Cancun Is a Perfect Recipe for Distinctive Dining
Cancun is America's #1 foreign travel destination for many good reasons. It's close, it's beautiful, it's fun.
Here's Why Cancun's Foodie Scene Has Exploded
Cancun has become an international dining mecca, too. The ingredients of Cancun's foodie boom:
• Cancun's prosperity, which has made it a magnet for international chefs
• Mexico's homegrown crop of gifted young chefs
• The rich traditions and unique flavors of Mexican cuisine
• Cancun's local cornucopia of fresh-caught Caribbean seafood and exotic Yucatecan produce
• An array of hotels, both all-inclusive and a la carte, with the budget, clientele, and vision to support high-end restaurants
• A sociable, sophisticated dining festival, the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival
All this adds up to a win-win for gourmet travelers. These are the best restaurants in Cancun.
Foodies Everywhere Stopped and Looked
The opening of Tempo by Martin Berasategui in Gran Melia Paradisus Cancun hotel has raised Cancun in the esteem of foodies everywhere. The restaurant glitters with mosaic mirror walls, and the food is just as resplendent.
The Top Guy Here is One of Spain's Reigning Celebrity Chefs
Tempo is helmed by superstar chef Martin Berasategui of San Sebastian, Spain. This restaurant showcases the master's formidable technique and eye for striking colors. In my estimation, Berasategui is a genius, and Tempo perches at the very pinnacle of Cancun dining.
As a dining critic, I try not to rave uncontrollably. But this could be the best cooking ever seen in the Yucatan peninsula.
The Menu Is a Hit Parade
Tempo by Martin Berasategui offers an a la carte menu and a nine-course tasting dinner with wine pairings. How much dazzle can you take? Past menu highlights includes:
• A Basque-style dish of tomato stuffed with baby squid and matchless Iberian pork tenderloin (the chef's heritage and name are Basque)
• Unforgettable desserts. Tempo's colorful, flavorful Mexican chocolate brownie with citrus marmalade, yogurt sauce, and tangerine sorbet is a primal indulgence
Read More About Tempo by Martin Berasategui and Reserve a Table
Tempo by Martin Berasategui entry by Guest Author Max Jacobson
Cocina de Autor: Swanky and Scrumptious
This elegant downtown Cancun restaurant is set in the Spanish Colonial mansion. As of 2014, this elegant eatery is Cancun's only recipient of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond designation.
With just 38 seats, Cocina de Autor is an intimate and private-feeling feast. There are two seatings per night, Monday through Saturday.
The restaurant offers pages of menu selections and varied dining environments. Diners may sup in Cocina de Autor's chandelier-lit salon; in the Veuve Cliquot private dining room; or amidst flowering vines on the patio.
Cocina de Autor means author's cuisine.
Expect modern fusion food, artfully cooked and gorgeously presented, progressive in approach yet full-flavored and hearty. The chef calls upon a world of ingredients including fresh-caught Caribbean lobster; Argentinean-Italian parmesan cheese; crunchy Mexican chapulines, and huitlacoche, often called "Mexican truffles." The house bubbly is Champagne Veuve Clicquot from France.
Dishes to Try at Cocina de Autor
• Tuna 'Kivi' with couscous, Kalamata olives, capers, and corn
• Scallops roasted with portobello mushrooms
• Octopus carpaccio on greens with citrus vinaigrette
• Lechon roast piglet with Argentinean chimichurri sauce
• Huiltacoche ravioli with suckling pig
• Osso buco with three chilies
• Dessert trilogy
Check Out Cocina de Autor and Reserve a Table
• Cocina de Autor's English-language website
What Did the People Who Built Chichen Itza Eat?Find Out Here (and Be Impressed)
Labna is named for mesmerizing Mayan ruins a few hours away, a satellite temple complex to the towering Chichen Itza. Labna is set in downtown Cancun, a 10-to-15-minute cab ride from the Zona Hotelera.
Labna's atmosphere is nostalgic, with romantic low lighting, hand-carved Colonial-era Mexican furniture, and courtly, old-fashioned servers. Prices are as gentle as the waitstaff.
Many Mexicans Feel Mayan Cuisine Is Their Country's Best
Labna is the very best of the few Cancun restaurants dedicated to the wondrous cuisine of the local region of the Yucatan. Comida Yucateca is arguably Mexico's most flavorful native cooking style.
Yucatan cuisine is influenced by Mayan and Caribbean culture. It is fragrant with local spices, tart with local citrus fruits, red with annatto seeds (also called achiote), and spicy with fiery habañero chiles. Slow-cooked turkey and pork dishes are especially savory.
Marvelous Mayan Dishes to Try at Labna
• Poc chuc, pork baked with tart local oranges
• Sopa de lima, tortilla soup with lime and turkey
• Cochinita pibil, pork wrapped in banana leaves and baked with achiote and garlic, the signature dish of comida Yucateca
Find Out More About Labna and Reserve a Table
• Labna's English-language menu
Labna entry contributed by Guest Author Max Jacobson
Where Your Meal Is Like a Magic Show
Le Chique is set several miles south of Cancun in Azul Beach Resort hotel. But every Cancun cabbie knows just which dark beach road to take here. Your adventure has just begun.
Le Chique, c'est unique. This establishment is half restaurant, half magic show. Its seductive dining room beckons with curtains and mirrors, like a circus. And the waiters here behave like impresarios, with smiling eyes and a dramatic flair.
The Experience, in a Word: Entertainment
Le Chique's meal is food as entertainment; the term molecular gastronomy doesn't begin to describe the sheer showmanship of this restaurant. Chef Jonatán Gómez Luna is a wizard who transforms food into sensory impressions and events: intensely flavored smoke, gelée, crystals, foam.
