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Morelia & Huatulco restaurant report (long)....

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Morelia & Huatulco restaurant report (long)....

mark | Mar 12, 2004 12:39 PM

went to Morelia and Huatulco in the middle of february - perfect weather - Michoacan is a beautiful state and Morelia, a colonial gem. Huatulco is an isolated resort destination - which is both a good and bad thing. I'll include my activities, accomodation and misc. information at the end of my report. (Allprices are in pesos, except when noted)

Morelia:

Hotel Juaninos - La Azotea
Av. Morelos Sur 39 
T: (52 4) 312-0036
http://www.hoteljuaninos.com.mx/

Had both lunch and dinner here. Some of the dishes I had from the menu: dried poblano stuffed with requeson and crushed shrimp in a coriander sauce (60.00), pumkin flower and light poblano chili cream sopa (48.00), assorted Michoacan snacks: adobera (type of Panela cheese)- charales (small fish) - chile ancho with cream (68.00), smoked trout on a macadamian nut sauce (100.00), sopa tarasca (45.00), poblano stuffed with chese covered in puff pastry and tomato sauce (70.00), jicama in a tequila caramel sauce. All the dishes were presented stylishly. My favorite dishes - the pumkin flower and light poblano soup - a ying and yang of light yellow and light green cream soup, warm without being scalding, the flavors fresh and light; the smoked trout on the macadamia sauce, which worked very well together. I also like the Michoacan snacks - especially the little silvery fishes, which were a little salty, briney, crispy. I tried a 1/2 bottle of Mexican Blanc de Blanes X-A Domeq (100.00) - which I thought had good structure. They also make a very competent margarita (46.00). The view of the cathedral is a knockout from here - a great place the day you arrive to have your jet-lag lunch. The restaurant is done in a mexican minimal modern tone - this is defintely a place to come for drinks as the sun sets. "... the cathedral is lit dramatically so the pink volcanic stone pops against the inky blue night sky, in the plaza below a clown entertains a laughing crowd, from above the cars and the crowds move at a leisurely place, the night is not a time for rushing about..." I hate to admit but I could have almost eaten all my meals here while in Morelia. My only quibble - the cloth which they wrapped the warm tortillas imbued them with just a hint of detergent (can't believe I would notice something like that but I love the smell of warm corn torilllas)

Here's La Azotea's menu:
ENTREES
Breaded pumpkin flower stuffed with requesón in poblano chilli sauce
Breaded Panela Cheeses  with  herb garland
Platter of cold meats and  assorted cheeses
Crushed shrimp in chipotle chilli sauce on fried corn tortilla
Chicken "Sopes"
Mushrooms  with shrimp in garlic sauté
Fried flour tortillas stuffed with  requesón in avocado sauce
Dried beef, northern style
Salmon Carpaccio 
Beef  tenderloin Carpaccio 
Asturian cheese breaded with puff pastry
 
CHILES
Dried poblano chilli stuffed with requesón  and shrimp in coriander sauce
Poblano Chilli stuffed with cheese covered in puff pastry  and  tomato sauce
 
SALADS
Monastery - Fine lettuces  with  jicama and mango
Convent - Watercress, salad with apple, bacon and sesame
Caesar salad
Friar - Fine lettuces  with avocado, tomato, onion , cucumber  and  green pepper
Monk - Spinach salad, with camembert cheese and prosciutto ham
 
Dressings: Vinaigrette French , Honey or Balsámic
 
SOUPS 
Mestiza" Soup with mushrooms, pumpkin flowers and corn
Chicken broth "Tlalpeño" with vegetables and chipotle
 
CREMES
Corn cream
Pumpkin flowers and  light poblano chilli cream
Combination of fine cheeses cream
"Chicharron "cream  
 
PASTA
Fettuccini with smoked salmon
Carbonara Spaghetti 
 
POULTRY
Chicken breast  stuffed with  pumpkin flower and cheese in poblano sauce
Breaded chicken breast stuffed with prosciuto ham and cheese in mustard sauce
Chicken breast  with  mexican "mole" sauce
Duck with orange or black cherry sauce
 
MEAT
Beef fillet stuffed with fine-grained corn in "huitlacoche" sauce
Beef fillet tournedos with cheese sauce
Beef fillet au gratin  in chipotle sauce
Beef skirt steak accompanied with guacamole, beans and french onions
Mexican style beef fillet steak with Nopal in red chili sauce
Grilled beef tenderloin acompanied with potato and vegetables
 
