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Jun 22, 2009 11:14 AM

Mayakoba Dining

Doesn't seem very "chowish", but we'll be saying at the new Banyan Tree for a few nights in early July. Has anyone tried the restaurants there? I know they're pricey! We intend to have a car so that we can drive into Playa del Carmen to eat (I'll read past review but any new recommendations are appreciated) but I'd love to hear anything about the restaurants close to "home".

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  1. I have been a guest for all (3 so far) of the PGA Mayakoba golf tournaments in February. I prefer breakfast in Playa del Carmen at Garden of Eating, one block north of Constituentes, between 10 and 15 aves. It has a cenote and waterfall, nice landscaping, good food and service. A rare tranquil and lovely spot in a busy town. Next choices for breakfast are La Vagabunda and La Cueva del Chango. But Garden of Eating is a special place. If we are connecting at all, please advise and I'll offer up some lunch and dinner rec's. Mayakoba is really just a 10 minute drive to Playa, and you have great dinner options nearby.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Thanks Veggo... The only thing included at Banyan Tree is breakfast so I plan to make the most of it!
      When we were in Playa a couple of years ago we only got into town only one night and ate a poor meal at a Cuban restaurant. They did have a great band and wonderful salsa dancer making the evening well worth while.
      We love good food, but I tend to worry about standards of cleanliness- anywhere! My son is a cook and the stories he tells...

      1. re: Oakland Barb

        That was probably Hemingway's? A few dinner spots I can vouch for are Oasis on 10th st between 5&10 ave for fish and mexican, Babes on 8th st between 5&10 aves, asian fusion but with good mojitos and swedish meatballs (the owner Per is from Sweden). Babes has a second location in "little Italy" by 26th st. Negrosal on 16th between 1&5 aves is very good (glass floor, wine cellar below) and has killer grilled octopus and sea bass in banana leaf. John Gray's is very good, but not Mexican. What types of dinner fare do you want? I have lived off-and-on in Playa for 13 years so I know who's naughty and nice.

        1. re: Veggo

          Mexican! Or Cuban,,,
          You're right. Hemingway's rings a bell.
          My husband isn't a big seafood eater although he enjoys shrimp and is becoming a little more adventurous.. I love good fresh fish but I want local and not salmon flown in from wherever. Octopus won't happen!
          Thanks so much for your help!!

          1. re: Oakland Barb

            I'm laughing about the salmon; it's not there. The best fresh fish are boquinette, usually fried whole (I get a side of Veracruz sauce, never an extra charge), snapper (huachinango) and grouper (mero). It is not impolite to ask to see the actual fish they will cook for you. You don't want a slice from a tasteless giant nassau grouper, and many places cheat on their grouper. Ceviche is worth a try. Shrimp is not local. It is from Veracruz and has been frozen. Chiles relleno is a classic non-fish local dish. The restaurant at the Jaguar Hotel on 5th ave. at 6th st. does it well, with outdoor seating on the avenue. The only authentic cuban was Waldo's, but he moved away. Your husband may enjoy some of the Argentinian steak houses, the arrachera steak with chimichurri sauce is muy sabroso. The restaurants at Mayakoba are decent but very pricey and institutional.

            1. re: Veggo

              This thread is one of the reasons why I love Chowhound. Personal advice from someone who really knows what he's talking about is invaluable for any traveler. Plus, it makes for great reading for the rest of us.

              Three cheers for Veggo and Oakland Barb and Chowhound!


              1. re: cristina

                How about a cheer or a "welcome back" to cristina, one of the most knowledgeable persons about mexican food, in the world. Not bad for a gal from Kentucky (I think) who has 200 cook books in Guadalajara, and probably a few of her own. My name doesn't belong on the same page.

                1. re: Veggo

                  This is great! Thank you both.
                  What is the restaurant called in the Jaguar? Suggestion for a steak house? I had heard the Thai restaurant at the Banyan Tree was relatively authentic- who knows? If we eat there I'll report back.
                  I'd love to try some of the specialties of the Yucatan. Is there a place you might recommend for this?

