Monday, 31 December 2012

Yaxche Maya Cuisine Restaurant

5th Avenue and 22nd Street
Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

In her opinion:
The best part of traveling for me is getting to try new and interesting culinary experiences! I love Mexico. I especially love the Mayan Riviera! The reason for this is probably because this was my honeymoon spot! The Mayan Riviera is wonderful, from its culture, to its food and its people! So given an opportunity to experience real Mayan cuisine...I jumped.

Although we stayed at an all-inclusive resort near Akumal with amazing food, we researched a little about a fabulous place to have lunch in Playa del Carmen. Yaxche fit the bill perfectly.

We arrived as the restaurant was opening. We opted to sit inside as it was extremely hot in Playa and our son loves the comfort of air conditioning (as does his mama!). We had prompt, attentive service right away. Our waiter quickly took our drink orders and returned within a few minutes with our order of two Coronas and a bottle of water for our son. He also brought out some fresh tortilla chips and 3 different types of dips (garlic cream, habanero and a axiote dip). These were very good.

After looking at the menu, I ordered Massewal (Yucatan Lime Soup) to start. It is described on the menu as a smokey chicken broth flavoured with regional lime, tomato, onion, herbs, chicken and tortilla strips.

This soup was absolutely delicious. It was presented at the table by two waiters. One placed my soup bowl in front of me with chicken, tomato, onion and tortilla strips and the other poured the delicious broth over top of the bowl contents. The soup was perfection. I could taste the smokey chicken and delicious lime flavours working perfectly together. I liked the crunch of the tortilla strips. 

The chef visited us during our meal and explained a few of the ingredients used in the cooking. It was super informative. The chef surprised us and had the waiter bring out an amazing amuse bouche of turkey cooked in a black paste. It was really delicious.

Our mains finally came out. I had ordered the "Shrimp Mayitas" which is described on the menu as the founders creation. It consisted of  "grilled shrimp fajitas marinated in axiote". It was served with guacamole, black bean soup and tortillas.

This was absolutely delicious. The shrimp was perfection.  It was a really well executed dish. I enjoyed this main very much. The flavours were extraordinary and it was my idea of pure comfort.

I was too full for dessert but Edgar decided to order some and of course I shared. It was very good but I will let him describe it in detail.

Overall, this was a great meal. I was glad to leave the resort and try some really good Mayan food.  I recommend this place to anyone visiting Playa Del Carmen.

In his opinion:

When you talk about Mayan Riviera, Mexico and food in the same sentence one would usually think all-inclusive food, local fruit or taco stands but rarely do we think 5 star dining! 

We knew we would be there for our holiday and decided to research one place to have a great meal in between the great food supplied at our 5 star resort. I say great food because one of the a la carte restaurants in the resort rivaled any upscale restaurant we have ever been to.

This post is about trying amazing food in a world renowned restaurant in the sort of "tourist" town that Playa del Carmen (PDC) has become of late. It is definitely not about resort food. After some research and contemplation we decided to make reservations at Yaxche Restaurant located in all places, the "Ultra Americanized" 5th Avenue in PDC.

Offering upscale slightly modified Mayan cuisine, Yaxche Restaurant is a 5 star Diamond award winning restaurant, receiving this award every year since 2010. It is a gem of Mayan cuisine that carries the flagship for this food style that is unfortunately in rapid decline throughout Mexico.

The restaurant's decor is contemporary but with many Mayan touches throughout. The service is very attentive, the waiters knowledgeable and both chefs came out to speak top us, including bringing us their secret spices and explaining them in detail.

So what to order in a traditional Mayan cuisine restaurant? The menu items are very exotic and unfamiliar to anyone outside the Mayan culture, the description provided in English made it a much less confusing experience.

We ordered 2 coronas...I know...I know....Corona is the tourist beer but I had been drinking XX (Dos Equis) all week long that Corona was a good alternative and welcome change.

The waiter also brought us some fresh tortilla chips and 3 dips, all different and all very tasty. They were habanero, axiote and garlic cream dips and one better than the other.

The chef started us with a complimentary amuse bouche (small bite size hors d'ouevre) which consisted of cooked turkey in a black paste, served on fresh soft corn tortillas.

I started with the chef's main dish, a promise that it was a dish to satisfy even the most discriminating tastes. Conchinita Pibil is axiote and sour orange cooked pork wrapped in plantain leaf, then baked. Traditionally, Conchinita Pibil was buried in a pit with a fire in the bottom to cook it. Pibil actually means "buried" in Mayan language. It is served with sauteed red onions and bean sauce and the soft corn tortillas to wrap it all in. It was an explosion of flavours, an intense spiciness of the pork that worked perfectly with the bean sauce and the sweet onion taste.

