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Recent dining experiences in Puerto Vallarta

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Just returned from our annual trip to PV and want to share some of our more memorable dining experiences:

Cafe des Artistes remains a constant - excellent service, great ambiance and wonderful food. The cream of prawn and pumpkin soup, even after 20 years, is delightful, full of flavor with a marvelous creamy consistency. My husband had the fried soft shell crab and proclaimed it among the best - the right touch of crunchiness served over a salad of greens with fresh fruits and nuts. For an entree I had the roast sea bass. Fish was fresh, cooked to perfection with a crunchy coating of thinly sliced potatoes accompanied by a flavorful spinach flan. My husband had the flamed shrimp over hot coals - the only disappointment of the evening as the shrimp was overcooked and when that happens there is no revival.

Thierry Blouet Concina de Autor - This was an over-the-top dining experience made even more pleasant by a personal visit with Thierry. We left the dining choices to the whim of the chef and were rewarded with an array of delightful culinary tastes. Rather than my husband and I being served the same courses, Thierry prepared distinct dishes for the two of us. We began with an amuse bouche of smoked salmon over a bed of micro greens – extremely fresh and flavorful. We were then each served a salad – mine was a tropical shrimp salad consisting of a mélange of tropical fruits, a very flavorful vinaigrette and sliced shrimp. My husband had a cured duck breast salad that was accompanied by caramelized cantaloupe, something I am looking forward to recreating at home. We then were served grilled octopus and sea bass, respectively. My grilled octopus was almost meltingly tender with a perfect char. The sea bass was reminiscent of the ocean with a flavorable, but indiscernible foam topping. This was followed by a filet mignon stuffed with ox tail and topped with a black mole sauce (this is definitely something that would be served in heaven). Perfectly tender, juicy and flavorful. My husband had a lamp chop which was cooked to perfection but had a battered flour coating that had a rather unpleasant after taste. Have to admit that we know the dessert was wonderful but, at that point, we had had two martinis and wines paired with all courses so our memories of it are rather vague. This is a not to be missed experience, but do us a favor, take a moment to dress it up – be casual, but leave the t-shirts, jeans and sneakers at home and please no cell phones or other electronics.

Vaca Argentina - This is a meat lover's paradise-huge portions of beef which in all cases were flavorful. Tended to be undercooked but that can be remedied if so desired. Some of the best french fries ever were served, although not asked for. Service tended to be confusing. They apparently forgot to serve our salads before the meal, so they mounded the salad onto our entree plates. Tasty cream of spinach was ordered and enjoyed by all. We all had leftovers. Apparently one of our steaks got lost and instead of admitting the error they attempted to deceive us by chopping up one the leftover steaks and splitting it into two boxes. We discovered this at the restaurant and it took 20 minutes to get the manager's attention as the wait staff was clearly reluctant to admit their wrongs. At the end, the manager agreed to remove the charges for all our meals. It may have been an off night or a single incompetent waiter, who we were told would not be working there after our experience. That being said, I would not necessarily avoid this place as the food was very good and it seemed that the other diners were receiving better service.

Taste Restaurant - Reservations were made through Open Table and prior to our departure from Boston we received notice that our reservations were cancelled by the restaurant. No explanation as to why which I find unacceptable and therefore we stayed away.

La Palapa has always been a good choice for brunch and it did not disappoint this year. But for the best breakfast in PV head over to Johnny’s Diner (across the street from Vaca Argentina) on Basillo Badillo. It is a hole in the wall, diner like spot that cooks up some of the best basic breakfasts – bacon and eggs with hash browns and never ending coffee refills. It’s not fast food so sit back and relax. The cook seems to focus on one order at a time – no multi-tasking here. But it is worth the wait.

For those who eat in, the fish market on Constitucion, near the former Rizzo's (cross street 5 de feberero) next to the taco restaurant has the freshest and tastiest shrimp we have ever had.

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