Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We keep trying....

Often I get into a mood where I just don't want to cook. Several reasons pop to my mind, one of which is that some ingredients are just a little to difficult to get.
 For example it's not easy to find shallots. Yes, I could substitute onions, but the subtle flavor from caramelized shallots just don't match what onions will produce.

The other day I wanted to make some linguine and clams. It is almost impossible to get fresh clams in these parts of the country.
Some restaurant often substitute frozen clams and I have tried them also, but it's just to hard to get the fine sand out of dead me.

Using canned is a option, but then again it's just not the same.

Which brings me to the point of today's rant. The restaurants that are available in our little town, for the most part suck.

Yesterday we decided to get a pizza. There are about 8 or 9 pizza places in town. Most of them are pretty awful.

 Let me describe awful.

A thick doughy 12 inch plate of semi cooked spongy pizza, with gobs of half melted cheese, with indescribable sausage which may have been pepperoni in someones idea of what pepperoni should taste like. Topped with some runny tomato sauce and a smattering of olives and chili flakes.

That is what the locals think a gourmet pizza is suppose to taste like. Oh, and it has to be presented on a soggy thick doughy crust that is at least half an inch thick.

About a year ago we found a place that actually had a wood burning oven and made acceptable, hell, better than acceptable, really good thin crust pizza without overloaded gooey toppings, on a crispy thin layer of decent tasting dough. The place was at La Campania which is on the south side of the big plaza. The last 3 or 4 times we went there, we enjoyed our pizzas there.  We also in the past ordered their salmon carpacchio which has always been good and tasty.

Yesterday things changed.

One mandatory must do in the restaurant business is to produce a consistent product so that your clients return and are served the same thing, so there are no surprises.

 That is one of the reasons the BigMac'D chain is so popular. A burger in Detroit tastes the same as on in Paris.......more or less.

What we got yesterday was 180 degrees away from what we had become accustomed to in past visits.
Our thinly sliced smoked salmon which normally covered the plate and is usually adorned with thin slices of red onion, capers and Italian parsley arrived looking like ceviche on a plate. What we saw was a thin coating of chopped tomatoes, red onions and some capers covering some indistinguishable pieces of some faded yellow fish. The sliced salmon was something that was probably soaking in olive oil and they only had one slice to make the whole plate. (in the past there were at least 6 slices of salmon topping the plate)

Disappointing especially since in past visits their salmon dish was excellent.

After waiting for awhile our pizza arrived. The first thing I noticed was that the pizza never came into the same vicinity as the wood burning oven that was propped up on their stage next to the kitchen.

Looking at the bottom of the pie, I noticed no char or high heat marks, but a soft semi limp dough that was obviously cooked in a regular oven. The pizza tasted OK, but the reason we returned to that place was because the pizzas before tasted great!
When asked, the waiter said that the wood burning oven was broken.......Huh?
How do you break a pizza oven? Well, probably they got it too hot, or maybe that was an excuse since Tuesdays is probably not a stellar dine in day for this place.

Based on our experience , we will hesitate on returning for a spin the wheel of chance to see if our pesos buys something decent or something passable for mediocre food.

Why the management of restaurants do not see how important having return customers is  beyond me. Most places here in town, are dark and un-inviting. You come in and sit in a poorly lit, poorly decorated place , unless you think walls lined with old wine and tequila bottles great accent touches, your kind of place.

There are only a few places that actually have a good experience and are the same places that are usually busy. So, this place will probably just get by for awhile, the owner of the place isn't worried about paying the bills too much since he probably owns the building and perhaps makes enough money on Friday and Saturdays.

So another chapter in Patzcuaro's dining guide enters into the picture. Unless you like chicken cooked 300 ways in the style of Jalisco, Michoacan, Sonora and a few other states, you will probably be somewhat disappointed in the dining scene.

We didn't come here for the gourmet food......but the climate I keep telling myself.

Next time, I'll update you on our Italian place on the big plaza....


Calypso said...

Tancho - agree completely that consistency is critical; and as you remark it is a rare quality here in Mexico.

I notice top chefs slice their veggies so that the pieces are the same size and thus cook the same - that is clever and missed by any restaurant we have eaten at in Mexico save perhaps Martha Ortiz in DF.

Don Cuevas said...

I feel your pain! Then there is/was? the Spanish restaurant, with an attractive dining room and an even more attractive wood burning oven. After we foolishly ordered wine and it was opened, we learned to our chagrin that the oven wasn't fired except on weekends. Then it came out, through our now thoroughly Inquisitorial interrogation of the manager, that all the wood fired oven-roasted items listed on the menu would not be available, except one, on the weekends!!!! So we ordered other dishes, which were pretty dismal.

I wouldn't return to that restaurant if it were the only one left in Pátzcuaro.

Don Cuevas

Don Cuevas said...

Tancho wrote:
Most places here in town, are dark and un-inviting. You come in and sit in a poorly lit, poorly decorated place , unless you think walls lined with old wine and tequila bottles great accent touches, your kind of place."

An exception is Restaurante Lupita's, at Buena Vista #7, in the old Cha Cha Cha space. The patio dining area is very appealing and the inside dining rooms quite pleasant. Breakfast at Lupita's is good (I like their Omelette Vegetariano) and comida is above average, although not 5 stars.

There must be others.

Don Cuevas

jerryL said...

I remember El Patio was decent, and I also remember one across the plaza that looked and smelled like a morgue. Lighting and vegetation plus a new coat of paint do wonders some time. But most places have a it's worked for the last 200 year attitude.

Tancho said...

Don Cuevas, you are 100% correct on Lupitas. The outside dining area on a nice day can't be beat. Dining inside is also pleasant, the food has always been decent without any complaints.
I was not aware that they do breakfasts there. We will try it one of our next early visits.

Jerry, I think I am going to use my light bulb rule. If I walk into a place and half the light bulbs are off or out, we will turn around and exit. Which is exactly what happened at our last pizza joint. If they don't have the care to keep the joint up, how will the quality of the food be? Sr. Cuevas has the bathroom rating rule, if the bathroom is dirty, no business transpires...end of story!

Felipe Zapata said...

I believe La Campañia is on the plaza's east side, not the south. And yes, they do own the building.

Tancho said...

Felipe, you are right as usual, I get confused especially after a margarita or two....
The other joint I am getting ready to write about is on the south side.
I guess the same people own LaSurtidora, but obviously don't provide the same level of service or commitment.

Nancy said...

nexttime you come to Mazatlan maybe we need to have 2 meals ... One at Molika and one at La Mona. their wood fired pizza isnfantastic ... We were there last night, in fact!

Tancho said...

Nancy, you're on for that night on the town! In Mazatlan you have a big choice of places to go and the good ones stay open longer than 3 months....
Can't wait.