Browsing: Isla Mujeres

Geisha Valentina-Isla Mujeres 2022

April20

Mixologists have gained popularity all over the world and on Isla Mujeres too. Swing bars are the rage as well. At Geisha Valentina, the team of Francisco and Carlos have designed both into one great bar!

I was totally enthralled by this masterpiece called a Dragon Ball- Vodka, Damiana Liqueur, cucumber and soursop juice. I headed to Google to find out more about Damiana Liquer and found out this (who knew?):

Damiana is a small shrub that can be found in the rocky hillsides of Mexico and other desert regions. In addition to its amour-enhancing benefits, the herb is said to improve digestion, treat constipation, and create an overall sense of well-being. The aphrodisiac aspects of the remedy are believed to come into play because the herb stimulates the intestinal tract, bringing oxygen to the genital area for both men and women. As there isn’t any scientific data behind these benefits, mainly what you’ll hear when you ask about the plant are tall tales of love found after ingesting the liqueur.

According to Healthline, damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a low-growing plant with yellow flowers and fragrant leaves. In addition to Mexico, it’s native to subtropical climates like southern Texas, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Its medicinal uses predate written history. Healthline says that “by the time the Spanish crossed the Atlantic, indigenous cultures had been using it for centuries as an aphrodisiac and bladder tonic.”

Spanish missionaries noticed that native tribes would brew a damiana tea with sugar to stimulate sexual performance. Although there aren’t human studies, laboratory tests performed on rats showed increased sexual performance in both males and females, but in particular those with sexual dysfunction. Still, both sexes exhibited increased sexual activity. Although the damiana plant is generally safe and nontoxic, like any herbal remedy, it shouldn’t be consumed during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or by anyone with diabetes.

My glass ball came complete with dry ice to keep it cool and whispy. I sipped mine through a glass straw. It was like a snow globe , but edible (or drinkable I guess).

D chose a Tipsy Buddha made with apple nuances enhanced by Japanese Whiskey and Prosecco!

We had a chance to sit back and enjoy the decor of the newish restaurant, staged in a minimalist Japanese style.

This was the scene from our grill top across to another on the opposite wall. D especially appreciated the “hood” from his days as a broiler chef (when I met him!) This hood was enormous and not only sucked up the smokey fumes but provided air conditioning fo the guests.

You may have preconceived notions about a geisha. The true meaning is a Japanese girl or woman who is trained to provide entertainment and lighthearted company especially for a man or a group of men.

We enjoyed a couple of little bites before the main attraction. Here was our seaweed salad which tasted way better than it might sound. The greens had been pickled in sesame vinegar.

We also enjoyed a Dragon Roll but would not had ordered it, had we’d known how much food was coming our way!

If you order a hibachi meal you are seated at one of the grill tops. I thought that hibachi meant that the chef would be cooking over a live fire but I was completely wrong. Supper was prepared on a very hot flat top grill.

Chef Jose asked us if we were married and seemed impressed with our answer of almost 38 years. To which he crafted this heart, made it pulsate and then lit in on fire!

Our savoury fried rice was so generous that we took most of it “home” with us.

Somewhere behind these flames was our Teppinyaki Chef. In order to be designated one, you must train for a number of additional years as a chef.

We ordered these meaty scallops

and a rib eye steak

to create this delectable surf and turf. The scallops weren’t as sweet as our PEI scallops in Canada but were perfectly sasoned and cooked. The rib-eye (my favourite steak ) was well marbled and so expertly prepared that I even ate the fatty slices. My Dad, a professional Agrologist would cook rib-eyes like this for a weekend breakfast.

Our perfect evening was made even more so by our server Julian. Julian like many other Islander friends is originally from Argentina. We have two sets of Argentinan neighbours back home in Central Canada. I took his picture with D so if he ever turns up at our door in Winnipeg, we will remember that we invited him to visit us!

Kath’s quote: “I’m in favor of liberalizing immigration because of the effect it would have on restaurants. I’d let just about everybody in except the English.”-Calvin Trillin, American writer (New Yorker magazine)

Love-that is all.

Sardinian Smile-Isla Mujeres 2022

April18

We have visited this unique restaurant a number of times over the years including 2016, 2017 and 2020. With each visit I am more and more impressed by Sylvia the owner/manager of the cozy place and her passion for her original home island and Isla Mujeres.

Good friends dined with us that evening. We had all been to Tuscany together a couple of years prior. At that time we consumed a good number of Aperol Spritzes. Guess what we ordered on this evening?