SHRIMP
Breaded shrimp stuffed with cheese
Shrimp al´orange  in a tequila- based flambée
Shrimp au coconut with orange and bilberry chutney
Jalisco shrimp 
 
FISH 
Red snapper fillet, veracruzana style
Red snapper in garlic sautee
Smoked trout navarra style
 
MICHOACAN SPECIALITIES
Assorted Michoacan Snacks:" Charales,dried chilli, asadera cheese"
"Corunda" soup
"Tarasca" soup
Smoked trout on macadamia nut sauce
Enchiladas Placeras  
(stuffed with cheese in red chilli pepper sauce)
 
DESSERTS
DIFFERENT CREATION EACH DAY
Be sure to enquire about our specialty
LAS MONJAS
Thinly sliced jícama in  cajeta and tequila sauce

Las Trojes
Col. La Loma Camelinas
Juan Sebastián Bach 51 
T: (52 4) 314-7344

A restaurant housed in a troje, a wood cabin typical of the region - you'll need to take a cab. The main emphasis here is carne. Seems to be a popular suit and tie lunch place, but there was also casual. As I was seated tortillas, salsa, limes, nopales, rojo and verde sauces, some raw vegetables and bread were placed on the table. I had queso adobera with a chipotle sauce (49.00), crema cilantro (36.00) and filet poblano (99.00). The queso adobera (semi firm cheese in a chipotle sauce) came with warm corn tortillas (no detergent smell) and guacamole - add a spoonful of nopales, a squeeze of lime - a nice appetizer. If crema cilantro sounds a bit overwhelmingly cilantro-ey, it wasn't. Does anyone else find similar notes betweencilantro and tomatillos because I thought i detected some tomatillos also? Garnished with toasted sesame seeds and croutons - this was a smile producing sopa. I order the filet poblano rare - and it came rare - I should have ordered it medium rare. It was a thin filtet folded over with the poblano strips inside, smothered under a very light cheese sauce, a sprinkling of onion. The dish was a bit muddied for my taste. For dessert, postre flan de cajeto and espresso - which was okay. For wine - I had a half bottle of cabernet sav X-A Domeq (110.00)

Villa Montana
Patzimba 201
T (443) 314 02 31
http://www.villamontana.com.mx/
Located outside of the historic district, in the mountains but what a view - I sipped Don Julio tequila (56.00) at sunset on the terrace overlooking the city, gazing at those evocative unmistakable Mexican mountains, watching the lights come on. The hotel and grounds are intimate and cozy. (Along with tequila I got a small glass of tomato juice, limes and salt - not really sure what the proper succession is - does anyone know?) For dinner I started with a lobster and pumpkin flower bisque touched with agave (70.00). Thick and creamy, warm not tongue burning. There were small pieces of agave on the bottom of the dish - which add a nice textural contrast to the silky sopa. For my entree - duck breast in a porto sauce with bacon wrapped asparagus and risotto with squash blossoms and wild mushrooms (170.00). Most of the dishes on the menu lean towards international instead of Mexican (unfortunately). I had a 1/2 bottle of cab. sav. X-A Domeq (100.00) For dessert I had a nahuatl avocado souffle (50.00) - a light green, airy, not too sweet confection. Service was attentive - I felt a bit self conscious because I was the only person there at first - other diners arrived, the fire place was lit, a piano player played gently.

Hotel de la Soledad
Ignacio Zaragoza 90
(011-52-443) 312-18-88
http://www.hsoledad.com
I tried the Michoacan traditonal breakfasts - one morning, uchepos, which are fresh green corn tamales, served with a cream, salsa rojo and either poblano or nopales strips and refried beans. Another morning, corundas, which are a crumbly light tamale, also served with cream, salsa rojo, refried beans. I really liked the corundas - the airyness in contrast to the thick beans. Along with the breakfast, marmalade and toast, fresh fruit, hot chocolate, coffee, and juice - all for 58.00. Sitting on the edge of the courtyard, watching the morning sun slowly pour into the courtyard, the birds chirping, the chill in the air (it get's cold in the mountains), a blue cloudless sky - life is good here.

Misc:
Mercado de Dulces
Wandered through and tried the coconut/lime treat (was tasty), tamarind (which was sweet) and tamarind rolled in chili powder (which is an acquired taste) - both tamarind treats possess a lot of seeds. I also tried atole de guyaba - which was great at night when the temperature had dropped. Couldn't find atole de negro. Overall the merchants sell the same treats - and the upstairs "crafts" section is pretty bland, but has some great vintage postcards.

