Review: Restaurante Las Jaibitas
If you’re passing, keep passing…
Exclusive review for The Yucatan Times by Stewart Mandy
“Las Jaibitas” opened with much fanfare in early May, behind the “Rancho del Charro” by Circuito Colonias in Colonia Miguel Aleman. Since I’m a great seafood fan, and my office is only two blocks away, it’s been on my radar since day one. It’s in a space known historically as “El Mesón de Palanca” which was famous back in the 90s for its rather raucous “Cuban” shows. It’s a vast, barn like place, with a huge stage and outdoor undercover seating area (now also featuring a children’s play area) with a sizeable inside salon which is air-conditioned, separated from the outdoor area by large windows, making the stage visible from inside.
Rather than visiting when they first opened, I chose to wait and allow them to “settle in”, and after almost three months of operation, you’d expect things to be running like clockwork. On a recent Sunday, we arrived around 2pm. The two-man band, looking somewhat lost on the enormous stage was playing loudly, however due to the prevailing heat, very few of the outdoor tables were occupied. We elected to sit in the inside salon; strangely the band was totally inaudible inside; one would have thought that there would at the very least be some speakers. This didn’t mean it was peaceful inside; quite the opposite however. Between the poor acoustics of the room, the majority of tables full of people talking at ever increasing volume, waiters shouting at each other, blenders constantly in use behind the bar, and motor racing on the multiple screens, the place had all the atmosphere of a bus station at rush hour. If I closed my eyes and imagined an announcement of a departure to Campeche now boarding at gate 1, I could easily have been at the ADO station in Centro.
Menus and a selection of botanas were delivered impressively fast, while a confused looking waiter hovered next to us waiting for our order. We ordered beers while we perused the quite extensive menu. What, we wondered was zaragalla? And how were the jaiba entera (whole crab) served? We asked the hovering waiter. He didn’t know, and disappeared for an inordinately long time to find out. He returned to announce that zaragalla is a fish similar to cazon; he still wasn’t sure how the whole crab were served, but informed us it didn’t matter, as they didn’t have them anyway. We ordered aguachile de camaron y caracol blanco as an appetizer; the waiter didn’t know how large it was, therefore we declined to order anything else until it arrived. We also ordered and received a second round of beers. Then we waited. And waited. Eventually a waiter appeared with a large tray of food, which he deposited on a stand near our table. Various plates were carried to various tables, until one plate remained. The waiters all gathered around and discussed amongst themselves what the plate might be. Eventually one of them decided it was our aguachile, and it was duly delivered to us. It was an odd shade of brown, unlike any aguachile I have experienced before, but the flavor was OK, and we consumed it hungrily.
Deciding we would have space for another course, we browsed the menu and settled on jaiba al mojo de ajo (crab in garlic sauce) and papadzules de jaiba (papadzules being a traditional Yucatan dish, normally filled with hard-boiled egg and covered with a pumpkin seed sauce; in this case they were filled with crab). The waiter had stopped hovering some time ago, and now we needed to flag him down in order to get his attention. Finally he stopped by us, and I told him we would like the jaiba al mojo de ajo and….. he was gone. Flagging him down again, we asked if he would mind taking the rest of the order. We ordered the papadzules, and a third round of beers. We waited. And waited. And Waited. In my imagination, a departure to Cancun boarded at gate 4. Finally the beers appeared. Eventually the crab with garlic sauce was delivered. The papadzules were MIA. We ate the crab, which was oily but flavorful. Still no sign of the papadzules. Finally, as we were about to give up, they were delivered, and, although nicely presented, had no flavor at all, and were a great disappointment.
Some two and a half hours after arriving (yes, that is how long this nightmare lasted), we called for the bill.
The establishment was adequately staffed, with plenty of waiters running wildly around, however clearly there had been no training, and they had no idea what they were doing. The owner/manager (?) equally was running around like a panicking chicken, and if anything was making the situation worse rather than better.
I’d love to be able to tell you that if you are in the area and passing “Las Jaibitas”, you should drop in. As it is, my advice is to keep passing. You couldn’t drag me back there again.
If you really feel you must go, “Las Jaibitas” is located at Calle 26 No 331, x 31E y 31F, Col Miguel Aleman, behind the “Rancho del Charro”.
But if you do choose to go, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Born in Europe, raised in the Middle East, and a long-time resident in the Americas, Stewart has been based in Mérida, Yucatan since 2010, and has lived and worked worldwide in the media, travel, tourism and transportation industries for well over 20 years. His local contacts and global knowledge provide him with unmatched access to the stories ‘behind the stories’ and he likes to take you to the places that others don’t or won’t go. From the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, from Moscow to Melbourne, from Bergen to Buenos Aires, Stewart has been there. Chances are, wherever you are heading, he knows the score.
In addition to The Yucatan Times, Stewart contributes (or has contributed) to “The Examiner”, “Business Briefings”, “Cruise & Ferry Magazine” and “The Apollo Magazine”. He is a former editor of “rolling pin CRUISE” magazine. He currently publishes various news and travel related articles on his website at www.stewartmandy.com.