Monday, December 14, 2009

The Hotel Casino Restaurant, Morelia

Restaurante Lu

We'd recently read very enthusiastic commentaries on the reinvented Casino Hotel Restaurant in Morelia. It is now Restaurante Lu, after Lucero Soto Arriaga, the woman chef who took command of the kitchen two years ago is said to have presented a fresh vision of the cuisine, hearkening back to indigenous foods.

Alhough I'm very dubious when it comes to upscale restaurants, three of us decided to go to comida there last Thursday. I was not ready to commit myself to spending $215 MXN for the tasting menus, one of which was churipo con corundas, another of antojitos típicos, including a pig's foot tostada. I simply can't bring myself to spend so much money on foods that are commonly available and inexpensive elsewhere.

I decided to have Filete de Pescado en Salsa de Guajillos y Naranja, wrapped in Hoja Santa. I'd enjoyed this very dish there a few years ago, before the advent of the present chef.

Our amiga ordered Filete de Pescado envuelto de Coco.

My wife requested Mole de Cacahuate con Pollo.

The ladies shared a pitcher of limonada, and I ordered a copa of vino blanco Semillón. ($60)

The waiter brought a basket of breads, consisting of small and quite tasteless white rolls, and the intriguing tamales de harina. The latter reminded me of Chinese steamed bread, and the dark salsa picante on the table perked up their otherwise bland taste.

The drinks arrived, and the limonada was o.k., but needed further stirring for sweetening. That is not unusual in Mexican restaurants.
The glass of wine was a bit on the skimpy side, but otherwise pleasant.

My wife's salad of fruits was attractive and very good, she reports. The cute cap on top was a Parmesan rice (?) crust.

When our main courses came, two were of minimalist plating and modest portions. The third was more generous in portion. (Which see.)

My fish was accompanied by no more than a tiny mound of fine grained, overcooked rice. The sauce was not bad, although too sweet. The guajillo component was nearly undetectable.The fish itself was bland (I suspect it was tilapia) and its texture somewhat soft. I enjoyed the hoja santa leaf. I preferred the version of this dish I'd had a few years ago at El Primer Piso, in Pátzcuaro.

Our friend's filete de pescado en coco lay alone on the plate, except, again, for a little mound of sticky rice. She said it was good, but it was lonely.

What was missing were some vegetables, or a little salad, or something to fill out the platter. Our friend requested a salad and her wish was granted. It was nice little salad garnished with candied flores de jamaica.

My wife's Mole de Cacahuate con Pollo was very good, and generous in portion. It was flanked by a novel scoop of "chocolate ice cream" atop one of those sticky rice platforms and capped with a tostada doily.

We decided to have dessert and coffee elsewhere.
Our bill was around $620 MXN

Based on a single visit, I grant, I'd hesitate to eat there again. The presentations are adorable, bordering on precious, but the basic food leaves something to be desired in quality and especially, the price/value ratio is uneven.

Attention, Tancho:
Food *** out of a possible 5
Service *** out of a possible 5
Price $$$ whatever this indicates.


Michael Dickson said...

Strange you should mention this place. My lovely wife and I stopped by there just last week to eat, er, I mean, dine. It had been recommended to us by a friend of hers in Morelia.

We sat down, got the menu, saw the prices, stood up, thanked the waiter for his brief time, and left.

No way, José. Maybe for an anniversary or birthday or something, but not just an everyday meal. Too pricey.

Tancho said...

Great photographs! Your review delivers a accolade for your completeness! Especially your new concise "star" rating system!
More listing will hone your rating scale off the generous side a tad. I will have to give you a couple of tips on the capitalistic twist on your project.
I can't wait for the guide!

Don Cuevas said...

I failed to mention that the "chocolate ice cream" was a scoop of frijoles.

Don Cuevas

jennifer rose said...

I used to love the Hotel Casino. Past tense. Not any longer. It's not what it once was.

Anonymous said...

I find the most tasty (and real mexican food) at the small stands at the street, though you need to know the places, make sure is clean n tasty. Restaurants have too many "innovations". The only way to stick to the mexican food is to learn generation to generation n not in a chef school. My very humble opinion.