Monarch butterfly preserve / El Rosario
http://www.mmg.com.mx
I did an all day excursion (400.00) to the monarch butterfly preserve in El Rosario. Seven of us departed Morelia with Luis Miguel around 9 am and drove for about 2 hours through the Michoacan countryside, which is beautiful. Green fields - pear and apple tree groves, newly planted agave, shallow lakes. The hike into the mountains starts at a village that has numerous small restaurants and stores. The hike takes about 1 1/2 hours to get to the main viewing area - the air does get thinner as you hike upward through the forest. Along the way Luis told the migration pattern, the theories and the folklore associated with the monarch butterflies. The butterfly nucleus drifts, and expands on the mountain side according to weather conditions. You cannot walk underneath the huge mass of butterflies clinging to the trees anymore - however, Luis did bring some high powered binoculars which allowed for incredible viewing. Also, when the sun went behind clouds, the air was filled with monarch butterflies fluttering about everywhere. Personally - I found the experience moving - it almost felt like a pilgrimage, the forest lending a cathedral like quality, the migration of millions of monarchs from Canada to Mexico for thousands of years - a rewarding experience. Hiking back to the small village we had lunch at one of the restaurants, which was included with our excursion - we started with freshly grilled nopales, hand pressed blue corn tortillas which were thick, chewy and slightly charred form the stove. With a dollop of a wonderful home made picante amarillo salsa, I was in heaven. I ordered pollo con mole, rice and beans (which was okay, the enchiladas looked better) and quesadillas with requeson (the cheese slightly tart), which were great - a couple cervesas - this meal hit the spot perfectly. If you choose to do the butterfly excursion - I really recommend Luis - the group size was intimate, he is extremely knowledgeable and personable - just a satisfying experience. His company also offer tours of Morelia and surrounding environs.

Dulces Vallisoletanos de Antano
Av. Madero Oriente 440, Centro
01-443-312-04-77
This confectionary store is located near Templo de las Monjas. They make fruit pastes, jellies and liquors in a variety of flavors. Marzipan like candies painted like delicate jewels are available as are cajeta filled wafer cookies and numerous flavors of ice creams.

I found this website very helpful and informative:
http://www.cdctesoros.com/
List of boutique hotels and upscale restaurants in and around Morelia.

Here are a few restaurants I had considered for my visit to Morelia.
Note that many non-hotel restaurants close by 6 pm on Sundays.

Fonda Las Mercedes
Leon Guzman 47
(52 4) 312-6113
Extensive selection of carefully prepared Mexican and international dishes.

San Miguelito
Chopin 45
(52 4) 324-4411
Creative Mexican dishes such as filete tzitziqui, filet of beef
served in a sauce of squash flowers and corn.

Virrey de Mendoza
Av. Madero Pte. 310
(52 4) 312-0633
Mexican and international specialties including Tarascan soup, corundas,
and white fish from Lake Pátzcuaro.

Casa de la Calzada
Calzada Fray Antonio de San Miguel, 344
(443) 313 53 19

Morelia has been called the "aristocrat of colonial cities" and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Spanish baroque architecture is done in pink volcanic stone. The Cathedral is gorgeous - the spires are over 200 feet tall. The tourist center is located in the Biblioteca Publica - they have a free detailed walking tour map of the historic center. The city is incredibly clean and somewhat stately and reserved. (Very opposite to the festive tone of Oaxaca.) The city is a real pleasure to stroll around - I loved walking through the numerous courtyards beneath a deep blue sky. There are numerous museums and theaters. The one must see is Templo de San Diego. The outside of the church is very plain and in no way hints at the interior - the inside is a riot of color and decoration. Every square inch is colored and adorned - like an overly decorated cake - very unique and impressive.

Here are a few web sites i found helpful:

http://visitmorelia.com/english/ index.asp
Lots of information about Morelia - hotels, restaurants, festivals, museums, theater, etc.

http://michoacan-travel.com/fipr otur/eng_principal.htm
Lots of information regarding Michoacan.

http://www.visitmexico.com/home/click on destinations, then Morelia

http://www.mexweb.com/colonial.htm

a couple other things:
weather: weather.com and weatherunderground.com had predicted rain/scattered rain for the three days I was to be in Morelia - let's not over look the previous 30 days had been partly sunny to sunny, and the following 5 days after I left Morelia were to be partly sunny to sunny. Both web sites were completely wrong (yet when I went to Istanbul, were fairly accurate) - every day was perfect, during the day a high of about 75, blue skies with an occasional clouds, no rain - at night, it got chilly, lower 50s, upper 40s.

one funny observation: on the butterfly excursion, Luis, our guide mentioned casually, that a margarita is considered a female drink in Mexico (I could sense the other two men in the car tense up also). One them asked rather nonchalantly, "did you say that only women drink margaritas?" "Si, men do not." I was somewhat conflicted for the rest of my trip because I really like a well prepared margarita. Yet when I ordered a tequila, or when in Huatulco mezcal, I invariably got a quick approving nod from the waiter. In Huatulco, ordering mezcal got me a "hmm", a raised eyebrow and a slight grin. Of course after my 5th mezcal the waiter wasn't sure what to think of me.

