Travel Diary: Tuna Tostada by the Beach

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El Merkadito

The temperature may be dropping (seemingly rapidly) here in Halifax, but in my mind, I’m back in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, sipping on iced coffee, watching people and stray dogs. On our almost shamefully lazy trip to the Mayan Riviera last month, we managed to roll off our beach chairs a couple of times, and make the 20-minute walk into nearby Puerto Morelos. This teeny beach town has a unexpectedly large selection of reputable eating establishments.

We were given a recommendation for our first visit, El Merkadito, a beachside seafood restaurant. We wandered in from the street side, walked straight through the kitchen, and took a seat in the touristy-looking beach hut-themed seating area. Thatched roof, kitschy, mismatched signs all over the walls (one might have even said something about Margaritaville). It didn’t look promising… until we saw what the couple next to us, who turned out to be fellow Canadians, were munching on. Amazing-looking sea bass on top of risotto. El Merkadito turned out to be a great find. They may cater to tourists with the image, but the place was very clean, service was pretty good, and their seafood was fresh and cooked with expertise. The presentation was vibrant and playful on blue ceramic dishes, the kind you’d usually find on a camping trip. It wasn’t classic Mexican either, it’s what I would call fusion. There were several Mexican dishes on the menu (tacos, tostada, etc), complemented by items like risotto or condiments like aioli. It worked. Here’s what we ate:

Tuna "carpaccio" tostada.

Tuna “carpaccio” tostada. (There’s aioli underneath the tuna.) My favourite.

Masa tortilla chips with house made aioli + hot sauces.

Masa tortilla chips with house made aioli + hot sauces.

Fried fish tacos.

Fried fish tacos.

Sea bass "Merkadito style", on a bed of creamy risotto, grilled veg.

Sea bass “Merkadito style”, on a bed of creamy risotto, grilled veg.

Mojito.

Mojito.

On our second trip to Puerto Morelos, we wanted to, first, go back to Cafe D’Amancia, where we had a post-lunch coffee and flan after El Merkadito, and second, try some more traditional Mexican food. After some good people-watching and phenomenal iced coffee at the cafe, we headed just two doors down to Dona Triny’s, a small owner-run restaurant offering traditional dishes. The service was fantastic and we enjoyed the food, trying several items: tacos, torta, burrito and enchiladas. Highlight of this meal was the cactus-mushroom taco, and the mole sauce on the enchilada.

Taco trio. Marinated pork, chicken and sauteed cactus and mushroom.

Taco trio. Marinated pork taco, chicken taco and sauteed cactus and mushroom taco.

Three enchilada, three sauces. The mole was GREAT.

Three enchiladas, three sauces. The mole sauce was GREAT.

Torta. A Mexican sandwich with refried beans, pulled chicken, and crunchy lettuce slaw.

Torta. A Mexican sandwich with refried beans, pulled chicken, and crunchy lettuce slaw.

The GIANT burrito. Pulled chicken inside with refried beans.

The GIANT burrito. Pulled chicken inside with refried beans.

Check out the scenery in Puerto Morelos in the gallery below. The food at our all-inclusive (Marina El Cid Resort) was a giant leap from last year (if you remember our bland buffet food challenge). The Mexican dishes were authentic and flavourful (and the salsas had real, mouth-burning heat).

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