The Tides Riviera Maya Restaurant Review

By Michele Kinnon

"Unique." If I had a dollar for every time a friend described a resort, a restaurant, a menu as "unique" ...well, let's just say I would be a wealthy woman. Of course it's "unique," I thought. No resort, restaurant or menu concept is exactly like any other. What she was trying to express to me was that this place was special, somehow better than anything we had seen before. Rob and I were planning to celebrate our seven-year "Mexi-versary" and struggling to find just the right place to spend a special evening, just the two of us. We wanted to try something new and fabulous and, after living on the Riviera Maya for seven years, that has become a tall order for us to fill. My friend was eager to recommend her new favorite dining experience at a newly renovated resort close to Playa del Carmen, so we followed her lead and reserved our spot for the special Chef's Table Dining Experience at The Tides Riviera Maya.

(This review is an except from Michele's Blog - enjoy the whole story by clicking here.)

... We bid goodbye to our guide and settled in at a cozy poolside table for two with nothing, save a few palm trees, between us and the sea. All around us luminaria cast their warm glow creating islands of light in the darkness. Executive Chef Jetzabel Rojas came out to greet us personally and explain how the tasting menu would proceed. She was so gracious and enthusiastic about her cuisine; we couldn't help but be excited ourselves! The Chef's Table Experience at The Tides features seven signature dishes, each expertly paired with a premier Mexican wine. The courses are served at a relaxed pace and at no time did we feel rushed or pressured to finish off our generous servings of wine. Our bi-lingual sommelier was very knowledgeable about the wine pairings and was able to tell us about each of the producers, the growing region and the varietals. He was delighted to discover that Rob and I have attended numerous wine tastings featuring Mexican wines and could fully appreciate the quality of the wines that had been thoughtfully selected from the resort's 500 bottle wine cellar.

We began our dining experience with a selection of warm homemade rolls and a flavorful compound butter whipped with cream cheese. From there, we savored a delicate tuna tartar drizzled with olive oil made by Santa Tomas and served atop a crisp pita chip. This was paired with a bright sparkling wine from Freixenet. Braised short-rib tortellini followed in an unctuous gravy-like sauce served with Rogata Sauvignon Blanc from Baja Sur, an unusual wine that tasted more like a viogner than a traditional sauv. blanc but matched well with the tuna. Next, a fresh green salad was served with a more conventional citrusy Sauvignon Blanc from Casa Madero. A rich roasted "Indio" tomato soup was brought out, matched with Casa Madero's "V", a slightly sweet blush wine made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes left on the skin just long enough to impart a bit of color. The boquinete, pan seared and finished in the oven, came next, moist and crispy all at once, seasoned on the skin side only and served with a savory cilantro sauce and the tiniest pattypan squash I have ever seen. This too was successfully paired with the Casa Madero "V". From crispy fish, we moved on to the duck, two medallions of medium rare breast meat with perfectly rendered crispy skin served atop a delicate cauliflower puree. A dollop of warm pumpkin mousse and white corn with fresh farmers cheese were offered on the side. The wine pairing for this was the Viña Doña Dolores Crianza, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Freixenet. All the while, servers slipped quietly in and out of the darkness, adjusting table settings, decanting bottles, replacing wine glasses, serving and clearing plate after plate of the Chef Jetzabel's culinary creations. Each dish was beautifully presented and delicately seasoned with nuances demonstrating an unusual maturity from such a young Chef.

Finally, our desserts were placed before us. We were surprised to discover a soft ancho chile filled with guava paste placed on a swath of sweetened pasillo chile sauce. This was served with a scoop of house-made caramel ice cream and a generous pouring of Xtabentún, a liqueur made from honey and anise and produced exclusively in the Yucatán. The juxtaposition of sweet and spicy was heavenly, a master artist's palette of flavors and colors, the perfect end to a magnificent dining experience.

It's been quite a while since Rob and I have come across a place that we both could really rave about, a place that offers a dining experience we enjoy so thoroughly that we found ourselves eager to return to. When you find yourself torn between wanting to invite all your friends and wanting to keep it a well-guarded secret, you know you are onto something special. The food was honest and restrained and free from any gimmicks or trendy cooking trickery. The plates were well balanced, the flavors were pronounced without hitting you over the head with any one element. The service was smooth and unobtrusive and the atmosphere unsurpassed.

Michele Kinnon's Tide Riviera Maya

Akumal Villas