                  1. re: Oakland Barb

                    I neglected to mention that we lived in Florida many years ago and loved the Cuban food there. There's little to be had in the Bay Area so we search it out when possible.

                    1. re: Oakland Barb

                      There is no cuban in Playa, and the only mayan/yucatan is Yaxche on 8th st. I suggest going to Super Carne, 1 block south of Juarez, between 15 and 20 aves, after 12:00, and pick up a kilo of grilled arrachera, a couple roasted onions and potatoes, cups of their mild and hot sauces, and a few bollo rolls, to have around at the Mayakoba. It's south of downtown near Chedraui, the best grocery store, so a good time to stock up for your whole trip.The kitchen in your suite at Mayakoba is pretty well equipped.
                      A very neat place is Mil y un Alux (1001 elves, I think they just call it Alux now), a restaurant/ club on Juarez, about 1/3 mile west of 307, that is underground in a catacomb of fantastic caves. It is one of the most amazing places in the Yucatan. Evening only, closed Monday.

    2. Barb, I live in Cancun and visit Playa a lot. Absolutly the best at this time in Playa is Cocina 38..........on 38th and 10th or maybe 5th. Apps priced from 7 to 11 dollars and main dishes from 13.85 to 18.50, deserts, not to be missed, all at about 7 dollars. What you will get is world class cusine. I have eaten in over 70 cities around the world and you won't find better for the price. Look at they rate them 2nd in playa.
      The chef and his brother from Guatamala are the owners and the chef has the gift if you know what I mean. Roberto runs the front of the house. Fresh delicious and savory.......
      What else can I say just go there. Regarding John Greys I would give it a miss......rated 16th on trip advisor.......If John is there and grumpy look out for the Irish temper and the staff is not very respectful of the guests.........heard and experienced this both. Have a good time on your vacation.

      6 Replies
      1. re: wineman3

        I'm curious about Cocina 38 (on 5th ave) because it's considered european cuisine. What are your favorite dishes there? I didn't know the owners are from Guatemala. I likewise don't recommend John Gray's, but not for snarky personalities, simply that it's not mexican. The only mexican restaurant I can think of on 5th or 10 aves. north of Constituentes is El Vagabundo; everything else is european. El Fogon on 30th is rated #1, because it is authentic and economical. La Parilla has been the highest grossing resto in Playa since it's inception, and yes it is tacky, but it is mexican, and pretty good. Cocina 38 is more like Negrosal for a higher-end dining experience, which is much more South American. I hope you are the wine purveyor to both; Negrosal has the best cellar in town. Buen provecho.

        1. re: Veggo

          Cocina 38 is a mid priced gourmet restaurant and 20% lower than Negro Sal. I would call it more like Fusion and once you read the menu I just received today, for the new season, I do not really believe anyone who knows food would ever consider it European. Negro Sal in my opinion is 'try to be some type of food' but really goes no where. The chef is old school and doesn't really know how to make his Italian-Argentinian-Mexican food work, its to heavyyyyyyy, out of balance and has not the destinction I feel is fine dining. I do sell wine there along with Cocina 38.
          Scallops tartar with mango, cucumber and seared tuna 140
          Shrimp salad with marinated beetroot and vinaigrette 130*
          Soft shell crab tempura with courgette, edamame and spiced soy sauce 120*
          Tuna tartar with lime foam and banana crisp 165
          Leek and chayote ravioli with capers sauce 110*
          Chilled pea soup with cream cheese and sweet corn 95*
          Kobe beef carpaccio with lime, ginger and soy sauce 155
          Slow braised pork belly with apple puree and queen scallops 145
          Grilled chicken satay skewers, beef with oyster sauce, crab rolls with chipotle chili
          and shrimp rolls with leeches 265 (to share)
          Main course
          Black cod with herb crust, cauliflower puree and wild mushrooms 200*
          Fish of the day with shrimps, bordelaise sauce and lentil cream 200
          Chilean sea bass with cardamom curry, broccoli and yogurt with chives 245
          Risotto with fennel, calamari, chorizo and grilled scampi 240*
          Prawns and asparagus with coconut milk and nuts 190*
          Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and almonds, gnoquis with mustard cream 200*
          Duck breast with vanilla mash, pears and Madeira jus 255
          Slow braised beef cheek with onion cream, carrots and truffle oil 230
          Fillet of beef with artichokes and red onion compote 240
          New York steak (280 grs) with sautéed vegetables and three pepper sauce 245

