Chaya & Cacao, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

After the disappointment of Lola Valentina ( I was searching for another brunch place and found Chaya & Cacao. It's a nice unassuming but also hipster looking place with a coffee bar, an inside dining area, and a semi-covered outback with plants around. I also liked the sign "taco dirty to me..."

Points for humour and innuendo there.

Sweet Green smoothie (avocado, date, chaya, soy) 90pesos was cheaper and better than Lola's one with the date bringing out the sweetness of the other ingredients nicely. And the food was a world apart also.

- Mayan falafel bowl (chickpeas, beetroot hummus, green tomato pico de gallo, tahini, cucumber, pickled veggies, mixed greens, mixed seeds) 165pesos - look at the beautiful colours of that plate. Simply a stunning dish with all the Middle Eastern delights with a slightly Mexican tinge. The falafels themselves aren't the best I've had as they could have been a bit crunchier, but those are minor complaints. If only I had some flatbreads to crush them into...;
- Matcha hotcakes (nut milk, flax, green tea, cacao, coconut, maple syrup) 155pesos - a thick good stack of pancakes with colour although not really matcha flavour in it. Nonetheless they were quite good and soaked up the maple well. But honestly I couldn't get past the falafel bowl.

Brilliant brunch. Would love to go back.

Restaurant Mandinga, Cancun 07-2019

After taking the ferry back from Isla Mujeres, we walked past all the (overpriced) taxis waiting to look for food. Strangely enough there weren't many along the main road at all (which I thought there was from Google maps) and it wasn't until basically at the old Puerto Juarez port that we found Mandinga. There were no tourists here - there's no reason for tourists to venture this far out. And even though it's beachfront, the prices were very reasonable.

We sat in for our last meal in Mexico and it was definitely a good one.

A couple of complimentary fish pastries came out. Then our chosen dishes of seafood soup and seafood rice (approx. 100-200pesos). The rice was the more potent flavoured one, with strong seafood and salt coming through. It was actually very similar to those found in Portugal and Spain, both in terms of style and taste.

We struggled through bits of seafood, admired the beach one last time, and then took a slightly less overpriced taxi to the airport.

Goodbye Mexico.

La Lomita, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

For the last dinner in Isla Mujeres, it was just a small one. A little further away from the main hub along the north of Isla Mujeres, La Lomita was a little place serving Mexican.

My friend had a "Swiss" style burrito which was oddly (and unexpectedly for him) topped with cheese.

We stayed with the more predictable Ceviche mixto (white fish, shells, octopus, shrimp) 200pesos which was fine.

Los Burritos, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

For an evening dinner after watching a stunning sunset along Playa Norte, I couldn't decide where to go. We knew we weren't all too hungry and didn't want to spend a long time out since it had been a long day and was already past 9pm. I remember seeing a burrito place on the walk back home and so sought it out, after discovering that the food stalls in the plaza weren't very appealing to us.

I do like a good kebab/spit and so seeing this pork with discernible pieces rotating under a pineapple was music to my eyes.

It was also one of the few places that had guacamole.

- Guacamole (avocado, salt, pepper) 70pesos - a thick chunky form (not creamy) served with blue corn chips. Definitely not the best guac I've had, but it did nicely;
- Alambres pastor (250g of pork spit, pepper, onion, cheese) 100pesos - I really really enjoyed this meal of pork slices mixed with vegetables and topped with cheese. Tortillas, some raw onion salad and sauced topped with lime wedges made for a DIY taco experience. It was wonderful.

A large horchata washed down the hot sauce. One of my favourite fun meals.

Lola Valentina, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

I was looking for a brunch place after the perfect 10am swim at Playa Norte. No daytrippers yet, no sunbeds occupying all the space, no music. Just perfection in the water and scenery. A blogger had said Lola Valentina had the best brunches she'd tried outside of Australia. That's a pretty good accolade and I gave her credit for even knowing Australia's scene.

There's the outside area with fans or an inside bit with blasting A/C. We opted for outside just for the atmosphere. A few lazy cats slept nearby under a table.

The smoothies are actually really expensive. Avocado (avocado, papaya, coconut milk, spirulina, vanilla extract, hazelnut, cacao nibs, beepollen, chia) 140 pesos reads like a dream. It was pretty good although the avocado flavour wasn't very strong. It could be underripe or just their local avocado types being used. But the real test was the food.

