Saturday, June 25, 2011

Eating Our Way Through Playa del Carmen, Part 2

It was a day worthy of two columns as I continue with the second part of our eating tour of Playa del Carmen.

In the first half of the day, we had some great food (and drinks), but it just continued to get better as Riviera Maya Tourism selected a great range of Mexican and Mayan eateries for us to try. It was also nice to get the chance to walk around Playa del Carmen, a suburb of Riviera Maya which offers beautiful beaches, hotels, shopping and (obviously) tons of places to eat.

Luna Maya Restaurant is upstairs and appears to overlook the entire city.  The selection here is gourmet, with a cross between Mayan and Mexican. They got our attention immediately by cooling us off with anise soaked cold towels and a fruit juice drink. This restaurant, which just opened in December, was a bit more formal than the others and the service was first class. It appeared that we had a 1-1 ratio between servers and patrons.  A Mango Tequila (mango, tequila and Green Curacao) quickly appeared before us and then the food soon joined it.

Our first course was a Duck Salad with baby lettuce and orange vinaigrette. It was flavorful, but the duck was served carpaccio style and I am not a fan of raw meat. It was fine with me to skip something on a day full of gluttony and I wouldn’t have to wait long for more to appear – along with a fruity 2009 Casa Madero (cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo). From the Pork in a Bag to Lamb Wrap to the Beef in a Jar, we had an unbelievable meal. Everything was full of rich flavors, without too much overwhelming spice.  We all ate more than we shoulds, and had a hard time having more than a few bites of desserts – warm, fresh Churros with Chocolate Sauce!

It wasn’t long enough to get hungry again until we arrived at La Cueva Del Chango. Fortunately, they gave us a few minutes to relax with some yummy Mango Margaritas before bringing out the food. Then we feasted on Habernero Cream Soup, a perfect Guacamole and the best Fried Cheese I had yet in Mexico. I was happy to digest while those not allergic tasted some Grouper and Tuna (giving it the thumbs up).  I was also a fan of the d├ęcor here, very casual and a great place to hang with friends  -- with lots of those Mango Margaritas!

Our next stop was actually at Hotel La Palapas, an adorable boutique property with only 76 rooms. I had a Mexican-style Chicken Cordon Bleu, made the same as the French, but with a green sauce that gave it more of a local flavor. I really enjoyed the creativity in the dish. My fellow writers also raved about the Shrimp, also served with just an accent of Mexican rather than a typical Mexican dish.

I think we all felt bad at Yaxche, our final stop.  We were all so looking forward to this Mayan restaurant and the wine pairing dinner, but we just couldn’t find room to eat much more! We tried to work up an appetite with a glass of Sala Vive, a Mexican sparkling wine. The Tortilla with Chaya (a vegetable similar to spinach) was cheesy and worth a bite. We were then offered a glass of V. from Casa Madero, a cabernet sauvignon rose that could have been fruitier, but I really liked the 2009 Santo Thomas Valley Viognier, especially with the Grilled Pork.

We apologized to our hosts that we couldn’t possibly eat any more before heading to our final stop of the night, Rufino Mezcalaria in Playa del Carmen.  Just like Champagne is only champagne if it comes from that region, it’s only tequila if it was produced in Jalisco, but the blue agave plant can produce a similar spirit if it’s grown someplace else. Mezcal is best known as the one with the worm in it. That’s only one type, though. We got to sample a selection of mezcal at Rufino.

It was all from the Imperial brand and I have to say I was not thrilled with their straight stuff, but if you are looking for something sweet and tropical while on the beach in Riviera Maya, definitely pick up some of the Imperial Coconut. You don’t even need to add anything to it, just throw it over ice. It definitely sealed my food and drink consumption for the day and the only thing that was left was shower and sleep because another full day was coming in Tulum.


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