          By the by I did not say that Cocina 38 was Mexican but as Barb mentions above she is somewhat a foodie by her remarks and when you can get gourmet food at a reasonable price I personally don't care what country I am in if it is really good and should not be missed I feel it necessary to say so. This is what I believe Cocina 38 is, a not to miss place. El Fogon is very good and so is La Parillia for Mexican however I also believe people like to switch it up when on Vacation I know I do.
          Last but not least look for the opening of Wicky's to open in Late July. It is right on the ocean at the lighthouse it is down below 5th on the ocean on 10th.......Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner............REAL BBQ let me say that again REAL KC STYLE BBQ for Lunch and Steaks etc for Dinner won't be inexpensive but will put a lot of pressure on those restaurants that consider themselves fine dinning such as Di Vino, Negro Sal and particularly John Grey. The chef is youngish and knows his stuff, he is from Denver and has worked in two high end steak houses and two BBQ joints in KC. Ownership is mostly American from Denver and will probably open two other places around the area in the next two years. This place will be the in place in Playa for those who care to enjoy fine food. 300 foot deck along the Beach to enjoy your meal plus dinning inside with aircond. They will have 290 wines on their wine list. It is an investment of over 6 million $$$. Yes USD.

          All for now...........THE wine man.

          1. re: wineman3

            Wow! Nice new menu at Cocina 38. I do recognize that the tourist clientele in "Little Italy" is very international, and this seems to fit the bill.
            I have followed the redevelopment of the former Corto Maltez and El Faro properties, and I was hoping that a decent waterfront restaurant in town would be included in the mix. It has beem sorely lacking. Good luck to Wicky's.
            Playa is two worlds woven together and really has an extraordinary range of choices.I am disappointed that some the old originals like El Chino and Los Almendros were casualties of progress, but that's the old fashioned in me.
            I'll check things out in October- thanks for the useful info, wineman3.

            1. re: wineman3


              Thanks so much for this great information~!
              Any news on the Wicky's venture~?
              With the new development right up to the El Faro Lighthouse we saw in April I didn't see and have yet to hear of a BBQ opening in Playa. Playa locals and businesses have been going to Zenzi on Sunday for 100p BBQ and Tropical Casablanca on the occasional Saturday for another All-You-Can-Eat BBQ experience.
              LOVE Playa and the diversion (and fusion) of foods (Where else can you go than to go to PdC and Mexico, to go to a Thai Noodle place - Babe's - and eat Swedish Meatballs~! ;-)
              ...but would LOVE to see a BBQ place.

              1. re: Cuffedlinks

                Captain Dave at the "Bad Boys" palapa on the beach between 4th and 6th sometimes does Q. A few years ago, 3 Texans towed down a big smoker and set up a modest operation on 8th below 5th ave. They bought their briskets in Cancun. Their Q was good but the operation could not support 3 people. Barbeque smells so good you would think it would attract every hungry person downwind, but somehow it has struggled in Playa.

                1. re: Cuffedlinks

                  Wickys will be open in two to three weeks with the BBQ available on deck dinning area mostly for lunch but also for dinner. Once I get the final menu in my hands I will post it. The indoor dinning will be more toward the steak and seafood side of things like a Mortons. The smoker they will be using is made by Southern Pride and if I am not mistaken it is used by the top ten BBQ places in the US. I can taste it now!!!!! Goodle Southern-Pride .com for a look at the equipment.
                  Wickys will be directly across from Zenzi at the EL Faro and is a part of that development with 250 feet of deck dinning space.
                  By the way if you don't know Babes is owned by Swed's, hence the Swedish meatballs. They do have good food but not what I would call a real Traditional Thai food probaly because it is really difficult to get the real ingrediants here.