And what you think you're eating is not what it turns out to be. That beaker of foam you're instructed to sip from? Wow, it's a martini. The sushi roll in front of you? It's a salad, or perhaps a dessert. Le Chique delivers one surprise after another.
Meet One of Mexico's Superstar Young Chefs
Chef Luna, born in 1982 in Mexico City, is a leading light of his country's culinary explosion. "Dining is not a necessity," says this fearless innovator. "It is an experience." Le Chique's experience requires 27 chefs in the kitchen, including 16 culinary students from around the world.
The meal is a cavalcade of 15 courses, some just a few swallows. Le Chique's most talked-about dish is called Scotch Brite, after the green-and-yellow scrubbing sponge. That is what it looks like, 100%. But it's dessert. No wonder Le Chique is decorated like a Hall of Mirrors.
- Le Chique web page
- About.com review of Azul Sensatori by Karisma
- Le Chique Chef Jonatán Gómez Luna's bio
- Azul Sensatori by Karisma hotel website
- Le Chique observes a dress code: no T-shirts or tank tops, flip-flops, sports shorts, or baseball caps
- Insider tip: bring a sweater; Le Chique is dramatically chilly
Lumiere, a Dining Beacon on the Beach
French culinary technique is a major component of modern Cancun cuisine. And Lumière restaurant is français all the way. Lumière is as seductive as you dare hope a contemporary French restaurant to be, with super-sexy lighting and shimmery textiles. Service is just as engaging.
Lumiere's Home: a Really, Really Nice Cancun Hotel
Lumière is set within Le Blanc Spa Resort, a supremely stylish hotel in the heart of Cancun's Zona Hotelera. The restaurant is open only to guests of this deluxe all-inclusive hotel. Lumière constitutes one more reason to stay at this resort, which is one of Cancun's very best hotels.
Dress for an Occasion!
Reservations are essential. And let it be known that Le Blanc guests don their best designer garb for this elegant restaurant, open only for dinner.
Lumière means light in French, and the gifted kitchen team has a gentle but sure touch. The restaurant offers one style of dining: a leisurely, seven-course chef's tasting menu. This series of artfully presented small plates delivers the refined French recipes that luxury diners crave, with confident Cancun spin and Yucatecan panache.
Lumière Menu Highlights
- Fresh-baked baguettes and brioches with French butter
- Gallic indulgences like truffles and foie gras, made new with Yucatecan accompaniments and seasonings
- Fresh-caught Caribbean seafood, never overcooked
- Decadent French desserts ennobled with Mexican xocolātl (chocolate, an Aztec invention)
- Wines from France, California, South America, and Mexico's fast-improving wines from Baja California (give them a try!)
Read More about Lumière
The Top Restaurant in Cancun's Fabulous Design Hotel
Ramona is one of several standout restaurants at Nizuc. This exquisite, architect-driven resort opened in 2013 on a semi-private island just off the southern end of Cancun.
But Ramona has the feel of an independent restaurant; behind the giant shutters that serve as windows is a view of sky and sea.
Named for Nizuc's owner's daughter, Ramona has a romantic, antique Mexican feeling, updated with natural, local materials like wood, slate, stone, and greenery. Patrons can choose to dine on Ramona's lovely covered patio overlooking the beach, promising extraordinary natural light as the sun sets and the music of crashing waves.
What You'll Feast on at Ramona
Ramona chef Bladimir Garcia is committed to Mexican heritage ingredients and dishes, and to honoring the seasons and local produce.
• His ceviches are creative and daring. The "trilogy plate" presents three ceviches: with lobster and cilantro; shrimp with coconut and mint; and unexpectedly crispy octopus. All are fresh-as-can-be and visually stunning
• The local Yucatecan classic, cochinita pibil, a slow-cooked pork dish, has been reinterpreted as a Mexican-style stuffed dumpling
• Fresh, local seafood showcases Caribbean lobster (served with a rich, creamy plantain puree) and hogfish, with a delicate texture and sweet undertones (don’t let the name fool you)
• There are always healthy and/or vegetarian menu options
• Ramona's bread basket is a treat; do not miss the huitlacoche sweet roll
Here's Where to Taste Mexico's Wines
Ramona's wine list spotlights excellent Mexican wines from Baja California.
• And the Viognier and Barbera from Santo Tomas winery, owned by Nizuc's owner
Reserve Your Table at Ramona
Ramona entry contributed by Guest Author Starre Vartan
What's for Dinner Tonight, Hon?
And now for something different: dinner that you help cook. One way to get off the restaurant grid, in a good way, is to take kitchen classes at the Culinary Center at The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun.
Here, Chef Mara-Isabel Barba entertains lucky vacationers with personal stories, cooking pointers, and simple yet perfect dishes. Chef Mara can work magic with a chicken and a bowl of peppers. Your own kitchen life could change.
And You Won't Have Any Dishes to Do
The wine (and tequila) flow, and so does convivial conversation once dinner's ready to be served and savored. It's a great Cancun evening.
No doubt, you will enjoy your culinary evening at this classy yet lively hotel, whose walls are adorned with historic paintings of pre-industrial Mexico.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun's Restaurants Rock, Too
Should you decide to return for a restaurant meal at The Ritz-Carlton the property's Mediterranean spot, Fantino, and its steakhouse, The Club Grill, are two of Cancun's highest-rated eateries.
• More in-house options: Sushi & Ceviche Bar and Caribe Bar & Grill.) In 2013, a property Dine-Around offers a meal course in each of the hotel's splendid eateries
• The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun Culinary Center
• The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun's dining options
• Luxury Travel's refresher course on The Ritz-Carlton hotel brand
• Luxury Travel's scoop on The Ritz-Carlton's peak hotel service