For dessert, I ordered the Mayan Brownie. Mayan Brownie served with an exquisite pumpkin ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce scented with Xtabentun. The brownie was super soft and melted in your mouth but it was the pumpkin ice cream that stole the show with its soft and spicy flavours.

The Good: Intense flavours, great atmosphere and great service in the Mayan Riviera. The upstairs dubs as a fancy cocktail lounge.

The Bad: It is all the way in Mexico after all and being located right on 5th avenue makes it too touristy for some. 
The Verdict: Great upscale dining in the heart of "Americanized" Mexico. A taste of Mayan cuisine, done with style and panache.

I give it  3 1/2 out of 5 olives as rating

Friday, 28 December 2012


401 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario


In her opinion:
I love Sunday brunch. It's one of those little luxury that I truly enjoy. So given an opportunity to have brunch at one of Oliver and Bonacini's newest restaurants, I'm super excited. I only wish that our region had more places like this!

We went in without a reservation and there was no problem seating us right away. I ordered a "Mighty Canuck" which consisted of Polar Ice Vodka, maple lemonade, maple syrup and a sugar rim to start.

This was outstanding. I am a lover of vodka and lemonade and when you add a truly Canadian touch of maple syrup, it goes to a whole new level. A very nice brunch drink!

We ordered the Bannock Box for our super picky child. This consisted of "garlic and herb bannock and an assortment of O&B artisan breads". It was served with a romano bean and soy spread.

This was a little too gourmet for Ethan and we ended up having to ask for regular butter. This was a very generous portion and we ended up sharing with a homeless person on our way home. They also appreciated O&B's breads.

For my main, I ordered "Brisket and Boiled". This consisted of corned brisket hash, soft boiled eggs and smoky tomato catsup. 

I really enjoyed my main. The hash was full of flavour and absolutely delectable. The eggs were cooked to perfection.  It came with a piece of bannock and it was just perfect.  I thought the catsup was excellent. Overall, a very delicious main.

I was much to full for dessert but I know for a fact that they have an excellent selection. I would recommend Bannock to anyone who loves truly Canadian comfort!

In  his opinion:

When a new restaurant is named after a traditional Scottish flatbread, one would expect the food/theme to follow suit. Well, in this case it actually refers to the indigenous adaptation of that bread so, some of its appeal has to feel "native". Let's not forget that this is the newest jewel from Oliver & Bonacini's restaurant empire so, chic meets homely was more like the final result. The food is Rustic Canadian "Canadian comfort food" actually, served in a relaxed, cozy atmosphere and the location couldn't be better.

I have had very few, if any bad experiences at any O&B's restaurants and a preview glance at Bannock's menu online made me realize that was not about to change. The menu has traditional Canadian dishes such as poutine, boiled dinner, Ontario venison and fried bologna and eggs.

We actually went for Sunday Brunch this time so the options are different but equally appetizing. The menu reads with brunch and lunch specialties and is topped off with choices of fresh pressed apple cider or maple lemonade just to name a few of the very enticing drinks.

One look at the menu and one item popped up right at me, as if it was talking its way into my stomach. It seemed that it really spoke my language and resembled love at first sight, and later on at first bite. 
I'm talking about none other than Roast Duck Poutine Pizza. Yes, you read it does not get better than this as far as combination is concerned.

When it came to the table, it looked as good as it sounded. Flat bread style pizza with shredded duck confit, semi-melted cheese curds over freshly cut fries and topped with beefy gravy. I nearly had a foodgasm as it tasted even better than it looked. It is a home run dish for anyone that loves those combined toppings.

The pizza was a good size and very filling so I got to bring home half of it. It surprisingly tasted very well that evening just with an oven warm up.

I would like to point out the obvious that the "gym crowd" might not be the regulars at this place but they should at least try it on one of their "treat" days. The food is heavy, portions are big and calories need no counting at this establishment. 

The Good: Great location, very nicely decorated and caters to the crowd that appreciates good food. Food portions are good and menus are very thoughtfully created.

The Bad: Given it's location, hard to find seats sometimes and service can get chaotic.
The Verdict: A very nice addition the the O&B family, creating Canadian flare for the downtown crowd. I still need to go and have lunch or dinner to experience the rest of the menus but thumbs up for the brunch one.

I give it a 3 out of 5 olives as rating.

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