- Caribbean benedict (poached eggs, mixed plantain, black beans, avocado, drizzled with hollandaise sauce, served with skillet potatoes) 165pesos - ok the potatoes were really nice. But the rest not so much. Poached eggs were overcooked (1 very much so), the plantains didn't work with the dish as it made things too sweet, and the hollandaise sauce didn't taste right;
- Chilaquiles gourmet (tortilla chips soaked in traditional adobo sauce, sprinkled with cotija cheese, fried eggs and juicy tenderloin) 215pesos - the steak was cooked quite through but maintained some tenderness and was quite nice. The flavour of the tortilla was good too. However it wasn't like the chips were topped with sauce, they were soaked in sauce which meant they disintegrated into a messy thick heap. It wasn't the most pleasant to eat.

I think that blogger needs to eat more breakfasts around the world. This wasn't bad as such, but there are many better forms...

Gelateria Monte Bianco, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

I really wanted to eat gelato at Wabi Gelato in Valladolid. We walked past one evening and it looked pure inside with metal tins and all. However the next afternoon when going to actually eat it, we discovered a sign on the front saying they weren't open that day due to water problems in Valladolid. And we left the next morning - I was so disappointed.

The next stop was Isla Mujeres which as a beach island you would think would have a lot of gelato places to choose from. Sadly that isn't true but it did look like there would be one Italian style artisan on the island.

I tried the pistachio and maracuya. Unfortunately the pistachio was a tasteless waste of time. The maracuya was actually a decent tart passionfruit, but I was too disappointed by then. Shame, Mexico.

Cocina Maya, Valladolid 07-2019

Ok so it isn't actually in Valladolid. It is in between cenote X'keken and Samula, which is pretty damn close to the Valladolid. After swimming in both, we needed some fuel before going back for another turn. It was a Sunday and so it seemed all the Mexicans were about with their large families sharing the water.

There's a few places to pick to eat here, although this looked like a good one with some ladies making the tortillas fresh, a young male manning the barbecue, and the family and children eating their lunches too.

The menu is pretty small, but nothing wrong with that.

- Poc chuc de puerco 65pesos - thin, not very tender, not much seasoning, plain. Quite disappointing meat overall;
- Huevos encamisados 65pesos - fresh corn tortillas were served with the food, but for this dish there is egg inside the two of them. Different.

They did however have the best hot salsa in all our trip (and you get hot sauce/salsa in every single place) with smoky chilli bits and flesh of perhaps aubergine (not entirely sure). That was hot but truly outstanding.

A bit of horchata and I was set.

La Chaya Maya, Merida 07-2019

During the long day of seeing Chichen Itza in the morning and then squeezing in Uxmal in the mid-late afternoon, there was a brief opportunity to find somewhere to eat in Merida. My friend/driver had a recommendation and so we ended up at this restaurant for classic Yucatan food.

It was definitely a large and full and busy restaurant, even with queues in the mid-afternoon as we were leaving. In a couple of areas, some ladies are constantly making the perfect fresh corn tortillas for each of our eating pleasure with the table salsa.

I discovered chaya is a kind of leaf. I wasn't exactly sure what, but Google now tells me a type of spinach. Which makes sense because the food (and chaya drink) did have a spinach flavour but less bitter and more savoury.

- Crema de chaya 71pesos - a thick green, slightly spinachy soup. Very creamy and cheesy. Delicious;
- Mucbil pollo 109pesos - if you read the Spanish text, it says the dreams of a Yucateo is to eat this dish at any time of the year. That may or may not be true, but I can tell you that the dish has very hard, thick crust which is really really difficult and not that pleasant to eat. However inside soft savoury meat and some tomato. It went very well with salsa and hot sauce.

It was nice to have some traditional Yucatan food. The flavours were nice overall and I'm glad I tried a more dishes in their cuisine.

Tacos y Tortas Mexican Snacks, Valladolid 07-2019

I don't know if there is an actual name for the place but that's what is on the sign above the entrance and that's what comes up in Google. It's not the most original. But it does seem like a local place with an elderly male host who was only too happy to serve and cook for us.

- Enchilada mole 75pesos;
- Chile relleno pierno horno 75pesos - a green chilli stuffed with meat.

It was a simple meal and reasonably tasty. Local stuff I imagine.

La Esperanza, Valladolid 07-2019

I did a Google search for elotes whilst in Valladolid and incredibly this one popped up, which happens to be a permanent (I think) stall in the park.

True to the search, they do corn spiced with salt, chilli, lemon, mayo and cheese.

Not bad at all. Although I was disappointed during my entire trip to never find any other varieties of corn.