Merlot Bistro entrance Hungry Hiker's Guide to 
     Tijuana Dining

Merlot Bistro

Tapachula 3 - Colonia Hipodromo - Tijuana

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Tels.: 681-87-08 or 681-84-57
Price Range (in U.S. Dollars): Sandwiches $3.50 - $6.00; terrific salads for $2.
Price of an average meal: (salad, drink, tax, tip) $10.
Price Rating: Moderate
IVA Tax added to bill: Yes
Credit Cards: Master Card
Hours: 12:30 pm - 11 pm Monday-Saturday
1 pm - 10 pm Sundays
Mins. to walk
from the border:
90
Overall Rating: 8
Summary: Charming surroundings, great sandwiches, soup, salad and desserts. Large variety of good wine. Patio dining available. Waiters have decided not to issue separate checks,but we still like the place.

I. The Setting

Merlot  Bistro interior

Merlot Bistro is a quite charming place. The front exterior has a series of large, curtained windows facing Tapachula. Inside, the walls have artwork and many nooks and crannies are filled with wine bottles. You can immediately view the core menu items by passing by the glass counter in the center of the room. The delicious desserts, succulent meats and basket with samples of the night's bread specialties are attractively displayed.

The dining area has a very large sliding glass door that opens onto the intimate patio, where you can relax in a garden-type setting. Tiny white lights decorate the trees at night. The ambiance at Merlot Bistro leads one to immediately feel at home.

Merlot Bistro has now expanded, doubling their original size. When we visited in the summer of '99 the live musicians were no longer playing, but we were still happy with the food, drink, and cleanliness.

 

II. The Food and the Service

The specialties at Merlot Bistro are wine, salads, cheese and sandwiches.

The salads were above average and only 37 to 20 pesos. They are very fresh, flavored with fruity olive oil and interesting combinations of ingredients. One of my favorites is the salad la española - lettuce, nuts, grapes topped with large, thin slivers of parmesan cheese - delicious! The greek salad was covered with very generous portions of big chunks of feta cheese and proved to be a big hit. The Malaya salad had chunks of mango - served with a tangy lime dressing, those ordering it were quite happy they did. The large salads were large enough to make a good meal combined with soup or a large appetizer plate.

You can construct your own sandwich at Merlot Bistro - Choose from a list of 8 types of meat - including 3 kinds of jamón (ham) - Virginian, Bavarian, or "Selva Negra" (Black Forest). There are four types of cheese available: Chihuahua, Gruyere, Manchego or Monterrey. With parsley, sesame seed, whole wheat and pita bread available, your choices multiply geometrically. Prices for these sandwiches range from 39-55. pesos, depending on how many types of meat and how many types of cheese you want.

There are several special grilled sandwiches - we tried the "La Americana" which was turkey with melted cheese and grilled mushrooms and bell pepper. It was very good. Many enjoyed the "La Salmon," big, thick slices of smoked salmon with Philadelphia cream cheese and capers for 58 pesos. Several people sampled and enjoyed the Tortas del Chef - which were tortas with cheese and served with gravy, very tasty. There is also pannini, including a vegetarian one (with cheese, mushrooms and tomato) and a delicious fondue for two people for 65 pesos. The del Campo sandwich was very bland, but fresh and wholesome with it's vegetables and queso fresco.

Appetizer plates include various kinds of cheeses and a marvelous, tiny, pickled and spicy hard-boiled egg, "huevos de codorniz," or quail egg; it's really quite delicious, it's mildly hot. Soup choices were minestrone and clam chowder and both were good.

The menu is only in Spanish, but if you speak English, you will discover you are already familiar with many of the terms - roast beef, corned beef, salami, etc.

 

III. Beverages

The wine menu is very extensive and includes wine from our favorite Mexican winery, Monte Xanic, and wine from Chile. A bottle of Monte Xanic will set you back 334 pesos, but it is worth the price; or try a glass of the viña kristel for 29 pesos. Sangria is available, but oddly, it is listed on the menu along with nonalcoholic drinks, under the heading "refrescos." Don't be fooled, this Sangria is made with wine. Cerveza is quite reasonably priced at 14 to 18 pesos per bottle. They have delicious fresh lemonade, Italian sodas and of course the ubiquitous Coke.

 

IV. Desserts

The desserts are very fancy and easily catch your eye as you pass the glass counter. The best was the tiramasu, very light with a delicate creamy filling and coffee flavor accenting the cake. There is a very lavish looking chocolate mousse cake with wide curls of chocolate decorating the top. It was good, but the cake could have been a tad moister and the chocolate curls were a little waxy tasting.

 

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Copyright © Pat Fisher, 1998-02
Re-reviewed: July, 1999
e-mail: pfisher@hungryhiker-tj.com