Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Javi’s Cantina, Isla Mujeres 2018


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Seven of us recently enjoyed a dinner at Javi’s Cantina. As we were assembling and ordering drinks, I took the opportunity to have a little poke around. The décor of Javi’s is understated, yet vibrant. I loved the murals as we made our way to the back patio in addition to touches of turquoise and another favourite-twinkle lights.


I had a little preview of the back patio when we visited Javi’s in 2017 and it was exciting to see how the hopes and dreams of Javi and his wife Marla were shaping up. If you have spent any time on the island, you likely know Javi or at least know of him from his years of evening gigs on Hidalgo. You will know that he is a great story teller and is passionate about everything he takes on. This tree, which is the focal point of the back terrace, once supported Javi’s childhood swing. The cantina stands on Javi’s family property. (Oh and he is wonderfully sentimental too).


He refers to the families’ tree and then tells the story of his grandfather taking him out fishing. The punch line of the story was “shut up and fish” put I will leave it to Javi to tell it to you. The catch of the day had just come in. Javi shared the freshness of the fish with his guests that evening along with recounting the effort it takes to fish in a sustainable manner on the island.


But the food! Javi has made this asparagus dish famous on the island. When you mention Javi’s to Isla friends, they are likely to say “Have you tasted his tempura asparagus?” It is a unique signature dish served with crème fresh and is ever so tasty. Having grown up in the steakhouse business, wedge salads were not new to me. Javi’s version includes crunchy cucumbers and radishes which added a fresh taste. The peppery flavour from the radish offset the pungency of the blue cheese.


Down at the other end of the table, these enormous onion rungs were served along with chips and salsa (utilizing his Grandma’s unique recipe). At this point in the evening he shared another dream of one day having a Javi’s brand for his families’ sauces. Given the tastiness of the one we sampled, they would be an immediate hit!


If we had any doubt that this local guitar picking bundle of energy really knew his stuff, this appetizer that he created and asked us to sample, chased any doubts away. He had some ideas written on a paper napkin and the next thing we knew, this dish of beauty sat in front of us. Silky slices of yellow fin tuna were nestled between crunchy cucumber and lettuce. Also adorning the plate were surprizes of mint, chipotle dots and a sauce made of pineapple, ginger and red pepper. Black pepper completed the taste profile and we were absolutely awed by the dish. The dish was complex, yet fresh and clean tasting. Jav’s inventiveness puts him right up there with the island’s best trained chefs. Javi inquired what the rest of the table thought, as he was genuinely looking for feedback. Unfortunately, Sister #3 and I had to admit that we didn’t share it with the rest of the gang.



At the other end of the table oohs and aahs were declared as dishes of shrimp, chicken and fish arrived. The exclamations were for the colourful plate presentations, first tastes and overwhelmingly for the garlic mashed potatoes that were being shared around.

Javi and Marla

The power couple themselves.

In fact, Javi’s wife Marla was tucking into her own bowl just out of view of most customers. It was the first and only thing she had eaten that day. Even though this story has focused on Javi, do not discount Marla’s contribution to the success of Javi’s Cantina (and all their projects)! Marla brings the expertise and savvy to the businesses, which quite frankly a personality like Javi’s could not succeed without.



The lovely veggie swirls were a delightful touch but kind of camouflaged the items themselves (this is not a criticism just an observation that Javi and Marla may want to look at). Sister #3 and I shared fresh langostino. Caribbean “lobster” is a sister to the north Atlantic lobster that we enjoy in Canada. Both have unique and sweet tastes if prepared correctly. My first taste of langostino was many years ago in Varadero Cuba. The fish had been split and grilled over an open flame. Javi’s version was more than equal to that first taste, that is carefully tucked away with other mountain-top culinary memories.


Even though Sister #3 and I had shared our plates, we were more than satiated and then mention of Javi’s French toast bread pudding occurred. The pudding itself was rich and decadent, with the addition of whiskey sauce and praline bacon, the dessert inclusion, hit our dinner right out of the park!

I read recently read of someone saying that their dinner at Javi’s was “meh”. According to my restaurant and hospitality expertise and my years as a culinary writer, “meh” must be an abbreviation for mehgnificent!

Kath’s quote: “We may live without poetry, music and art; We may live without conscience, and live without heart; We may live without friends; we may live without books; But civilized man cannot live without cooks”.-Edward Bulwer-Lytton


Love never fails.


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