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Everything posted by mediakzar

  1. It's a good idea to plan on bringing cash with you to Holbox. The odd place you find that will take a credit card will add at least 5% for the convenience of using it. That goes not only for restaurants but for other expenses as well. Regarding the food, we've eaten well at Viva Zapata and Colibri, which in addition to a changing evening menu, serves a terrific breakfast. The local dining scene seems to feature two main themes in restaurants: seafood and Italian. And there is what might be considered Holbox fusion cuisine: restaurants that serve Italian seafood dishes. See www.mxtravel.com for some additional info.
  2. We're just back from a trip to S/E Asia in late September that included several days in Vientiane. In Vientiane, two restaurants from opposite ends of the scale that we enjoyed were note worthy. Without question, the best meal we had in our 10-days in Laos was at Makphet Restaurant. The restaurant is sponsored by the Peuan Mit Street Children's Project, a program run by Friend’s International that provides vocational training to street children in Laos. The charitable aspect was one of the reasons we decided to eat there…the first time. But we were so blown away by the food and service that we decided to go back for a 2nd visit on our last night in country and that meal was equally as good. While the restaurant is staffed by students and instructors, there is at least one person back in the kitchen who knows exactly what they are doing. The food was not only well pre-pared; the menu was inspired. A refined hand has been applied to local ingredients and recipes to produce a menu full of what is best about the fusion of eastern and western cuisines. And the service was terrific. Our table was served by a group of at least 2 and sometimes more very eager (to please) students and at least 1 instructor at all times. We were a group of 5 and over the course of the 2 meals we sampled and shared a good portion of the menu and everything we ate was better than just “good.” The consensus of our group was that 2 vegetable dishes were the favorites of the table: -Grilled eggplant with tomatoes, galangal, lemongrass and peanuts -Banana flower salad with mushrooms and galangal Other entrées we enjoyed were: -Chicken curry with pumpkin and mushrooms -A salad with pan seared beef marinated in Lao whiskey -Spiced (grilled) Lao pork sausage -Steamed Mekong River fish fillet These were accompanied by ever present baskets of sticky rice. At most meals in Laos, we passed up dessert but the menu at Makphet sounded so good, we gave in to temptation. And the desserts were equal to the entrées. There are quite a few others offered but on both nights we shared: -Steamed pumpkin cake with palm sugar syrup -Coconut - pineapple cake -Grilled pineapple with caramelized palm sugar syrup -Red Hibiscus & Passion fruit sorbet with meringue stars The total bill including a round of beer and/or (fancy) cocktails was about $12 USD per person, which is expensive for Laos. But back home, we would happily pay 5 times that for a similar meal. And this was one of the few restaurants in Laos that we were sure did not use MSG in their recipes. Makphet Restaurant Address: On a no-name street parallel to Settathirath Road and one block off the river front. The Hare and Hound Pub is on one end of the street and Simply Me Cafe is on the other. Vientiane, Laos Phone : 020 78 21 949 Email : laos@friends-international.org Website : http://www.friends-international.org Hours : 12:00 to to 20:00 Bounmala is very much a local’s place that’s a bit on the side of too bright and noisy but in its own way, a really good experience. The attraction here is barbecue chicken and cheap beer. We ordered spring rolls, chicken, grilled duck, green papaya salad and sticky rice. And large bottles of Beer Lao for 9000 kip (or just over $1 USD). Beer is also available by the pitcher as well as in a table top dispenser with an ice filled plastic cylinder in the middle. All we got was really good food at an inexpensive price and friendly service. Bounmala Address: Kouvieng Road Vientiane, Laos Phone: +856 21 31 3249
  3. Well, it wasn't a junk and the food was what I would call good but not great when we spent a couple days on the Emeraude in Halong Bay. The ship is a replica of French made single-wheeled paddle steamer. The cabins were small but serviceable. The best part of the experience was having drinks on the deck while taking in the breath-taking views. All meals are buffet style with both Vietnamese and European selections served at lunch & dinner and mostly American/European at breakfast. I do recall that there were a lot of Frenchmen on our trip and screams of "fromage, fromage" and a stampede at the sight of the cheese tray at the lunch and dinner.
  4. We’re recently back from a trip to China that included 6 days in Guizhou Province. We only spent 1 night in Guiyang but made a point to try the Gong Bao Chicken at the Guixi restaurant as described in the NY Times article mentioned earlier in this thread. Here’s the link again: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/23/dining/23gong.html. Interestingly, the article makes a big deal about the recipe for the dish not being including peanuts (like Kung Pao chicken does) but makes no mention of the fact that it does include cashews. This dish was so good we came close to licking the platter. We had a friend write out the Chinese for Gong Bao chicken so we showed the waitress that but other than that one dish, we had no idea what was on the menu. And since none of the staff spoke English, we just pointed at a picture on the menu for our 2nd entrée. It turned out to be a straw mushroom and lamb hot pot. It had an exotic citrus taste that we were later told came from a locally grown chili. It was hot but not so hot that we couldn’t enjoy the flavor. And it created a numbing sensation on our lips and tongue. This was obviously an expected effect for without ordering it, when the waitress brought our beverages, she also included a yogurt & aloe drink that soothed the numbing sensation. We experienced the same citrus chili flavor but without the same intensity in a chicken with chili dish one night in Shanghai. If you’re interested in having a look, we’ve posted a video showing the residue of the Gong Bao along with a more complete view of the hot pot at: http://crackle.com/c/Travel/Gong_Boa_Chick...%26fu%3D2259037. The balance of our time in Guizhou was split between some ethnic minority Miao villages near KaiLi, the capitol of the Maio and Dong Autonomous Prefecture in Southeastern Guizhou, and Zhenyuan, a tourist town on a plateau in the mountains of the eastern part of the province. We had a couple decent meals at Zhong De Yuan Holiday Hotel, where we stayed in Kaili but to be honest, because of the language barrier, we never did get the name of most of the places we ate in Guizhou. But the food was consistently great. We got hooked on a local specialty, vegetable (mostly baby bok choy) and tofu soup. We enjoyed lots of other vegetable dishes including eggplant in chilies. We came to expect spicy without being super hot meat dishes. One interesting dish we tried a couple times was “Squirrel Fish.” It’s served as a whole fish in a sweet and sour sauce and unlike the sweet and sour we are forced to endure here in the States, this one wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. The name of the dish comes from the presentation rather than the variety of fish. The head is carved to resemble a squirrel and the body is scored in a cross hatched pattern that makes the flesh pop out in tiny squares when cooked. Another dish we really enjoyed was a rice noodle dish that has a name that translates to something like “tiny ants” as the thin noodles were cut very small and served in a garlic and chile sauce. In addition to other meals, on a couple mornings, we enjoyed a traditional Chinese breakfast of dumplings and vegetable in chicken broth in Zhenyuan as seen in this video: http://www.crackle.com/c/Travel/Breafast_D...%26fu%3D2259037 We’re usually pretty adventurous in our eating during travel but the only food stall we ate at during our 2-weeks in China on this trip was a snack of fried fish on the banks of the Wayang River near Zhenyuan. I was a little wary but we could see the fishermen catching the fish a few feet away so I figured it had to be fresh and I managed to get a quick whiff of the oil in the vendor’s wok before sitting down and it seemed fresh enough too so I gave it a shot. It was a simple dish of quick fried small fish (of several varieties) on a stick with the only condiment being a flavorful but relatively mild chilie powder. I would be happy to eat it again and am equally happy to report; my stomach suffered no ill effects of the snack. There’s a video of that at: http://www.crackle.com/c/Travel/Breafast_D...%26fu%3D2259037. All in all, we were just blown away by the food in Guizhou and look forward to going back for another taste. The recipe from Guizhou as listed in New York Times has no Sichuan Peppercorn: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=Po...29&qpid=1065984 The Sichuan version obviously does use it. ← Link to recipe of the Guizhou version should be: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/23/dining/2...agewanted=print ←
  5. We were only in Siem Reap for 3-nights but ended up liking Khmer Kitchen so much that we ate there twice. As others have pointed out, it’s tucked away in a nameless alley behind the market but every tuk-tuk driver knows it so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Not only was the food really good, I think our total bill was something like $8USD (including beverages) for the two of us. The place has a huge menu but our favorite dish was Fish A-Mok (a rather mild curry that can be ordered with shrimp, pork, chicken, beef or vegetables.) The other night we were there we ate at Chivit Thai. We had read some glowing reviews of it before we went and it was good but not great. Dining is in a very pretty patio and garden setting and the service was very good. There is a line of restaurants out at the Angkor Wat temple complex. We ended up having lunch out there on two days and found the food to be a little more expensive than in town but still not outrageous in price and the quality to be surprisingly good. One funny experience we had at one place there was a person at our table ordering “Mango Chicken”. When it arrived at the table, there wasn’t any mango but there was a small side of tomatoes. Our friend told the waiter that it was missing the mango and he brought her out another small bowl of tomatoes. In Phnom Penh, we really enjoyed Frizz Restaurant located very close to the FCC on Sisowath Quay. Basic Khmer food in a simple but nice setting on the waterfront. Speaking of the FCC, the food was not the draw but the ambiance in the 2nd floor restaurant/bar overlooking the waterfront was worth the overpriced lunch we had there. Be sure to order coconut water to drink at least once. The local drink of choice is Angkor Beer but Tiger Beer from Vietnam is also widely available.
  6. We've spent a lot of time in Cozumel over the past 20-years and have made seeking out good local dining something of a mission. We have a pretty extensive list of reviews at: http://www.mxtravel.com/cozumel/cozumel_restaurants.html but the highlights of our favorite local places are: When in Mexico, you have to try a real tacqueria and our favorite in Cozumel is El Serra on Ave 30. We each usually order a plate of 4 or 5 tacos al pastor con piña (grilled marinated pork with a slice of pineapple) with an occasional chuleta con queso taco (pork chop with cheese) for a change of pace. Dinner for two including soft drinks ranged from $70 to $85 MXN depending on how hungry we were that night. And these tacos are so good we dream about them when we’re not in Cozumel. Whole fried fish is something of a regional specialty and Santa Carlos located on Ave. 50-B between A.R. Salas and Calle 3 is our favorite fish place. Start your lunch with a plate of mixed ceviche for the table while you’re waiting for your main meal. If you want, you can go into the kitchen and pick out the fish you want. We usually get one plate of the fillet and another of a small whole fried snapper along with a beer and a soft drink for a total $150 MXN. Fried fish just doesn’t get much better than this. You’ll get another great lunch at Candela’s at the corner of Ave 5 & Calle 6. They change entrées daily and if you want, you can get a look at what’s on the menu that day as you enter the restaurant and walk by the kitchen. The meal includes a choice of soups, a main course that includes a meat and 2 sides and unlimited supply of iced jamaica drink (hibiscus flower tea); all for a grand total of $45 MXN (or just over $4 US) per person. Everything we’ve tried there is excellent and the setting is very comfortable. We have heard some people complain that they were charged more for their meal at Candela’s but we speak a little Spanish and even throw in a Mayan word or two and maybe that makes a difference. But even if they were to charge you $60 or $65 MXN, lunch at Candela’s would be worth it. While not really a local Mexican eatery, one of our favorite meals in Cozumel is Guido's Pizza, on Ave. Rafael Melgar on the north end of town. While it is not cheap, it is very good. Along with the pizza, they offer a very nice salad, "puff" garlic bread, various Northern Italian specials and homemade sangria. Garden diners find themselves under a canopy of bougainvillea and philodendra vines and are treated to an eclectic mix of recorded music. This is a great choice for a late leisurely lunch. Manati is located in a very small old wooden building on the corner of Calle 8 and Ave. 10. Don’t be surprised if owner Leo Rojo not only takes your order but then goes back into the kitchen to prepare it as well. The menu features local ingredients in recipes inspired by cuisines from around the world. One of our favorites is the Mango chicken in puff pastry. Cofelia's is a really cute breakfast and lunch restaurant with seating in a pleasant garden on Calle 5 less than a block from the waterfront. We've had scrambled eggs with bacon and the house quiche and both were good as was the jamica (hibiscus flower) drink. They had a really nice chipotle (smoked jalapeno) sauce on the table that went well with both the eggs and the quiche. Good service, nice atmosphere and well prepared food.
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