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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Posts Tagged ‘Playa del Carmen restaurant’

The Newest Member of the Luna Blue Family…Indigo Beach

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 22, 2010

Just when you think paradise is as good as it gets…something new comes along and raises the bar. This time it’s Playa’s newest beach club/restaurant, Indigo Beach.

xxxThis last week our good friends Tim and Ruth were in town. On their final day they decided to spend some time on the beach so they could grab some last rays before heading north. We decided to join them. They had already been to Mamita’s and Blucacao and Xpu-ha, so Cheri suggested we all try a new place…and so we headed for the brand new Indigo Beach beach club.

Indigo Beach is a short 10 minute walk from our hotel, located on the beach at the foot of Calle 14, in front of El Taj condominiums. As we strolled on to the beautiful beach, imagine our surprise when who should greet us but our old friend Prad. Prad has managed a number of clubs and restaurants in town over the years and now is working at Indigo Beach.

In a few minutes Prad had us fixed up with very cool beach loungers (they adjust at both ends…very convenient) and umbrellas. And we have to say the newly renovated central beach is gorgeous. As soon as we settled in, Carlos, who would take care of us that day, was at our side taking drink orders and making sure we were comfortable. Throughout the entire day we had terrific service. And it wasn’t just us. We saw waiters moving among the chairs helping people all day long.

When we arrived, the restaurant part of the club was still serving its daily breakfast buffet. We had already eaten so we didn’t partake, but we went to take a look…and it looked great. For $130 pesos you have your choices from a buffet filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, cereals, breads (more on the breads later) and a daily special hot dish among other things. It was quite an impressive spread.

xxxAfter swimming, napping, reading and more swimming we did finally decide to eat. We could have had our meals brought to us at our chairs, or we could have gone inside the dining room which looks out on the beach. Instead we decided to sit in the lovely dining area with tables, chairs and white fringed umbrellas sitting directly on the sand.

The menu was pretty interesting with a more varied selection than one usually finds on the beach. It is billed as being Thai-Caribbean fusion which sounded pretty exciting. Still, we were anticipating the usual mediocre beach food. It seems to be that the better the view, the less attention is paid to the food. But that didn’t happen here. What we got was one of the best meals we have had in Playa. Seriously.

First we munched on the bread and olive oil. We know that doesn’t sound very special, but the basket of various breads of different shapes and textures was out of this world. We discovered that Indigo Beach bakes its own breads on site fresh daily…for breakfast and meals throughout the day. They were wonderful (we might have eaten two baskets full). And they are made even better after dipping in the chili infused olive oil. We were already stuffed when the foods we ordered began to arrive.

We had appetizers of Tuna Sashimi upon coffee emulsion with red onions and capers ($120 pesos), and Aguachile Sauce Shrimp with red onion and cucumber ($130 pesos). Both were delicious. Then came our main courses. We had ordered some hamburgers which turned out to be HUGE! They are served on giant homemade toasted buns with cheese, onion rings & bacon (on the burger) and all sorts of goodies. Trust us…this is the best burger in Playa. Really. And the burgers come with a side of crispy (YES!) french fries ($130 pesos).

We also ordered a house special Crudaiola pizza ($130 pesos). For the price, we assumed the pizzas would be personal sized, i.e., for one person, but they are very large…certainly they can be shared as a meal for two. And it was excellent, overflowing with toppings and a thin crisp crust. We also had a Caesar salad with salmon. Fresh un-wilted lettuce (that’s a find in itself) and plenty of large chunks of smoked salmon. ($100 pesos).

xxxAs we passed everything around for tastes, our table was filled with the sounds of each of us groaning in pleasure. But we weren’t done yet. Prad insisted we try some deserts (ok…twist our arms). We had Mousse of Passion Fruit with chocolate heart ($100 pesos). We also had the world’s best crème brulee with vanilla and raspberry flavors ($80 pesos). Cheri doesn’t even like crème brulee…but she loved this.

Finally, good coffee. Not a little demitasse cup like you usually get in Playa restaurants, but a big honkin’ cup…served with a pitcher of steamed milk! The four of us waddled back to our chairs on the beach swearing we would never eat again. We finished out the afternoon watching the colors of the Caribbean Sea change with the fading light.