Huatulco:
Club de Playa, Camino Real Zaashila
Tangolunda Bay
http://www.caminoreal.com/
After checking in, walking around the property (which is beautifully landscaped and situated), I decided to have lunch - this restaurant is located at the far end of the beach, which gives a wide expansive view of the bay, and has an infinity pool for when you you feel like cooling off. The menu has some Mexican seafood dishes but caters to more standard American dishes (hamburger, etc). I asked whether I could order items from the room menu - which featured more Oaxacan dishes - and they accommodated me. I tried one of the ceviches (75.00), which was satisfactory - needed more lime, which I added. Also had quesadillas de calabaza (45.00) and oaxqueno tamales (45.00?) - the quesadillas had generous amount of that wonderful white, stringy Oaxaca cheese. With a dab of guacamole or salsa, a gentle warm breeze, the sun glinting off the water and a mezcal (46.00) or two (or three) - I settled in for the afternoon, getting a little bit of sun (which was very strong), taking a dip every now and then and just trying to slow down.

Chez Binni, Camino Real Zaashila
Tangolunda Bay
http://www.caminoreal.com/
The setting for this restaurant is impressive - you sit under massive ocher barrel vaults that open towards the Pacific, swaying palm trees and bougainvillea fill in the setting.
Service was competent - a solo guitar player in the bar next door. Being that Huatulco is a resort town - prices everywhere were very similar. Definitely a nice setting. For dinner I started with lobster quesadilla with pineapple pico de gallo (90.00) - I liked the pineapple pico de gallo, could have used a bit more lobster though. For my entree, red snapper marinated in white wine and coriander (I think) with roasted banana on a banana and mango sauce (170.00) - the roasted banana added an interesting note to the fish. Dessert: crepes with Oaxacan chocolate and bananas. I had a bottle of Blanc de Banes X-A Domeq (150.00). All the dishes were well prepared and reflected an assured touch.

Bel-La-Grilli, Camino Real Zaashila
Tangolunda Bay
http://www.caminoreal.com/
This is where the breakfast was served, overlooking the beach. I usually ordered freshly made huitlacoche, chapulines, nopales and calabaza quesadillas for breakfast with a side of frijoles and assorted fruits with lots of freshly squeezed lime. And also hot chocolate. The buffet also offered other Mexican/Oaxacan specialties and the usual American breakfast standards. It was included with my room.

Las Cupulas, Quinta Real
http://www.quintareal.com/english/hua...
The Quinta is one of two non-inclusive's on Tangolunda Bay. It is an intimate hotel comprising 28 rooms, lushly landscaped, impeccable design details and a perfect view of the bay. For dinner I started with a seabass and octopus ceviche with cactus salad in a soya and habenero vinaigrette (105.00). Then had chilies stuffed with cheese and grasshoppers on a red and green sauce (60.00). For my main dish, mahi mahi with a lime and fresh vanilla sauce (150.00). For dessert, crisp apple and walnut tamalito with guanbaya sherbert (55.00). All the dishes were well prepared - the only quibble, I wish the chilies hadn't been breaded. To drink, I had a couple mezcals and a glass of a Mexican white, Fume - which I found a bit thin and weak. I would also recommend coming here for afternoon drinks.

Ve-El-Mar
Santa Cruz
After spending 2 days in the resort, I wanted a dose of reality and went to Santa Cruz, which is where the cruise ships dock. Maybe it was because the tables are literally at the water's edge but something about the setting made this a real sweet spot for me. Started with a large mixed seafood cocktail (90.00) - a 1950's soda fountain glass filled to rim with various seafood in a slightly sweet spicy sauce. Ordered a whole pescado, grilled (100.00) - which was moist and pleasing. To drink - mezcal on the rocks (40.00-50.00?) The setting was perfect - a constant breeze, the occasional vendor selling either hats or coffee - it just felt more authentic/real compared to the resort (more about that issue later). At dusk I walked around Santa Cruz - not really much to look at but, I think, better than La Crucecita. I did watch a procession of locals going to church, singing and carrying banners - their plaintive voices rising and falling.

