This will be quick since I am between classes.........
I have been in Mexico for the last 10 days and though I am living with a Mexican family, I have had the chance to do a little eating around.
In Cuernavaca I had drinks and botanas at La Indio Bonita. Tremendous setting, the interior of an old house, filled with lush and fully mature green plants. Lots and lots of plants. The botanas were almost all corn based and equally good. We had some of the usual and more typcial selections such as sopes and quesadillas. The quesadillas with hongos (mushrooms) were exceedingly well received by our table. There were 3 table sauces available to enhance them and all were good, but the salsa rojo was outstanding as was the salsa verde. If they do the rest of the menu as well as they do the botanas, this is worth a visit. Moderately expensive by American standards, expensive by Mexican standards.
In Patzcuaro I had a quick lunch at ChaChaCha and am sorry to say I can not recommend this restaurant. My tacos de chorizo were fine and came with a nice little side salad. However, my dining companion ́s chile relleno arrived stone cold and even after being sent back to the kitchen for reheating it was not uniformly hot. Service was kind and friendly, but not terribly attentive. We were there during the traditional hours for comida and the restaurant was nearly empty..........that should have been out first clue.
I had a couple of great meals in Morelia. I will try and post about those manana.
I'm DiningDiva's dining companion, any time she's in my neck of the woods--and this time Morelia was my neck of the woods. On Saturday we spent about two hours in Pátzcuaro, finishing up my business over there.
We had stopped at Cha Cha Cha about 18 months ago, shortly after it opened, and that day I was truly not impressed with the quality of either the food or service. I don't like to say 'never again' to a restaurant based on one poor experience, so we decided to give it another try this past Saturday.
I foolishly ordered way too much food. Most portions in Mexico aren't yet amped up to super-size, so when I order a bowl of caldo de pollo (Mexican chicken soup) as a starter, I expect to be served a small bowl, really an appetizer size. When I order a chile relleno here in Mexico (where I've lived for nearly 26 years), it's usually not a huge plate of food.
However, if you go to Cha Cha Cha, the portions are geared more to foreign taste and style: enormous. It would have been polite of the waiter to have informed me that I had ordered enough food for two people; DiningDiva and I were looking for a small meal and I would only have ordered the soup.
It puzzled me that her order of quesadillas arrived at table before my first course, the soup, but I figured it was a wee glitch in the kitchen. The soup, when the waiter did bring it, was less than inspired. Caldo de pollo should have a flavorful textured broth served with chicken, vegetables, and a spoonful of rice. Cilantro leaves, a squeeze of limón, salt, and salsa are added at table, to taste.
This caldo, as I mentioned to DiningDiva, tasted like the chicken had been waved across the pot, not simmered with onion, garlic, carrots, etc etc to create a really rich caldo. I added limón, I added, salt, I added salsa (no cilantro was offered) to no avail. Despite the large amount of shredded white-meat chicken and a goodly amount of carrots, chayote and calabacita (zucchini-like squash), it was impossible to achieve any real flavor. In addition, the soup wasn't served hot--it was tepid.
When DiningDiva was almost finished with her meal, my chile relleno was served. The plate was huge, the chile was large, and it was accompanied by a mountain of white rice and a big portion of frijoles de la olla. I tried to take a bite of rice and was reminded of The Three Bears: OUCH! This rice is tooooo hot. I tried a bite of beans: delicious, but the 'de la olla' juices were flowing into everything on the plate. Better to have served them in their own little bowl. And the chile, as DiningDiva mentioned, was stone cold. I motioned to the waiter and asked, "Are the chiles rellenos normally served chilled?" He gasped audibly and carried my plate back to the kitchen. (Mind you, some chiles rellenos ARE served chilled, so my question wasn't out of place.)
By the time my plate came back from its trip to the kitchen, I was ready to call it a day and ask for the check. The re-heat took about 15 minutes and wasn't successful. The rice was hotter than before (and it had already been steaming), the beans were stuck to the plate, and the chile was just barely warm. The waiter didn't stick around long enough to see if everything was all right, and it wasn't.
Beautiful though Cha Cha Cha is, it takes more than lovely folkloric decor to make a restaurant worth eating at. I won't go back and I'd recommend that you don't, either.
I think you ladies you have underlined one of the dilemas in Mexico. At the low end... the vendor has to provide fabulous food to survive... specially in the mercado, plaza or on the street. Mexicans are finnicky and money is hard to come by... its not wasted on mediocre food.
However, once you move up scale... its too common for restaurants to get by based on convenience, location, decor etc., Unless it is headed by an inspired entrepreneur or passionate cook the tendency will be to mediocracy.
I know all too many relatives and acquaintainces that are rural town ricos... they own most of the land & wealth in small towns... and for them owning restaurants is just like playing Monopoly... its just a way to diversify their holdings etc., Once in a while, they will have offspring that want to do something of quality.... and that is when we get that all too rare combination of quality & ambiance.
Of course in a competive market like Mexico City where there is plenty of capital, competition, ideas & creativity it is significantly better. But in the provincia great nice restaurants still tend to be the exception.
Most of my middle-class and upper-middle-class Mexican friends would rather dine at a place where they can see and be seen--they don't care about the food--than at a place with fantastic food. Hence the popularity among the fresas and the juniors of some godawful restaurants here in Guadalajara: the places look like theme parks and serve truly bad food. But who cares? Señora Fulana and her husband saw me there last night! My reputation is made...