Postcard from Merida, Mexico: A trio of restaurants for dining well

Above: Micaela Mar y Lena crudo de atun

Grilled seafood is the specialty at Cocina de Mar y Lena, a contemporary restaurant that seems a magnet for an upscale crowd of fashionable Mexicans arriving by the Uber-full, at least they were pre-COVID. The grilled shrimp and octopus were wonderful, and the refreshing raw tuna (above) just melted in your mouth.

Chef Sara Maria Arnaud Gomez combines the flavors of Oaxaca with those of the Yucatan at Apoala on the prime people-watching park of Santa Lucia. From ceviche and fried zucchini blossoms to dessert, everything was beautifully plated. Loved their mezcal mule cocktails with a smoky charred chunk of caramelized honeycomb riding atop the rim.

Mexi-Mediterranean is the description applied to the menu Chef Mario Espinosa has developed for Rosa Sur 32, tucked into the inside corner of Parque Santa Lucia. We found well-balanced ceviche, simple yet delicious grilled shrimp tostadas, pumpkin-seed sauced enchiladas and, on the Mediterranean side, a luscious beet risotto. Of this trio of restaurants, perhaps Rosa Sur was the most comfortably casual.

When compared to our recent experiences in Oaxaca and Guanajuato, the size of our tabs always surprised us in Merida. Obviously from the photos, we were not ordering conservatively. We sometimes sampled the tempting craft cocktails which numerous restaurants in Merida have mastered, but our real budget buster was our penchant for red wine. The price for a bottle of wine often ran about the same as what we expect to pay in a restaurant in San Antonio. For non-imbibers, eating at these restaurants can be done much more reasonably.

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