Every trip we make, we depend on other people’s food reviews. I always pledge I will come back and leave extensive feedback on Chowhound. But those good intentions get buried quickly under work waiting on my desk.
As a start, the best meal on our trip to the Yucatan was not in Merida but in little Valladolid. While the patio courtyard of El Meson del Marques offers an extremely pleasurable dining experience, a new restaurant opened in November – Taberna de los Frailes – next to the Monastery and Church of San Bernardino de Siena. The contemporary restaurant steps beyond the traditional recipes of the Yucatan.
Dining under a shady palapa in the back, our group sampled filete de pescado fresco en salsa verde mexicana (in this case an oregano-based salsa); salmon zarandeado; and mero maya. The mero, fresh grouper, had been marinated in the region’s sour orange juice and was presented in four coiled spirals, perfectly cooked. What kept everyone’s forks hovering above my plate, though, was a mound of black risotto with complex layers of flavor popping out in every bite. The dish sent us scouring the market the next day to purchase some of the rich relleno negro seemingly at its base.
At 160 pesos (about $13), the fish dishes were not the least expensive in Mexico, but they were more than worth the tab. The service was professional, except our server neglected to inform us when we ordered that the restaurant has a chocolate souffle that needs 25 minutes to prepare. We would have eaten at La Taberna de los Frailes daily, had Merida not been our base.
On the other hand, we did not feel satisfied with a 350 peso tab at the Hacienda Temozon on our way to Uxmal. Fortunately, it was early in the day; so margaritas and mero (There it would have been fresh grouper with mango sauce and black sesame and couscous.) were not yet on our minds. We simply ordered four mineral waters and an order of guacamole. 350 pesos, tip not included. Although beautiful, the hacienda is definitely not a place to drop in for dinner, unless money is no object.
Note on March 20: For anyone traveling to Merida and the Yucatan, I expanded this post on Chowhound to include numerous other restaurants .
Update on December 4, 2012: The New York Times travels to Valladolid.