To start, a simple amuse bouche (on the house) was served. Delish.

Oh my goodness! What came next was the Misto de Mare- a selection of hot and cold seafood appetizers. We ordered this platter for 3 but it easily fed 4 of us. Tuna “Meatballs”, Black Mussels Au Gratin, Seafood Medley in a zesty tomato sauce, Grilled Octopus and Potato Salad, Salmon Carpaccio and Octopus Carpaccio. AMAZING!

This course reminded me of a time spent in a Cinque Terre village in Italy. We ordered the seafood platter for two at lunch time. The delectable items were not served on a platter, but a zillion small plates that came out of the kitchen like a scene from Disney’s Fantasia! There was so much food that we overflowed the lunch hours and we ate almost until dinner time!

The biggest surprise of the evening was the Crispy Octopus in a potato sauce with almonds and tumeric-perfectly prepared! Sylvia’s own recipe.

Not as pretty in this pic, but so delicious-Lobster Ravioli in a Saffron sauce. A nightly special created by Sylvia herself.

Shrimp atop spinach ravioli -just the right balance of butter and garlic. Another of Sylvia’s creations.

The Seafood and Black Tagliolini was ever so hearty and delicious.

In Chianti, near Sienna, the 4 of us had dined on multiple courses of truffle dishes. In fact the restaurant only featured recipes with truffles. This Mushroom Ravioli with Truffle Sauce took me back to that amazing night. This was 1 of 3 nightly specials.

We concluded with mini tastes of Tiramisu, Pannacotta with Berry Sauce and Coffee Cream. That is, my GF and I did. The perfect sweet ending.

Kath’s quote: “No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”-Laurie Colwin

PS I am quite sure that Sylvia’s recently departed Momma has looked over Sylvia’s shoulder as she creates Sardinian dishes in a Caribbean kitchen.

Love-that is all.

Richo’s by Chef Rambo-Isla Mujeres 2022

April15

I had heard of Chef Rambo when he had a smaller restaurant in Centro. Here he was on Hidalgo and we were intrigued by his new stylish spot-Richo’s.

We started by whetting our whistles with two Grande Mango Margaritas-they were grand indeed.

We have never tasted conch like this on the island. Chef Ramboo prepares it in 3 kinds of garlic-freshly smashed garlic, garlic infused oil and garlic salt. He carefully sautes it, a minimum of 3 mins but never more than 5. This dish is not on the menu but by special request only. I wish it had come on a mound of pasta to further enjoy the savoury tastes.

We tried to eat our way through this meaty tuna steak. We pulled ribbons away with our fork. The outer sear was flavourful and the raw flesh was cool and silky.

We really enjoyed the coconut shrimp that night. Chef Rambo marinated the shrimp in lime and garlic before breading them in coconut. They were a fabulous taste combo of tart and sweet.

Here is the man himself with his trusty server “Happy Gilmore”.

Chef Rambo is a self-professed collector and we had a look around at his artifacts before we bid him adieu that evening. He is an interesting fellow with an interesting approach to food.

Kath’s quote: “They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman’s octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach.”-Luigi Barzini

Love-that is all.

Tiny Gecko-Isla Mujeres 2022

April13

One day in March, just as the sun was setting on the opposite edge of the island, we made our way along the malecon to this building with an unusual shape, reminiscent of the flatiron building in Manhattan.

All these good souls had gathered for a different reason to ours. They were wonderfully entertained by the lovely fellow Canadian Rease Warner who I found out later is the niece of another Islaholic and friend of ours.

We were there to sample the delights from the Tiny Gecko kitchen. Our first taste was this delicious spin on standard garlic toast. It had been unusually elevated by a sweet chili sauce which came off beautifully-the sweet, balancing the salty/savoury flavours.

The chef and his apprentice delivered these dishes simultaneously. First up was a creamy shellfish stuffed conch. Five delectable seafoods-octopus, shrimp, fish, squid and conch itself had been chopped and blended with white wine, garlic, parmesan cheese and two kinds of cream. There was so much seafood, it overflowed the cavity of the conch. The dish was totally unique and absolutely lovely.

Next up was the best octopus I had ever tasted on the island. Glistening with freshness, the tendrils had been basted in chili sauce and crowned the base of a grilled pineapple. There were two side dishes-one of seaweed with sesame oil and pepitas and the other a mango/jicama salsa, perfectly balanced and enhanced the hearty octopus.

