Mr Chen Carta Libra – A taste of the Orient

This was our first meal out together of 2019 and not being all-seeing and all-knowing, we were struggling to find a good, new (at least to us) places to eat.

I read about a relatively new Chinese restaurant in Los Cristianos and sent the link to our friends who like Jim and me were not overly impressed with the thought of a buffet menu, nevertheless, we still decided we would give Mr Chen a try.

As you approach, there’s little sign that this place is anything out of the ordinary. Indeed, it looks no different from many oriental-type operations. There is a rather small dining room with some outside tables and importantly, immaculate loos, but as someone once said, looks aren’t everything.

Similarly, noodles are good and sushi can be splendid if you’re in the mood, such dishes retain their ethnic status, but are so commonplace they are hardly exotic nowadays.

However, Mr Chen is not your normal Oriental Buffet.

There’s not much new under the sun except this, we tried something similar many years ago in Farnborough and thought at the time what an excellent idea, but to the best of my knowledge this is a new concept in Tenerife.

Whilst you can have anything on the menu as many times as you like, you must eat it, otherwise, if you leave half a plate or more you pay extra. The buffet is also not a pile it high, help-yourself. You choose from the menu and the food is freshly prepared and served to your table. This is not like any other good-but-extremely-dull Chinese restaurant, nor is it a typical buffet restaurant. It is special!

In terms of something for everyone, its menu is an appealing combination of the familiar and slightly more adventurous options. It is not just Chinese, or Sushi, or even a bowl of chips, it is a fusion of flavours, so both very good and straightforward as well as exciting oriental cooking at extremely modest prices. It is also well labelled for those who have food allergies or intolerances.

But aside from the choice, it is the cooking that is so impressive we could not believe just how good it was. The food is fresh, tasty and nicely presented. Dishes by their nature are not large, but the price is such that you can have a huge meal and all you need to add is a drink or two.

So what did we have – starters were prawns that were wrapped in angel hair pasta and deep fried with mango sauce, for me this was a first as was the Canarian smoked cheese in filo pastry with a palm honey dressing. Both of these dishes I thought were standouts and would have been happy with those alone. But of course, that didn’t happen we also had sesame toast and vegetable spring rolls.

For our mains we had Peking Duck and then reordered a second portion as it was so good, this was followed by Sweet and Sour Chicken again two portions and a large bowl of rice. I was going to order noodles but by this point was feeling the need to undo the belt. Andrew ordered a bottle of red wine, it must have been good because he scoffed the lot apart from half a glass that Christine managed, she also had a couple of vodka and cokes and Jim and I had our usual soft drinks and we had a beer to start.

By now we had to take a break and chatted to Alexi who runs the restaurant, he isn’t oriental but from La Gomera and I don’t know whether he owns or just manages Mr Chen but either way, he does a great job as do the rest of the staff.

Which takes me to service. The staff have achieved a rare double-act, they are not only charming and treat you as individuals, (you don’t feel you are being processed as you would in some faceless chain), but they also understand idiomatic English so as well as describing the dishes, should the client be in doubt, you also receive excellent recommendations as well as having a joke thrown into the conversation. We loved this as being a nosy bunch we like to get to know what makes places tick and Mr Chen ticks all the boxes in all the right places.


After a break we went for dessert, two banana splits, profiteroles and cheesecake with a special request for just vanilla ice cream as other flavours spoil it! This was exactly what we got.

If I remember correctly at the end of last year I was grumbling about the hike in the price of meals but I couldn’t possibly do this with Mr Chen, our evening cost us €85 including wine and drinks because the menu is just €12.95 per person. Under 8s eat for €8.95 and under 5s are free.

We will certainly be returning, in fact, it is now in our top 4 restaurants which include Excalibur, Casa Castilla and the petrol station at Buzanada. It is well worth seeking out and I would recommend without hesitation.

We ended the evening with a few more drinks and coffees by popping in to see Reyes and the team at Mestizo before calling it a night. If this continues we will be having another great year.

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Posted in Restaurant Reviews | 4 Comments

Who is the favourite King?

At one time in Spain, there was no argument, it was Los Reyes Magos who delivered the toys to children but times are changing and according to a recent survey Santa Claus is just as popular.

Whilst children may not have a clear preference for either Christmas character, they do have a favourite King:

If the Magi were a pop trio, who would be Beyoncé in Destiny’s Child or Paul Weller in the Jam? Unlike those groups, in the wise men from the east, the middle one is not the leader.

Traditionally, Melchor with his long white hair and white beard is generally the favourite. He wears a gold cloak and brought the gift of gold to Jesus. He is the one thought to sneaks into the house at night and leaves surprises near the tree. In parades, Melchor throws more candy into the crowds and is seen as the kindest.

Baltasar is the second most popular King, especially in the Canary Islands. He has black skin and a black beard or possibly no beard! He wears a purple cloak and gave the gift of Myrrh to Jesus. Baltasar has the power to read the minds of children and is responsible for checking children’s letters to make sure that the toys are all going to the right place.

