Isla Mujeres 2024 Restaurant Features-Marina Bartolome


One of the sweetest moments is when I meet a person that I have known on Facebook (often for years), in real life. This has occurred many times recently and did so again last evening. Isleno Valerie Rifig and I met on line in the years before Covid. D and I became obsessed with a little taco place called 1000 Tacos. I absolutely gushed about the place. Valerie was one of the owners, but couldn’t meet me at the restaurant because she had just had a baby. Unfortunately the taqueria did not survive the Covid years. But Valerie and I still remained FB friends. What a lovely surprise occurred when I was gaga over a shrimp dish at Marina Bartolome to find that Valerie’s family owns the marina, hotel and restaurant. We tried on many occasions to meet IRL and finally achieved this, last evening.

We started with that shrimp dish. Whole shrimp are skewed from stem to stern including the head and tail. This creates and outstanding presentation but also a unique manner to enjoy every part of the crustacean. The shells soften in the cooking process and many Islenos claim that the head is the most flavourful part of the treat. The skewers were placed on a bed of grilled romaine which I completely finished because of its own nutty taste enhanced by the amazing sauce from the shrimp. I am becoming more and more familiar with sauces from outside the Yucatan Peninsula and Zarandeado is one of those complex sauces thrilling me right now.

Every year that I spend on the island, I come home with a new favourite dish or recipe. Years ago it was ceviche, Fredy’s porkchop, chilies relleno, etc. More recently it has been grilled octopus, octopus carpaccio or shrimp tostados. This year it is Aguachiles. The dish is made of shrimp, submerged in liquid seasoned with chiltepin peppers, lime juice, salt, slices of cucumber and slices of red onion. This raw seafood dish comes from the north west region of Mexico, and is normally prepared in a molcajete. Marina Bartalome’s were divine!

I only eat octopus on Isla Mujeres. Marina Bartolome’s recipe is an award winning one, marinated in red chilli adobo and dried chilies producing a dish so tender and packed with complex flavours! The grilled carrots and potatoes with rosemary balanced the exquisite tastes.

When chatting with Valerie about their recipes, I came to understand that their clever ingredient twists are what make the dishes memorable. Case in point, the Pacifico Tuna Tostado was uniquely crowned with ribbons of fried leaks and finished with a swirl of sesame oil, producing a composite of ocean and Asian flavours. It too was a stellar dish.

But I was still craving those wonderful tacos buried deep in my food memories. Luckily, in one corner of the menu, those tacos still shine! We indulged in the Crispy Shrimp and Octopus ones, remembering that cheese was the unique ingredient in the 1000 taco recipes. I loved that they produced a cheese wafer in those days that added a snap and crunch to the taco. The cheese is still there, but melted to fuse the multiple ingredients. Still delicious.

We ended the meal of scrumptiousness with a Passionfruit Mango cake. Light cake layers were interlaced with tropical fruit flavours and garnished with silky mango strips. Oh my goodness, what a amazing meal!

It is no wonder that the fish tasted at its maximum freshness. We learned that Valerie’s husband had just arrived back to the dock with their catch.

I was also surprised to hear that there is no chef heading up the kitchen but an incredibly hard working staff of seafood lovers.

There are pictures that adorn the inside restaurant walls. They tell the story of the many generations of Valerie’s family who were amongst the original Islenos.

If you are currently on the island, you must visit before you leave. Their hours of operation and menus can be viewed on the Mapchick app.

Kath’s quote: “There’s always more space for more seafood, just as there’s always room for more love in life.” -unknown

Love never fails.

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