What’s New in Playa del Carmen: January 1, 2008
Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 1, 2008
Happy New Year, everybody. We thought we’d start out the new year with a new category of blog entries: “What’s New.” From time to time, as we discover new restaurants, tours, activities, beaches, etc. in and around Playa del Carmen, we’ll blog about them and archive them under this category. This way you regular blog readers can keep up on the ever-changing face of Playa. And of course we’d always love to hear about other people’s experiences. You can always email us or do a comment here on the blog telling us about your discoveries.
A New Restaurant
[Since writing this blog entry, as happens so often, this restaurant has gone out of business.] There’s a new high end seafood restaurant in town, Grotto Prime World Seafood. Its quality and price put it in the same category as Casa del Agua, John Gray’s, Chicago Don Jose and Negrosal. It’s located on Calle 10 between 5th Avenue and 1st Avenue, just behind Starbucks. They specialize in seafood dishes from around the world. It’s has an open air dining area in front which extends into a covered interior dining room. The very modern looking bar extends from the inside to the outside. Located half a block from the beach, it has great ambience and sea breezes in the evening.
The menu is eclectic and the food is very high quality. What makes this different from other restaurants, in our opinion, is its “Chef’s Tasting” menu. For $350 pesos per person you can get a little bit of most of the things on the menu. It is well worth the price.
The chef’s tasting offers a small dish of each of the following:
Octopus Carpaccio – Mild Pasilla Pepper Dressing and Red Wine Reduction
Andalucian Gazpacho with an Avocado Deconstruction
Blue Crab and Cucumber ‘Ravioli’ – Honey Vinaigrette, Cilanto Oil and Jamaica Flower Reduction
The House Duck Liver Paté
White Asparragus Creme with Mussels Poached in Wine and Onion Confit
Green Tea Sorbet
Shrimp with Caviar, Peanut Paste and Ginger Foam Sauce
Black Risotto Frutti di Mare Tinted with Squid Ink and Seafood in White Wine Sauce
Every dish is brought one at a time. They have a large wine selection and a full bar. For that special evening out, it’s really a nice splurge. And if you’re using the VIP Smart Card for a discount, even better. We really enjoyed this meal and recommend this restaurant.
A New Location for an Old Restaurant
We’ve long been fans of HC de Monterrey. Originally a butcher shop that supplied other restaurants, HC has for years put tables and chairs out and offered their mouth-watering steaks grilled up and served with a potato and other fixings. We discovered the other night that they have recently moved. Their old location on Calle 1 Sur is now a restaurant called CH de Monterrey. However, despite the similarities in name, the real place with the great steaks is now located on Constituyentes between Avenida 25 and 30. There’s another location on CTM street, which is outside of the resort zone.
We went the other night for dinner, and it was as great as ever. Order the arrachera nacional paquete for $99 pesos and you can’t go wrong. You get a marinated flank steak you can cut with a fork, baked potato or baked onion, tortillas, awesome salsa, sour cream, half an avocado and a soft drink. You can also buy beer if you want. The place was packed to the rafters and probably will always be that way. If you have to wait in line, it’s worth it. They have new extended hours from 12 to 12. This is a true Playa del Carmen experience and tradition. Go hungry.
A New Bar
With any luck we’ll be announcing the opening of our bar at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden within a month. We’ve designed it in classic Caribbean style with a palm thatched roof, swings instead of stools around the exotic hardwood bar, and a beautiful deck overlooking our tropical garden, terraces and waterfalls. More on that in the weeks to come.
However, in the meantime, we discovered a new bar tonight while walking on Fifth Avenue. Our attention was drawn to its second floor location by sculptures of blue twinkle lights which seemed to be bursting out over the street. It’s located on Fifth Avenue between Calle 4 and 6. The entrance is in an alleyway on the west side of the street, which also leads to Playa’s most popular gay bar, Club 69. As you walk down the alleyway, on the left side is a stairway leading upstairs to The Roof Bar. It is ultra modern and small, but the space is well used. They feature an in-house DJ who tonight was playing music which was either techno, house or chill or possibly technohousechill. Sorry, our musical tastes reflect our ages. You get the point.
The waiter we met was very friendly and spoke perfect English. He said they had been open for only a week. Their slogan is “We Don’t Have Happy Hours, We Have Happy Nights.” In that vein, beers are a dollar from 6-7 pm and from 10-11 pm and ladies drink tequila free from 9-10 pm. That could be dangerous. Our dear friend Sarah, who recently moved to Iowa, will be so upset she missed this opportunity!
A New Tour
Hidden Worlds just keeps getting better and better. It has long been our favorite tour operator in the area. Several months back they added their new Skycycle, which we reviewed on this blog earlier. Now they have a whole new tour called the “SkyCycle Ultimate Cavern and Canopy Adventure Package.” This is less a tour than an opportunity to spend an adventurous day in a jungle setting.
During the hours of 9 to 5, you’re transported by the jungle jalopies of Hidden Worlds deep into the tropical forest. From a central location, you’ll be directed to a number of activities. First is a Jungle zip line. Climbing a tower to 35 feet in the air, you whizz along the zip line for 600 feet descending from the treetops to a ground level platform where you are safely caught. Next you are fitted with harness and helmet and then rappel down into a very large cavern. Inside the cavern there’s a large body of clear water where you can snorkel if you wish. The next adventure is the Cenote Splashdown Zip-line. The zip line starts in the open air and sun of the jungle but quickly descends through an opening into a cave. The zip line descends into the water of the cave (it’s not very deep), and the cold, clear crystal water brings you to a halt. There’s a guide there waiting to help you out of your harness. Next another guide will take you on a snorkeling tour through adjacent caves. We have been through a number of cenotes at Hidden Worlds and thought this was one of the prettiest we had seen. Very impressive. Finally, the activities conclude with a trip on the Skycycle.
Doing all of these activities once takes about three to four hours. However, you can return to any or all of the activities time and time again throughout the day. You can ride the Skycycle, do the ziplines or snorkel in the caves for as many times and as long as you wish. You admission price covers the entire day. Our 25 year old son was visiting us from California over Christmas, and the three of us did this tour. We all loved it.
The regular admission price is $89.95. Children are $49.95. If you purchase your tickets at the hotel, we can arrange for free transportation to the site (you’re on your own on the way back, i.e., colectivo or taxi). All equipment is included, including snorkel gear. Wear a bathing suit under your clothing and cover yourself with sunscreen and bug spray before you go. Take a bottle of water. There is a centrally located snack bar; however when we were there the only “snacks” they had were chips and candy. We’re sure that will change in the future.
As always, the Hidden Worlds staff was professional, courteous and friendly.
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We hope everyone had a great holiday season. We’re looking forward to a great beginning to the year. We’re actually almost completley full at the Luna Blue for the months of January and February, so if you have plans to visit us, contact us soon. We’re going to jump over to Jamaica for a few days next week just to take a break. We’ll be reporting on that when we get back. That’s the nature of our life these days….we take a break from one tropical seashore to go and visit another!