Did This Hotel Just Open Latin America's Best New Restaurant?

A small luxury hotel partners with a powerhouse chef

Interior dining room of Estero

Courtesy of La Casa de La Playa

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La Casa de la Playa

Carretera Chetumal-Puerto Juárez Km. 282 L23-2 Colonia Rancho Xcaret 77710, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Phone +52 800 009 7567

Xcaret has always been an outlier in buzzy Cancun. After all, it's one of the only fully Mexican-owned and operated tourism companies in the region and was a leader in nature and adventure experiences for visitors, with Xel-Há, a park that opened over 30 decades ago and has quickly grown to more than 200 acres and countless activities like cenotes and live shows.

The company has recently expanded into hospitality, opening three all-inclusive resorts, each showcasing different Mexican artists and highlighting Mexican culture and design. Now, Xcaret is making waves in a whole new way by diving into the world of gastronomy at its newest adults-only, culinary-centric property.

La Casa de la Playa, the company's newest hotel, which opened in December 2021, is rocking Latin America's culinary scene with the opening of its fourth restaurant, Estero. A partnership between Xcaret and Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez, Estero will showcase a menu of Peruvian-Mexican fusion, that combines flavors of the Yucatan coast with those of the Andes mountains.

Martínez is well known for his Michelin-starred restaurant Central, located in Lima, Peru. Central was recently ranked the second-best restaurant in the world and has claimed the title of the best restaurant in Latin America since 2013. Martínez's dishes combine modern techniques with local ingredients. He is known for bringing Peruvian cuisine to the world stage, so his decision to open his second restaurant in Mexico was not made lightly. 

"I gotta go to places where people feel food. When people speak about food, food is important. And you see [that] here in Yucatan," Martínez said. "We are taking inspiration from Mexico, Mexican regions, and Mexican ingredients while using our philosophy, thinking about how to use ingredients with different seasonings and different techniques. In many ways, it's a melting pot of culture, tradition, and techniques." 

Squash soup on a earthen plate at Estero

Courtesy of La Casa de la Playa

You can see the melting pot in his flavor combinations: shrimp and corn, tuna and ant eggs, mango, and Andean peppermint. Familiar and new flavors complement and excitingly elevate both cuisines. Estero pays respect not only to the culture but to nature—dishes are plated to resemble the earth (or ocean) that bore the ingredients. 

So how does a chef known for elevating Peruvian cuisine and a brand known for showcasing Mexican culture create a partnership? Martínez aims to bridge the gap between the two worlds. "We used to compete in Lima with Mexico a lot. And now we say okay, avoid the competition. Let's work together," Martínez said. "When we sit at a table, all these issues, all these differences, and problems disappear. That's the power of gastronomy, the power of food."

Estero is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at La Casa de la Playa, Xcaret's exclusive 63-suite hotel, where each room has a private pool and a butler that guests can text at any time. Other food and drink options on-site include Bodega, a tequila and mezcal bar featuring the best Mexican spirits from around the country; Cava, a wine cellar showcasing Mexican cuvées curated by sommelier Sandra Fernandez; and Chocolateria, a grab-and-go chocolate bar from world-famous chocolatier Mao Montiel. La Casa is also home to three excellent restaurants from chefs Martha Ortiz and the Rivera-Río Brothers. 

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Did This Hotel Just Open Latin America's Best New Restaurant?