I am not a fan....I found it tasteless and tough and gristly the two times I have had it. (gave it a second chance just in case). I had amazing arrachera once in Huatulco on a snorkel tour, the captain's wife had made us a cold picnic lunch and her arrachera was delicious- tender and moist and flavourful.

I know people rave about El Fogon, it seems like it is the 'only game in town' for 'authentic' Mexican for tourists....and it's not bad, I like the al pastor okay....I've just had better 'authentic Mexican' elsewhere, is all.
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Old 04-28-2011   #13 (permalink)
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I forgot - La Ceiba on 30th (the restaurant next to DAC) - had a couple of juices, chilaquiles, and I forget what else. Everything was fresh, clean, eggs weren't overcooked... I think I'd still give an edge to the chilaquiles at Nativo, but ymmv. Outside, that huge Ceiba was busy bombarding 30th Ave. with tree cotton.
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Old 04-28-2011   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProfessorPibil View Post
I forgot - La Ceiba on 30th (the restaurant next to DAC) - had a couple of juices, chilaquiles, and I forget what else. Everything was fresh, clean, eggs weren't overcooked... I think I'd still give an edge to the chilaquiles at Nativo, but ymmv. Outside, that huge Ceiba was busy bombarding 30th Ave. with tree cotton.
I really like this restaurant!
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Old 04-28-2011   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProfessorPibil View Post
Pastor, rajas, arrachera nortena, bean soup, chorizo, some other juxtapositions of cheese, meat, and chorizo. Everything but the pastor tasted almost the same - fat and spices*. Specifically the arrachera seems like very cheap south american beef, marinated in meat softener and injected with water and modified starches, with probably one form or another of msg in the marinade along with the spices, not for me.



* except the potato that came with the arrachera... that tasted like something from a Charles Dickens orphanage - and once you see what the potatoes at Marsan often look like, you know why
imo, the arrachera at hc next door is better

i love the prof's reviews
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