Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Crabby Critic Returns to El Pescador, Morelia Centro

We were in Morelia last Wednesday on some business. When it was concluded, we walked with our friend, Rosa, to El Pescador. Loyal readers may recall my review from our first visit last summer. The menu at this restaurant, on the west side of Morelia's Centro, has a considerably ambitious menu than those in our usual haunts.

Last time, I had Huachinango a La Veracruzana. This time, I chose Jaibas Rellenas. In terms of spectacular visual presentation, a great choice. In terms of eating, less great, but not bad. The price was a remarkably low $78 pesos, if I recall correctly.

The stuffing, which seemed to be made of lots of onions, crabmeat (?) a little chile, tomato and sweet pepper was pretty good but not wonderful.  The pure, unadorned crab meat in the more hidden recesses of the body was nice. Some of the claw meat was darker and stronger than the body meat. In all, I'm glad I had it, but probably wouldn't order it again. They also offered Jaibas al Mojo de Ajo (Fried garlic and oil sauce.)

Doña Cuevas had the Camarones Empanizados. She said they were good, if somewhat oily, and because of the butterfly cuts, drier than our favorites at Mariscos La Güera.

Our friend Rose had the Filete de Pescado Al Mojo de Ajo. The garlic was noticeably browner than what we've had elsewhere, but apparently she liked it.

As you see in the accompanying photos, the plates come garnished with a finely ground carrot salad. This item is, to my taste, totally skippable. Across town, at "Mariscos La Jaiba—Boulevard", a similar carrot salad is served, but at least it's shredded and has some interesting texture. But not a big deal. Just skip it. (I see I mentioned this in my last review.)

Also, Rosa had a coctel chico de camarones, served in a metal tulip cup. We had a jarra of limonada and a fair but not great michelada.
Our bill was $461 pesos, plus a tip.

Lots of the specialty dishes at El Pescador have melted cheese on them. I prefer seafood without cheese, but our good waitress was cognizant of that, and helped steer me away from those items.

It's a good restaurant, but read the menu carefully and ask questions of your server. My general rule in Mexican seafood restaurants is that simpler dishes tend to be more satisfactory.

Thanks to our new Star Rating System, we can rate El Pescador for the convenience of our readership.

Food: 3***
Service: 4****
Price: $-$$*
Restrooms: Clean

* I have decided to quantify the price scale so that $= $100 pesos Mexicanos, or somewhat less than $10 USD.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Patio Restaurante "Las Brisas" Pátzcuaro

We had been reading about this newish restaurant for some months. The location seems a bit odd: under the lower ramparts of the Club Deportivo Vista Del Rey, on a dead end street, for all practical purposes. The address is Calle Teresa Dávalos # 22, Centro.

It's accessed best from Pátzcuaro Centro, then ascending Calle Romero, turning left on the newly improved Calle Esperanza (formerly one of the worst streets in the city.). A right past the lower gate of the Club Deportivo, and you arrive a the outdoor expanses of Patio Las Brisas. The street down from the Santa Clara highway is impassable to sane drivers. There is no lack of parking space.

It's an attractive, one story building with a paved patio, shaded by awanings and umbrellas. The restrooms are very clean.

The menu of the restaurant, printed on two sides of a laminated sheet of paper, showcases the specialties of seafood and grilled meats.

I hope that my prior skepticism about the seafood may be forgiven; the deservedly famed Mariscos La Güera is just a few blocks away, but comparison is inevitable.

We were brought a complimentary plate of "nachos" with the menus. Those were the weakest point of the meal. They were cold totopos squirted with imitation nacho cheese sauce, some sliced pickled jalapeños on them, and in my opinion, I'd rather have fresh, plain chips and a decent salsa than anything that poor.

Fortunately, from there on everything else was much better.

Besides a small selection of bottled salsas, we were brought two salsas caseras. One, a thick paste of roasted chiles, which to me tasted somewhat burnt, and a typical, cooked salsa of tomatoes and chiles.

We ordered a jarra of fresh limonada, made with agua mineral, and it was fine.

For starters, my three companions had cocteles de mariscos, at bargain prices. The mediano size were only $35 MXN, and other than an excess of catsup on top, were excellent. I had two Tostadas Campechanas, normally accompanied by rice and salad, but I requested only the tostadas. The regular price is $55. These are not snack size seafood tostadas, but piled high with deliciously fresh tasting seafood. The seasoning was light, fresh and perfect. The pulpos (octopus) segments were a bit chewier than I've had elsewhere, but still enjoyable.

Now, the comparison: Las Brisas's tostadas were piled higher than those of La Güera. (They also cost more.) The tostadas at Las Brisas tasted more of seafood than condiments.
The LBS cocteles were very good, but would be better with less catsup. At least the catsup seemed more "real" than the pale, artificially thickened stuff used in so many other marisquerías.
In conclusion; we liked Las Brisas' seafood a lot and we still love La Güera's.

Our main course choices were varied. Our friends split a Parillada Mixta for two. It was a cazuela de barro filled with grilled chicken breast, strips of carne asada, pork chops, whole shrimp, some especially tasty chorizo; nopales and cebollitas. There was a light sauce or marinade over all.