My favourite dish of the evening was a fish filet rolled in crushed nuts and panko flakes and then grilled in an amazing tamarind sauce. The dark lighting doesnt do the dish (adorned with seaweed and a savoury rice) justice. Can you make out the image of a turtle made with rice and garnished with blackened sesame seeds? It was exceptional on the plate and on the palate!

Chef Paulino Medina was the creator of these works of food art assisted by his apprentice Pedro Damien Gracia who appears below. The chef has been given carte blanche by the Tiny Gecko owner and is a shining star on the local scene.

The culinary team shared the limelight with the creator of these exquisite cookies. We bought one for each of our grandchildren.

The 12 year old baker who is currently in cancer treatment, was selling these to help pay for his own chemotherapy. He is pictured with Raguel Rodriguez the owner of Tiny Gecko and philanthropic citizen of the island. There were other fund raising opportunities too as the cookie-baker is also being supported by LeanonMeIslamujeres.com and their miracle working team including Tammi and Mae who I consider new friends. We went to taste some delicious fare and came away with a renewed desire to support the beautiful locals of Isla Mujeres.

Kath’s quote: “I am still convinced that a good, simple, homemade cookie is preferable to all the store-bought cookies one can find.”- James Beard

Love is all.

Grill Garden-Isla Mujeres 2022

April11

In the spring of 2020, it looked like our Winnipeg Jets might make the play offs. As a result, my family and I made a number of visits to Snappers on Carlos Lazo in March of that year to watch their games. As we did so, we would peak past the gate at the construction site of a new restaurant, wondering what would eventually be raised up there. Well, as you know, the NHL was soon cancelled and the world shut down for a couple of years. That is, with the exception of Fernando the owner of the North Garden. He found a way to keep locals employed with construction and also take care of his staff. This lovely story was told to us by Pablo, the amazing server/manager who took care of us recently at Grill Garden.

We commenced our evening with beautifully crafted cocktails- a Hibiscus Mojito on the right and Mezcalitas Cilantro concoction on the left. The latter was rimmed with chile powder was sweet, smoky and so refreshing. The Hibiscus Mojita with muddled mint, wasn’t sweet but was perfectly fresh and smooth.

You may recognize the Crispy Cilantro Cheese starter from North Garden. OMG! The goey gouda and tomatillo sauce was perfectly balanced. When scooped up with white tortilla triangles-sensational! I had to restrain myself.

Pulled pork tacos had a liquid cheese base, stacks of toasted tortilla chips, ribbons of pulled pork, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream (a rarity on the island). We could have been satisfied with these hearty starters for our dinner!

As we took an eating breather, we had a look around the gorgeous interior. The bar was stunning and check out the cool wine rack!

More food adventures were ahead. The Whole Fried Fish took fresh catch to a whole new level (literally). The crispy outside and perfectly cooked flesh was delicious unadorned when plucked from the fish frame with our fingers. When I used my fork and added the silky coconut rice-sublime! A citrus salad lay under the fish cradle. I detected lime, orange, tomatillo, cucumber and cilantro. Amazing!

Pablo pulled around a cart for the table side preparation of our Tomahawk Steak (not actually on the menu).

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He skillfully sliced the beef on a diagonal. This ensured the tenderness of the well marbled, medium rare steak. Once he flamed it with a generous glob of seasoned butter in a pre-heated cast iron pan, he gently transfered it back to beautiful wooden platter.

The stuffed baked potato and delicately tossed greens were perfect alongside.

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Had we not been absolutely stuffed, I would have gnawed on the bone!

We declined coffee and chatted with Pablo about our family back home being in the craft beer business. He delighted us with mini beer shooters made with Liqueur and Pina Colada!

We were very impressed with the attention to details in the interior decor.

The restaurants was cozy and inviting in spite of it being completely in the open air. I would be concerned if it was a chilly rainy night but such was not the case on this evening or our entire three week visit! We longed to go back and visit Pablo some more, enjoy the decor and try some other items on the menu. Next year. There is always next year.

Grill Garden was a perfect and memorable evening from start to finish!

Kath’s quote:“To see the butcher slap the steak before he laid it on the block, and give his knife a sharpening, was to forget breakfast instantly. It was agreeable too – it really was – to see him cut it off so smooth and juicy. There was nothing savage in the act, although the knife was large and keen; it was a piece of art, high art; there was delicacy of touch, clearness of tone, skilful handling of the subject, fine shading. It was the triumph of mind over matter; quite.”Charles Dickens (1812-1870) ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’

Love is all.

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