Peter said...

My first visit to Morelia nearly five years ago I stayed at Hotel Casino, ate in the restaurant there and thought it was great. Before a year had passed I became a resident of Morelia and continued to visit the restaurant regularly and would take friends with me.

It seems about two years ago I stopped for lunch there and was disappointed but attributed it to a bad day for the kitchen and tried again a few more times but it had lost its simplicity and appeal. The flavors I first experienced were never again to be found so I have not eaten there for about a year or so now.

I agree the best food is found on the streets or in lower-priced restaurants, the expensive ones try too hard to make a statement and sacrifice flavor for innovation. That seems to apply to all the upscale restaurants I've visited. Too bad, I'm willing to pay the extra price for ambience but not at the cost of dining pleasure. Certain cocinas economicas are excellent but after losing Casino restaurant I have not found an upscale place worth a second visit.

jennifer rose said...

Morelia has a number of excellent upscale restaurants which warrant a visit by those doubters: San Miguelito, the Villa Montana, Onyxx, Bariloche, Los Trojes, Casa San Diego, for starters.

Mexico Cooks! said...

You should have had the outstanding menú bicentenario (tasting menu). Read here:

Other items on the menu that are out of this world:
--Fish in macadamia with lemon sauce
--Chile relleno con uchepo
--Arrachera moreliana
--Ensalada con jamaica

Mexico Cooks!

Michael Dickson said...

I have it on good authority that the Casino restaurant adds tips to the bill for everybody. There is no excuse for this. A tip is the decision of the customer, not the restaurant. That alone would keep me out of the joint.

The only acceptable exception to the tip-adding foolishness is for large groups because waiters do tend to get stiffed by groups. But by a couple or foursome? No way, José.

If I had noticed the added-tip notice on the menu during my recent pass-by, I would have told the waiter on departing that the added tip was unacceptable and bye-bye.

MexicoCooks said...

No tip has ever been automatically added to the bill for any meal I've eaten at Restaurante LU (the restaurant at the Hotel Casino). Whoever told Felipe that a service charge was automatically added to the bill was incorrect.


Don Cuevas said...

Cristina, we did have a 10% service charge added to our check. My wife even asked our waiter if that was for the propina and he replied "Sí."

We feel that it should be the guest that decides the amount, not the restaurant, especially for a party of only three.

We had no complaints about the service itself.

Obviously, our experiences varied.

Don Cuevas

jennifer rose said...

The 10% propina has been added to my bill every time I've eaten at the Hotel Casino, too.

Nancy said...

On our trip to Morelia last week we ate there twice, and both times the food was outstanding.

The service was excellent when we ate there with Mexico Cooks! but when we were by ourselves it was sadly lacking.

And we had to make a bit of a stink about the 20% that got added to our check supposedly for a tip.

The prices are a bit high but for us it was a vacation and Mazatlan is kind of a dead zone for thoughtfully prepared flavorful food. We would love to have this restaurant here in Maz!

Don Cuevas said...

Nancy, thanks for contributing to the discussion.

What dishes did you especially enjoy?

Don Cuevas

Michael Dickson said...

Twenty percent added on?! Ten percent is tacky and greedy. Twenty percent is a ripoff. I suggest we initiate a boycott of this joint. Who´ll start a website?

Nancy said...

I wish I knew the exact names of the dishes I had.
Don Cuevas,
One was a chile relleno stuffed with the fresh corn masa that was lovely.

I had a salad with gorgeous jicama blossoms,

The other time I had enchiladas with jicama off the appetizer menu and a bowl of bean and tomato soup. Both were great.

I was really ticked off about the bill being changed to include a tip. They corrected it for us and I was upset with us that we didn't immediately ask to speak to the manager. That is a trick that unscrupulous waiters will do (especially to gringos or if they think you won't scrutinize the check) and it is quite possible that the manager doesn't even know.

But for me, the food was good enough that I would go back if I had the chance.

Rico said...

I've never had a tip of any sort added to my bill while I was there. Odd. The prices might have gone up but it's still one of favorite places to eat in Morelia.