Doña Cuevas had a regional specialty, an excellent version of Enchiladas Tarascas con Pollo. It was covered with shredded lettuce, onions and a sprinkle of queso fresco. This one didn't come with the usual pieces of carrot and potato.

I selected Arrachera, accompanied by frijoles, cebollitas a grilled pad of nopal, and some very picante guacamole. A close examination of that innocent looking green stuff revealed tiny dice of chile perón. Next time, I'll order it con poco chile.

The arrachera was tender, delicious, and perfectly seasoned.
There was a small cazuela of arroz to the side. It was enough to share.

So, it was a very good meal in a pleasant setting at a very reasonable price.

Our bill averaged out to $126 MXN per person. Note that we didn't have any alcoholic beverages.

Food: 4 ****
Service: 4 ****
Price: $$
Ambiance: relaxed
Restrooms: Very clean

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hamburguesas Richard's Morelia

Last Thursday night, we made another visit to the delightful Hamburguesas Richard's in Morelia Centro. I just searched my blog's archives, and I was very surprised that I'd never written about this before.

Hamburguesas Richard's serves what I consider the best hamburgers in Morelia. The French fried potatoes are exemplary. There are also Tacos Al Pastor and Hot Dogs, but in my opinion, the hamburgers and fries rule.

There are three locations: the main one, at Morelos Sur # 398, a few blocks south of Av Madero and close to the corner of Aldama; another, not far away, at Virrey de Mendoza # 434, corner of Ortega y Montañez; and a small branch, just off Av Madero Poniente, at Francisco Zarco # 32.

UPDATE: The Fco. Zarco location is closed, or at least, unlisted on the poster on the wall of the main restaurant. The other locations are closed on Tuesdays. Carne al pastor is available only on weekends.
A sencilla is $22 pesos, a doble carne is $26, as is a Hamburguesa al Pastor. Refrescos are $11.

Morelos Sur #398, Centro, Morelia 

Of those, we've eaten numerous times at the Morelos main restaurant, once at the Francisco Zarco branch, and so far, never at the Virrey de Mendoza restaurant. I greatly prefer the main, Morelos restaurant over the F. Zarco one. Although the Morelos location opens at 1 p.m (I'm not swearing that. It might open at 6 p.m and close about 1 a.m.), go after 7 p.m. for the energy buzz, and you can other watch interesting customers.

The Morelos location is a long hall, the tables and chairs, in Ketchup Red and Mustard Yellow colors. When you enter, you'll see the Carne Al Pastor machine. Keep walking and you come to the hamburger grill. This is The Source.

Los Reyes de la Plancha
At the far end of the line sits a cashier. Read the short menu and give her your order. There are soft drinks and horchata available. This is a mildly sweet, milky white cold drink based on rice and lightly tinged with cinnamon. I recommend it.

The hamburgers come already dressed with ketchup, so if you want something else, ask them to make it "sin catsup". They also have a yellow, American-type cheese. That can be eliminated on request. Sometimes the cheese is a stringy, mozzarella like cheese, perhaps a type of queso Oaxaca.

The burgers themselves are not huge nor thick, but they are as close to a good American type burger as we've had in Mexico. Want more? Order a Doble Carne.

The triad of burger, fries and horchata

The sandwiches come with a small side plate of grilled onions and chiles toreados. The latter are very picante, fresh chiles serranos given a couple of turns on the grill. They are tasty, but I advise extreme caution. Adult supervision required. These are not toys, amigos!

Be sure to order Papas Fritas Francesas. Richard's makes their own, from fresh cut potatoes, and the servings are generous. They are not cooked to golden brown, so if you prefer that, ask for them "muy bien doradas."

Service is a bit irregular yet cheerful. Sometimes our orders go astray, and we have to inquire about them. They will be cheerfully fulfilled, lo más pronto posible. (As soon as possible.)

UPDATE: There is now a dining room service person to expedite things.

On an earlier visit, I tried a couple of different things, both in the interests of research and for the benefit of my readers.
The first was a Hamburguesa con Carne Pastor. It sounds a bit odd, but it's delicious, and the contrast of the tender and juicy hamburger patty with the crisp, pleasantly chewy morsels of pastor meat was pleasant.
Illustrated below.

The second was the alluring Hot Dog Richard's. Visually, these are real beauties, first as the bacon wrapped dogs slowly grill to crusty goodness, then, as they are nestled into butter (?) toasted buns, and dressed with vivid and fresh condiments. The eating reality is a little disappointing.

The sausages themselves are very soft and the flavor mild and indistinctive. It has been said that Mexican Hot dogs are "all about the condiments", and that is very true at Richard's. I'm not saying that they are bad; it's just that the hamburgers have more character and taste.

Hamburguesa's Richard's is the place to go when you are tired of tacos, aburrido de burritos, and are suffering enchilada ennui. Menu photo below.

Here's my star ratings:
Food: 5*****
Service: 3***
Price: $ barato
Rest rooms: clean