Chaya and Cacao-Isla Mujeres 2018

March19

We met Chaya and Cacao’s owner Lori many years ago at Mango and subsequently at Lola Valentina’s. We know that she has exceptional skills in culinary artististy-that is to pair foods that enhance and elevate each other. The offerings from her new kitchen are no exception.

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Lori puts her money where her (our) mouths are, posting the Mission Statement for Chaya and Cacao right at the front entrance.

Sister #3 and I began our evening at a cozy outdoor table. I had past it many times on my walk to the beach. It is no surprise that Lori’s turquoise decorating accents would draw my eye. In truth I loved everything about the restaurant including the wooden fish hanging in the front window. I purchased three of my own when I visited Madera Food + Art later in the week. This elegant cocktail was absolutely thirst quenching and delicious but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. I do know that it was one of C + C’s weekly specials so it may or may not be available when you make a visit.

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The menu, like the cocktail, changes weekly in order to capitalize on fresh local ingredients. I was also impressed with Lori’s little touches such as serving course ground pepper and a Himalayan sea salt in the manner above.

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Even though I am not a vegetarian, I love vegetables tremendously, especially unusual ones like artichokes, eggplant and hearts of palm. Turns out Chaya and Cacao had both of the latter on that week’s menu. We started with this lovely twist on eggplant parmigiana. Enormous disks of eggplant were first coated in panko flakes, fried and then topped with plantain. The sweet starchiness of the plantain complemented the eggplant perfectly.

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Next up were delectable cakes made with hearts of palm. They were garnished and served with veggies and greens and this became our heavenly salad course.

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Lori mentioned that she had Thai stuck in her head that week and the next dish was her take on Tom Yum soup.  I loved the silky coconut based soup and the ribbons of cilantro. The dish also contained tofu, onion threads and crunchy bean sprouts. By this time both Sister #3 and I were getting full, so she packed up the soup so that we could share the lion fish entree that came next.

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Lori explained to us that Lionfish were posing a threat to Isla’s coral reefs. We were happy to do our share to consume the evasive species. We were delighted by the taste. Sister #3 thought that it tasted a lot like pickerel (aka wall-eye) that we fish and eat in Manitoba. Roasted veggies also adorned the wooden platter making the dish as beautiful to look at as it was to eat.

The island is fortunate that Lori has the tenacity and perseverance to stay living on the island. She loves locals and travellers alike, but cares deeply for the island itself.

Kath’s quote: “The biggest fish he ever caught were those that got away.”-Eugene Field

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Love never fails.

 

 


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