The next day (today) we had a busy, busy work day. Around six tonight we decided we deserved a reward for working so hard, so we headed back to Indigo Beach for dinner. We were the only ones there. We were seated at a table overlooking the beach with cool breezes blowing in off of the sea. Paulo the chef (whom we met yesterday) came out to say hello and promised us a great meal. He wasn’t wrong. We started with wontons of shrimp, crab and cream cheese in a sweet chili sauce. Then we had the Indigo Pizza (shrimp, pesto, and cherry tomatoes). Paulo then insisted he make something special…who were we to say no? He made us giant hand rolled tortellinis stuffed with homemade spinach ricotta and served with a sweet cream carrot/truffle sauce. Yes…it tasted as good as it sounds.

To enjoy this meal while the beach slowly turned dark and the lights of Cozumel began to twinkle was an experience you can only have here in Playa.

We have fallen in love with this place, as you can tell. Great beach, fun beach club and an extraordinary restaurant. We loved it so much we asked the Indigo Beach to become one of the Luna Blue Hotel’s featured beach clubs. We are pleased to say they welcomed the idea. So now guests of the Luna Blue have the FREE use of four different and unique beach clubs…Mamita’s, Blucacao, Wicky’s and the new Indigo Beach, where our guests will have free use of chairs and umbrellas. We think we are the first and only hotel to offer guests that many choices for free beach club use.

Whether you are a guest of the Luna Blue Hotel, or another fine accommodation in town, or just passing through town for the day…do yourself a favor and stop by the Indigo Beach for some time in the tropical sun and one of the best meals you will have anywhere. Trust us…this place will become a Playa classic. Indigo Beach is open from 8 am to 7 pm. The breakfast buffet goes from 8 am to 12:30 pm, with the lunch/dinner menu starting at 12:30 pm.

And if you are in town this Saturday (April 24) stop by for Indigo Beach’s Official Grand Opening from 4:00 pm until 9:00 pm. We hope to see you there.

xxx

Click here to look at Indigo’s main dining menu (pizza menu will be posted separately).

Posted in Dining in Playa, Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

An Evening Out and a New Restaurant: Antica

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 27, 2008

Looking restaurant to restaurant along 5th Avenue from Antica Osteria del MarWe have always loved strolling on Fifth Avenue, especially at night. The lights shining out of stores onto the cobblestone streets along with the twinkle lights that seem to be strung among the overhanging greenery everywhere makes for a beautiful, romantic setting.

And ever since we bought the Luna Blue Hotel and Garden (three years ago February 1st… wow! Has it been that long already?!), we have watched in amazement as Fifth Avenue, Playa’s pedestrian strollway, has expanded north. What was a dirt road five years ago has now become the newest and hippest center of Playa Del Carmen. To give our readers an example of the changes in Playa Del Carmen’s “North Beach,” we thought we would take a look at just one block of Fifth Avenue, between Calle 28 and Calle 30.

This block has become a foodie heaven. Both sides of the street are crammed with places to eat and drink. On the west side of the street there is literally a restaurant row with six little restaurants sitting side by side as if in an open air market, all offering a different style and food. If you’re sitting at the right table, you can reach into the next restaurant with your fork and spear something off of another diner’s plate! Just don’t get caught. 🙂

We started our walk at the corner of Calle 28 where Giallo Limone, an Italian café and bar, is located. Cute and European in design it draws a very young attractive crowd with people who seem to enjoy posing at the street side tables. [Since writing this entry, Giallo Limone has closed. So far nothing has replaced it.] Heading north is La 5ta Tostada, a good sized bar with music, TVs and an interesting ceviche and tostada menu. Right next door is one of our favorite places, Babes Noodles and Bar. Babes has two locations (the other is on Calle 10 near Fifth Avenue), but we prefer this one. Not only is it nearer to the Luna Blue but it is smaller, less crowded, and the staff (Maximo and Jose serving the tables and bar) are the friendliest people you will ever meet. And those Blueberry Margaritas are a PDC must experience!!! Of course both Babes offer a menu of great Thai/Swedish fusion dishes along with some of the best salads in town. Babes also offers a discount with the VIP Smart Card.