Sabor de Oaxaca
La Crucecita
Maybe it was because I was sitting on the beach all day and had a few mezcals - but I can't really remember much about this meal. I do recall having 2 mezcals, a seafood cocktail and a stuffed chili (80.00) of some sort, which was flavorful - the bill came to 220.00. The menu does featured many Oaxacan dishes besides fish.

Alebreges Del Mar
Bahia El Maguey
This was my most expensive meal while in Huatulco - I must admit though I had 5 mezcals (60.00) throughout the day. All the restaurants line the beach and have palapas, lounge chairs, etc. My belongings were safe while I swam. I started with a small mixed seafood ceviche (100.00) - very simple, clean distinct flavors. I decide to try the Hawoi(?) pineapple - a pineapple stuffed with jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon, roasted slices of poblano and pineapple, drizzled with a cream sauce and a sprinkle of fresh corn and cilantro (250.00). This was a very rich dish but fell a bit flat for me. Maguey is powdery tan sandy beach - a bit make shift and rough around the edges (which I like) and seems to be a popular local place for family outings. The water is clear green and calm, great for swimming.

Dona Celia
Bahia de Santa Cruz
Had dinner here my last night - along the water's edge, beneath a starry sky - a moist evening breeze. Started with a shrimp and octopus cocktail, once again served in a large parfait glass, then had lobster a la Dona - which was nicely seasoned but not extraordinary.

Misc
I spent one entire day sitting under a palapa on the Camino Real's private beach. Ordered a couple bottles of X-A Domeq white throughout the day and just kicked back. What made this day so enjoyable was how ensconced I felt underneath the palapa. Sand had been heavily deposited at the base so one had to stoop to get under this palapa - thus I was always in shade - the Pacific a stone's throw away, the occasional bird walking by, a gentle constant breeze, the sun sparkling off the water, the ousnd of the surf. I was surprised to find the price of lobster at some beach side restaurants to be around 600.00. At the Camino Real, a small lobster was 280.00 - it was beautifully grilled , split in half - a nice afternoon snack. Also, a local Oaxacan was purveying freshly caught oysters - 15 for 200.00 - with a squeeze of lime, some homemade sauce - very nice.

Here are a couple web sites related to Huatulco:

http://www.tomzap.com/index.html
http://www.huatulco.com.mx/aguaazul/
http://mexicoboutiquehotels.com/index...

Some unrelated food afterthoughts:
I'm still unsure about resorts and resort destinations. The one thing I really liked about Huatulco was it's remoteness - I felt so far away from my life, NYC - and that was one of the reasons for going to Huatulco. Crucecita and Santa Cruz are concrete block constructed towns - no charm and way too many stores selling crappy tourist junk. Also you need to take a taxi to get anywhere - mind you, taxis are pretty cheap but there is something about pedestrian traffic that I enjoy very much. As for the resort, somehow being so insulated from the "real world" didn't coax me to fully relax. There were moments I didn't feel like I was in Mexico - very strange. The hotel grounds are beautifully lush - great beach - good to excellent food - one of the most beautiful pools I've ever seen - personable staff but still something didn't feel right. Maybe if I had been with friends. The Quinta felt very intimate, only 28 rooms - while the Camino Real has about 120 rooms, which all have sea views. The one negative I have regarding the Camino Real is the room felt a bit institutional - tropical print bedspread and curtains, mixed matched furniture - great bathroom though. Also, the rooms don't have rugs. I was awoken every morning at 6 am by the person in the room next door, stomping back and forth to the bathroom. I wish I had rented a scooter and explore the coastline - that may have alleviated my feeling so insulated. I'm glad I didn't stay in Crucecita - it's too far away from the beach. And I had no interest in staying at any of the all-inclusive beach hotels. I will say though, sitting underneath that palapa was really enjoyable and relaxing.

I would like to visit the state of Oaxaca in September as the rainy season is winding down and everything is green and lush. I really liked the verdant Michoacan countryside - which is supposedly awash in flowers in September, add to that the Mariachi festival in Guadalajara in September - hmm....

I found out there are hot spring spas in Michoacan, which might be nice to visit next winter. And of course there's Patzcuaro - so much to see...

If I could do it over again, I might actually do it in reverse - Huatulco first, then Morelia. I was really taken with Morelia - it surpassed my expectations ten fold - a real delight. Anyway, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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