Playa 's current best restaurants and chefs ?
My wife and I will be visiting Playa Del Carmen for the first time in late October to celebrate her 65th birthday and we will be staying at the condos at El Taj Ocean. We are adventurous foodies and have, in general, been disappointed with the food in Mexico, which we have visited five times (Cancun, Cabo (which had the best food), Puerto Val., Ixtapa). The problem seems to be that many of the best places are Italian, Japanese, American, etc., which we can always get better at home. We are really looking for great MEXICAN, gourmet or otherwise. I have read about the restaurant in the cave (beautiful and unique, above average but not great food) which we would do for the experience), but am looking for really outstanding food, regardless of the setting. Sometimes the best food is found in humble surroundings and that would be fine, although price is not really an object for this trip. HELP!
Also, any places so beautiful or unique that they are not to be missed (as long as the food is at least above average)? I want some of the nights to be romantic and charming, especially for my wife who loves that stuff.
Also, any private chefs that do a great job? About how expensive is it to do that, or does it depend on what they serve for you?
Any other suggestions or blogs or other locations online to help me with all of this? I am doing all of the searching myself and will surprise my wife with the finished itinerary.
THANKS AGAIN, CHOWHOUNDS!
Alux (Ah-loosh) is the name of the restaurant in the cave, and I have been twice and found the food to be just OK. But people talk about it more for its decor, and I have to say it is perhaps the tackiest restaurant I have ever seen---fake leopard prints, colored spotlights, draped fabrics. They want it to look VIP but simply don't know how to pull it off. No effort to conceal electrical cords, chipping paint, ceiling repairs, etc. We went a 2nd time just for dessert and to take campy pictures lounging on the concrete divans with animal-print pillows. I would never go for a serious evening out. For those needing proof, see attached photo. If you decide to check it out, it's too far to walk to---take a cab if you don't have a car. We always stay at Porto Playa (right near El Taj) and find everything else to be within easy walking distance (one of the pleasures of Playa).
Xulam looks like a restaurant at Disneyland---fake and over-decorated to create a "theme." My companions hated their fish dish as it was filled with tiny bones. I actually liked what I had, though not enough to go back. Would be better if they spent as much effort on their food as they put into the decor.
Walk up and down 5th Avenue at night and look at everything---you'll be amazed at the variety of places to eat in Playa. No need to really plan ahead, unless you are only there 1-2 nights. Nothing will be crowded at that time of year. See what tickles your fancy at the time. 5th can seem dead during the day, but comes to life at night. South of Constituyentes is the original 5th, which is shops/restaurants all the way down to Juarez. North of Constituyentes is the newer 5th, which eventually becomes residential. Lots of Italians live here, so lots of Italian eateries.
It's a bit unfair to assume any non-Mexican cuisine in Playa will not be as good as anything you get at home. I've had some of the best ravioli here (at Media Luna), toast w/homemade jam (at Cueva del Chango), gelato (at Aldos), potato pizza (at Piola), Vietnamese spring rolls (at Babes), etc. And I'm from LA where good food is not in short supply.
Veggo has responded with some good info too, although he is a cat.
La Tarraya for seafood right on the beach. Ambience is nothing special, but the food is good.
Carboncitos for decently priced Mexical food. Try the pumpkin salsa.
Ajua Maya for upscale Mexican food. Pricey.
I cannot recommend Yaxche. Before their move it was the best. In their new location it has slipped a great deal. Last time there I ordered a pasta dish with mussels and got 2 mussels. Our entire party said never again.
La Parilla draws the tourists as it is on 5th ave. Average Mexican.
Some of the restaurants on 30th north of Mega are good choices.
The best restaurant in Playa, by far, is Il Pescatore on the corner of Av22 and Calle 10. They do Italian seafood. It is the one restaurant in Playa that is a must visit. The freshest seafood cooked to perfection. Been there many times over many trips to Playa.
Finish it off with ice cream at Ah Cacao on 5th and Constitution Ave.
Playa del Carmen has many good restaurants none of which are on 5th ave. It is Mayan territory. Mayan food is somewhat different that traditional Mexican. I would go there for seafood moreso than Mexican. Try Yaxche if you must, but beware. Stick to Mayan dishes. The town has a good vibe to it. I have enjoyed my visits every time and will return there often.
Thanks for all the info! Seafood is great, especially if very fresh and by "Mexican", I just meant that I would rather try great local food than Italian, etc. I'm not necessarily into tacos, burritos, etc., unless they are exceptional in some way.
I have however, found that in many of the Mexican resorts, the best food is not Mexican sometimes even japanese or other nationalities.. Too bad! Also, how do you know which dishes are Mayan? What typifies Mayan food? Certain ingrediants? Style of cooking?
Lastly, I am not at all adverse to going to a great hole in the wall place if the food is unique and delicious. I have eaten food from market stands in some countries that blew away food from fancy restaurants.
La Parilla, La Tarraya, and El Faison Y El Venado are the 3 original authentic restos in PDC that have lasted 15 years, when I first lived there. Yaxche is Mayan interpretation by 2 guys from, let's say, out of town. Worth a visit, and it's nearby. A welcome newcomer I highly recommend for you and your wife is La Mission, which opened last year and is the same family who has run the restaurant by the same name in Cozumel since I started going there in 1988. Very good seafood, service, civilized atmosphere. It's on 10th Ave. just north of Juarez.
Playa has lost some really good restaurants in the last few years- John Gray, Cocina 38, Negrosal. So unfortunate. I still miss El Chino and Los Almendros.
You are staying across from the Martini Bar, which is owned by my dear friend Grecko, from Holland. You and your wife would enjoy his sophisticated lounge.
Another reco, although not Mexican, is Byblos. A lovely french restaurant, I used to live above it and it is a short walk from where you are staying. I am delighted that it endures. It also is sophisticated and tranquil. You are planning well in advance, good for you, I'll think of some othere ideas, as will others. You will make a memory in Alux. The cave is incredible.
Thanks so much for all the recommendations. I will check these all out and appreciate the reply very much. I heard about Alux and will go there for sure! Question: During the time period when we will be there (end of November) do you think it is necessary to make reservations for these places, or do you just show up? Also, are these restaurants walkable from EL Taj, or do we need to take a cab? Thanks again!