Jose and Maximo from Babe's Noodles & Bar on the north end of Playa del CarmenNext to Babes is Maktub Caffe. It offers middle-eastern style food and drinks. We haven’t eaten there, but it is very popular and we plan to go some night soon. Continuing north, the next restaurant is Chicas Grill and Bar. It’s new (and NOT to be confused with Bloody Chicas old restaurant) and serves burgers, nachos and other bar style food. [Since writing this entry, Chicas Grill has closed and has been replaced by another small Mexican restaurant called 1847.]On the other side of Chicas is Mush-Room, a cozy little bar excellent for people watching and cocktails which were being served that night by a pretty girl wearing (barely!) a 6 inch mini-skirt (yes, Tony might have noticed). [Again, since writing this entry, Mush-Room has closed. We hear it will be replaced soon by a seafood restaurant.]

Right next to Mush-Room is a new Italian restaurant called Antica Osteria del Mar. We stopped for dinner there on our stroll and will give our review at the end of this blog entry. At the corner between Antica and Calle 30 is a new Argentinean steakhouse called El 10. [Since writing this blog entry we have eaten here twice, and neither time were we very impressed with the food (although the service was great). It is a very busy restaurant, however, most likely because the prices are very reasonable.]

Cafe CorazonThe east side of the street is not as crowded with restaurants but still offered a lot of different dining experiences including Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream (ya gotta have dessert, right?), Sushi-Tlan (a friend ate here and said it was very good…sushi in Mexico…who knew?), Café Corazon (a small café with great coffees and a nice menu of breakfasts, sandwiches and snacks), El Farolito (a new taqueria), and Starbucks (they are everywhere!).

In the same block you will see a little convenience store, an art and furniture store called Casaarca Galeria, and Maya-Xel which sells beautiful lamps made of seashells.

So there you have it. In one block of Playa’s hip new “North Beach” area you can find twelve eateries and bars…a whole evening of cocktails, dining, lounging, shopping…oh, and eating ice cream… all without ever leaving the block. For more information about Playa del Carmen and these restaurants, go to IntheRoo.com. When you’re done looking at the website, take a look at the forums. A lot of locals and experienced Playa travelers hang out at InTheRoo and offer plenty of insider information. It’s the kind of place where you can ask a quick question, even if it has been asked many times before, and get a friendly answer.

*********

Antica, one of North Playa's new gemsAs we mentioned, we ate dinner the other night at Antica, a new Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue between Calles 28 and 30. It’s small with only eight tables and an outdoor sitting area. Inside is a full bar and another small place to relax.

We met one of the owners, Bruno, who greets guests and helps with orders. He was happy to chat with us and to give his opinion about the dishes on the menu. Cheri thought he was pretty cute, which is always a bonus. We think sometimes a restaurant tries to offer too many types of food and ends up doing none of them well. Antica offers only real Italian meals including some with fish, chicken and steak, depending on what is fresh and available. And of course they offer pasta of various types with wonderful sauces. Bruno explained his philosophy was to provide pasta in the style of Italy, which meant al dente. He said he hates overcooked pasta, reduced almost to mush before serving. Having learned to love pasta in San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood, we totally understood and agreed.

We started our meal with an order of bruschetta. Cheri loves bruschetta. Tony considers it small pieces of toast with chopped tomato. Big deal. However, we both really enjoyed Antica’s version: large slices of bread soaked with olive oil, loaded with spiced and chopped tomatoes, large chunks of mozzarella cheese and black olives. We followed this with two orders of pasta. Cheri got tagliatelle with carbonara sauce, and Tony got a special, cheese ravioli lightly grilled and served with a butter and sage sauce. Both of them were really excellent dishes. The sauces were light and flavorful and the pasta properly cooked and not bready or mushy. It was easily the best pasta we’ve ever had in Playa del Carmen.

Cheri at Antica The prices are good. Cheri’s pasta was $90 pesos and Tony’s $130 (approximately $8 and $12 US). As we mentioned, they have a full bar and a small but nice wine list, very reasonably priced for Playa del Carmen with good Mexican and Chilean wines for $3 to $5 a glass. And, they are one of a small but growing group of restaurants who offer a discount to locals. That makes perfect sense to us, as locals are the ones who will sustain them during the off season and it is locals (like us) who will get the word out that a place is worth visiting. In our opinion, this place is worth visiting, and we plan on becoming regular customers. In fact, don’t tell anybody, but we’re probably going to go back again tonight. Antica Osteria del Mar is a real find.

Posted in Dining in Playa, Recommendations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

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
Créme Brulée
Petitfours

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.

* * * * * * * *

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!

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Recommendations, What's New | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »