It is increasingly difficult to find places that really offer a concept where you see a deep and thorough work to develop a product that distinguishes the world of entertainment, whether they are hotels or restaurants. But fortunately there are still those who make a genuine effort to achieve this and The Tides Riviera Maya is one of them.
A General Manager from Yucatan proud of his origins, a food and beverage manager with significant experience who started “down” as many say who managed himself to be responsible for everything in this area and although young, a Chef with all the spirit and dedication to ensure that guests and visitors can enjoy a culinary experience that is worth living and recommended.
First and most importantly, the chef is Mexican, and for us this is a fundamental point to be interested in a culinary experience where the concept is based on Mexican cuisine and ingredients.
Second and not least the integration of regional products and from the area directly to your dishes from vegetables, fruits, herbs, and the endless variety of sea products that directly from the water reach their kitchens. In addition, vegetables that they have to provide themselves with the freshest ingredients for recipes prepared daily. This definitely is something to applaud and support as this will not only benefit those who have the pleasure of tasting his creations, but also will help local producers and regional continuity in the food chain and benefit local residents.
Our first encounter with Chef Jetzabel Rojas was at lunch time at the restaurant they have in the pool area and very close to the waves, hence the first time we saw her fresh and sincere smile, a promising young cook which we are sure we will hear from a lot in the coming years, she has everything to be a star of Mexican cuisine as well as the knowledge that come from her childhood and adolescence, which are a fundamental part of his great love for the kitchen and we’ll tell you why later.
A menu of local products and recipes of Mayan and Mediterranean influence was his presentation, starting with a delicious roasted Indian tomato cream, native of the region, topped with goat cheese and basil ash and pairing with a Casa Madero rosé Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.
As a second course we had an arugula salad mixed with dried Bosch pear baked with dijon mustard dressing with melipona honey and 20 years port wine reduction , really delicious especially since these bees honey originate in this region and the honey the make has a very special and delicate flavor. These bees are not aggressive and have no stinger so it is very important to their care and breeding, The Tides has a comb carefully guarded by the shaman of the hotel and spa director.
The highlight a boquinete fish, a finding we had a chance to meet in this delightful experience, also from the region, its soft white flesh is a true delicacy, cooked in the skillet and finished in the oven so its flavor keeps perfect accompanied with a bed of cous cous, carrots, almonds, black beans, tomato Cherri powder, mint leaves and Baja California olive oil garnished with cilantro; a truly full dish and one of my favorites on this trip.
Mayan chocolate cake, filled with chocomole (a paste that contains all the original ingredients of mole, slightly spicy and sweet) sheets of white and dark chocolate with caramel sauce and a scoop of homemade cardamom ice cream and balsamic vinegar. This is one of those dishes that I am proud to taste as it is a Chef original creation and from which you can feel proud of such an incredible combination of ingredients and very, very Mexican.
This menu is one of those that doesn’t leave you with the feeling of heaviness and was complete from start to finish. We decided to take a break and prepare for our meeting with Chef Jetzabel Rojas and share her family stories and her beginnings in the world of gastronomy.
The Tides offers a different dining experience every night, with themes that bring us closer to Mexican cuisine with very traditional dishes that when we travel to destinations like Riviera Maya is difficult to enjoy and that are not common in restaurants either because they are from other regions of the country and are usually sold in the markets or are the typical “street food”; The Antojeria night for those foreign visitors, or those who never got tired of eating these, Jetzabel prepares us a variety of snacks that bring us to these cuisines.
Between stories and stories that you will be able to listen in our recorded interviews we prepare to enjoy what they brought to the table and we found out why she included every one of these dishes in the menu.
For me the nopal are the clear demonstration of our most ancient traditions are still valid and I’m proud to include it in my diet as often as I can, so the cactus salad with a concoction that is not very usual, pre-marinated grilled salt, oregano accompanied with xnipec sauce (with habanero chopped onion, lemon, salt and pepper) 4 quesadillas filled with typical stuffings, potatoes, cheese, chili and chicken, plus a bean tamale wrapped in banana leaves, this is the perfect example of the best appetizers that all Mexicans have eaten in the street and are the favorites. I think the choice of snacks is the right one to display this type of Mexican cuisine and all prepared with great care.
