Eating in Mexico

Originally posted Dec. 16, 2010

During my vacation in Mexico last month, I made it my personal goal to eat and drink insanely beyond my money’s worth. This was an alI-inclusive vacation, after all, and I am fairly certain that I hit the mark in mojitos alone. It also helped that the buffet food at the resort was great. I stuck to the authentic Mexican fare, getting my fill of hand-made masa corn tortillas grilled with cheese and poblano peppers, fresh pico de gallo, salsa verde and the like. I was pretty much in heaven: the food was one of my favourite kinds, the café con leche was unbelievably good, and the margaritas and mojitos were strong.

Our resort (Viva Wyndham Maya) was located less than a five minute bike ride away from Playa del Carmen, in the Riviera Maya region. We decided that we would venture off the resort to have dinner in town at a nice-looking restaurant off the main strip (Fifth Avenue), where hopefully we could procure a decent bottle of wine while scoping out what Mexican chefs are doing for contemporary cuisine these days. One of the only shortcomings of the resort in regards to the food and beverage department was the vino tinto (as is usually the case in the Caribbean). I’m talking spritzer-worthy, here. We looked forward to ordering a bottle of drinkable wine with our meal in Playa.

After having scoped out the more promising looking establishments during a walkabout the previous day, we had a few options in our pocket. We settled on the Glass Bar Restaurant ( an Italian restaurant with contemporary flair, as it looked inviting, trendy and somewhat busy. We took a seat in the open-air section with a great view of the street filled with tourists and locals making the most of their Saturday night. The service from start to finish was absolutely incredible. The host, servers and busboys were all equally attentive and charming, sparing no small detail to ensure that we had the best dining experience possible. The sweet potato chips that greeted us after being seated were hard to deny – I was starving. I somewhat kept my composure, having checked out the menu the previous day, I knew that I should save my appetite for a three-course dinner. We started with a glass of bubbly each and also picked out our wine from their ridiculously extensive (27 pages long) wine list, which I regrettably have no recollection of now, as I didn’t make a note of the name. I do remember enjoying it.

My first course, a roasted octopus with vanilla potatoes and pea puree, topped with caramelized red onion, was rich while still being balanced. The octopus meat was dense but tender and roasted to perfection bringing out a robust flavour – not chewy in the slightest.  The dish was visually stunning, with a play on bright colors and contrasting textures – the creamy green purée sitting at the bottom, a bed of chunky potatoes, purple octopus with distinctly textured tentacles topped with a small shiny pile of caramelized red onion.

Second course was tagliatelle with cream, pesto, roasted grape tomatoes, parmesan cheese and Caribbean lobster. The lobster meat had a delicate sweet flavour – much different than Atlantic lobster. It was cooked nicely and still in the half shell. I enjoyed the flavour and texture of this lobster very much. The lobster meat was the high point of the dish, the pesto was light and fresh and the dish balanced out with the heavy cream sauce and full, rich flavour of roasted tomato. The pasta was overcooked and there was way too much of it – but I still enjoyed this dish.

Dessert was lacking, which seemed to be a trend in Mexico. My mango sorbet in a berry gazpacho was tasty and colourful – it was also an easy, no-fail kind of dish.

With the bill came several small housemade cookies and biscuits, which were tasty. It’s too bad none of these were incorporated into a dessert dish. These were served on a real slate, which I thought was very cool.

The Glass Bar Restaurant was definitely a gem – not a tourist trap by any means. It was a treat to spend a night in the bustle of Playa del Carmen, eat a gourmet meal with a couple items I had never tried before, and to share a nice bottle of wine.

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