In a nutshell, Melchior is pro-establishment, while Baltasar is a bit rebellious and different but still represents racial harmony. Melchor is Real Madrid, Baltasar is Atlético. Melchor is Coca-Cola, Baltasar, Pepsi. Melchior is Nike, Baltasar is Adidas. Melchor is Beyoncé, Baltasar, Rihanna.

But what about Gaspar, the real underdog of Christmas?

Gaspar a red-head wears a green cloak and gave frankincense to Jesus. He is not the most loved in any Spanish region. He suffers a chronic case of middle-child syndrome. He even gave Jesus the less memorable gift of the three – gold is gold and myrrh is both expensive and exotic but Gaspar gave frankincense, often the butt of jokes! Did he get that from the discount shelf in Natura? Against this background, Gaspar was never going to be the favourite and is the true outsider.

Whether you have a favourite or not…

¡Feliz día de los tres reyes!

 

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Posted in Musings ! | 2 Comments

A change from meat

Suzanne was our neighbour before she returned to the UK and after a long absence, she was coming on holiday. I was looking forward to us having a good old gossip because in all the years of living here, while I have never had a bad neighbour, she was the one that felt like ‘family’. She worked long hours when she lived on the island and sometimes if I had been cooking something suitable for a vegetarian, I would hand a portion across the back garden wall so she had a meal just to pop into her microwave.

As she was coming on a Sunday I decided on a Sunday roast, leaving the meat off her plate. Then on second thoughts I checked my cupboard and noticed I had enough to make a nut roast. So that day the three of us did without the meat and had the following

Ingredients

A drizzle of sunflower oil
1 grated carrot
1 stick celery chopped
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small tin red peppers
2 oz mushrooms chopped
4 oz breadcrumbs
1 dessertspoon tomato puree
3 oz almonds (but mixed nuts are fine if this is what you have)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 egg

Method

  • Line the base and sides of a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion and chopped celery until beginning to soften. At this point add the chopped garlic and finely chopped mushrooms and continue cooking.
  • Stir in the drained and diced red pepper and the grated carrot and cook for about 3 minutes then add 1 tsp dried oregano and cook for just a minute.
  • Mix 1 dessertspoon of tomato purée with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to loosen and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture is fairly dry. Set aside to cool.
  • Finally, stir in the fresh breadcrumbs, chopped nuts, the lightly beaten large egg and a pinch of salt and ground black pepper to taste.
  • Mix well then spoon into the prepared tin and press the surface firmly down.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes until firm when pressed gently.
  • Allow the loaf to cool slightly in the tin then turn out onto a serving board or plate. Remove the baking paper and cut into slices and serve.

  • Or cook in advance and chill which makes it slightly easier to slice.
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Happy New Year

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my faithful readers of both this blog and Queenies Daily Snippets. Those of you who have stuck by me and my ramblings not only during 2018 but many since I started blogging way back in 2010, all I can say is. You must be masochists. 🙂 Nevertheless, it is because of you and your support that I continue to enjoy writing.

I, therefore, wish you and your family a very happy and prosperous New Year. I hope it will bring many new opportunities your way to explore and enjoy life. I hope it fills your life with happiness and good health and brings you new hopes and of course courage to overcome all the new challenges.

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Posted in Living on Tenerife | 8 Comments

El Monasterio – Los Realejos

Feeling stuck at home due to OH recently having an operation and not driving too far I was pleased when friends who are here on holiday suggested they take us to the north for an away day.

La Montañeta El Monasterio often shortened to just the Monasterio by expats and tourists is usually called La Montañeta (little mountain) by locals.  It takes only a few minutes by car to get to from Puerto de la Cruz and was where we decided to spend the day as it had been many years since our last visit.

The 18th-century Monastery perched high above the northern resort began serving food in the 1980s and is now a renowned eatery.  In reality, it is more like a small theme park made up of several old buildings, restaurants and walks where young and old alike will be enthralled by the animals that wander around the grounds. There are small horses, chickens, ducks, peacocks, a couple of ponds and a small lake. It really is a beautiful place.

There are restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets.  As you enter the grounds, the first one you see is the Hacienda de San Pedro, elegant and specialising in fish and paella dishes.  The main restaurant, Comedor Principal, is split into different areas, the Confessionary, the Cave Room, the Bodega and two terrace restaurants with views over the surrounding valley.

The rustic Bodega de San Pedro is ideal for large parties, and several excursion companies use this as a lunch spot for coach tours.

We ate in the Cafe el Mirador, which has a sun terrace protected by a glass wall where you can enjoy the view over the valley down to Puerto de la Cruz.

It has a menu del dia as well as signature dishes and isn’t the cheapest of places to eat. Although the food was average, the vegetables were from the freezer rather than fresh and a little on the soggy side, but the view made up for the mediocre food.

Because of its scenic setting, it is common to see wedding parties being photographed around the pretty gardens.  There is also a small shop and wine cellar where you can buy cakes, hams, cheeses, olives, jams and a good selection of wines.

If we were to go again, we wouldn’t eat but despite the food not being to our taste, this has got to be one of north Tenerife’s most picturesque dining venues and well worth a visit for the views alone.

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