Jetzabel’s father as well as a history teacher, is a great cook and everyone in the chef’s family and she shares one of the recipes prepared by his father every Sunday when he meets with his daughters and Jetzabel as a way to pay tribute to his father shares it with us. A mortar with guajillo chile sauce and tomato unlike they do in your home, here goes with giant shrimp grilled instead of meat , as well as spring onions and grilled nopales also, an ingredient tasting completely different than before as know it is covered melted grilled cheese , I thank her dad to teach this succulent dish her daughter.
Besides the above there are carnitas typically presented and many other dishes for these thematic dinners for which they make a lovely montage as if it was a fair to make us feel as close to original enjoyment of these dishes.
At dinner I met a woman with all the commitment not only to give the best of herself, but also to show the most representative of the country gastronomy, with also an interest in research as Jetzabel, both women are always seeking to get closer to families and local communities and the Yucatan to learn from their techniques, their ancestral recipes and able to present a true authentic cuisine.
The second day of our visit, we had the opportunity to know a little about the idea of her cooking classes. We couldn’t get the whole experience in the Casita Maya as it is supposed to be done, due to a remodeling of the hotel. This Casita Maya is a replica of the classical houses of the Yucatan peninsula which include oven to ground level where the famous cochinita pibil is made and, of course, Tikin-Xic fish. So, in the middle of the jungle surrounding the hotel, we set up a space where we learned the original recipe for this dish and of course our participation was part of the experience. So we cooked in a pit where wood is placed for cooking the fish watching and participating in the whole process. The result was wonderful and had it not been for the mosquitoes, it would have gone there but I decided that dessert would take in our suite.
The so-called Chef’s table was one of the most enjoyable, with the company of Engelbert Rios, Director of Food & Beverage complementing the dining experience. In a nice table on the terrace of the restaurant lounge bar where all the extraordinary wines that we would marriage with. Of course we took more than just the tasting but being all Mexican wines was reason enough not to waste them.
Thus we began feasting. Amuse Bouche of mixed ceviche paired with Sala Vive from Freixenet, a tasty sparkling wine. A papadzul, one of my favorite Yucatecan dish and one of the most traditional ones, fried tortillas stuffed with eggs covered with roasted nugget sauce, tomate oil and epazote, to Santo Tomas 2009 SauvignonBlanc accompanying this dish, we continue with a squash soup with celery, fennel, tomato mousse and crunchy Edam here we come to the more ancient cellar of America with a Casa Grande, Chardonay 2010 y as Engelbert told us the beginning of his life in hospitality industry, we remembered that at some point we were frequent customers for him at a hotel in Los Cabos where he opened a today renowned landmark restaurants and the place where Antonio De Livier started his star carrer.
Next it was time for a boquinete in amaranto crust. For me it was the best of all dishes aliong with the dessert. This delicate fish we already talked about now covered with this rich cereal and known since the prehispanic times, served with red broth, chaya and plantain ravioli and black recado essence. Truly extraordinary specially with Fusion de Montefiorio, Sangiovesse 2010 wine. Then, the black paella with Valladolid chorizo, huitlacoche, onion, indian tomato and epazote was worthy of applause. If I didn’t know this tasting menu had another dish besides the dessert I would have ordered another ration of it. Alegría Ojos Negros from San Rafael was the perfect wine for it. Then, just before the dessert, it was time for an Aged New York Steak with sweet potato puree, chalots and three chili confit with garlic. To pair this, one of my favorite grapes in Mexico: Zinfandel 2004 from Gru Garage.
The cheese cake with jelly mamey, brown sugar sauce and with a Chenin blanc, late harvest Monte Xanic 2009 warned us that the evening was about to come to an end and that this feast of colors, tastes, smells and even sound showed us the incredible dedication and effort made to present dishes with all local ingredients and regional techniques for these recipes inspired by the Mayan cuisine.
Indeed this has been the most impressive tasting menus I’ve had the opportunity to be invited to and I would certainly come back just to relive this extraordinary dinner. Again, I would like to congratulate the chef for her magnificent work.
On the third day before our departure, we had tequila tasting with ceviches where Charles, the hotel’s sommelier explained the importance of sharing with those without extensive knowledge of the beverage, the process and the different types of distillation to help them know how to combine them or take them alone, as appropriate.
Without a doubt, our recommendation is that you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit this place. Think that, besides the many details in their rooms and service areas, the culinary theme is greatly fulfilled and is itself the best reason to do it .