A Meal to Remember!
By Rupveen Arora (Mademoiselle Wanderlust), Head of Lifestyle
I booked Occidental Resort Royal Hideaway in the Riviera Maya recently based on a review I read for Las Ventanas. Being a major foodie and a self-proclaimed glutton for anything edible, I couldn’t wait to sit down at a table and swoon.
Upon arrival, we were quickly seated near one of the two beautiful windowed wine cellars. At this point, I was already contemplating the most difficult choice of the evening: which full-bodied Red shall we pair with the long anticipated meal?
My first and only disappointment throughout the evening, was realizing the “Chef’s Table” I had read about earlier and actually led to the booking of this very hotel had to be pre-booked. A slight oversight on my part. Extremely slight. (Pun intended) After requesting any possibility from the restaurant manager of being seated that same evening, he confirmed the chef needed more time to prepare the 6-course or 12-course meal being offered. Needless to say, with the perfect wine pairings, I thought the night, along with my appetite, was over.
I dreamt of two dishes in the weeks prior to check-in. One was Jabugo, which is made exclusively from pure-bred black Iberian pigs whose passion for devouring acorns imbues it with a rich, nutty flavor that some pork connoisseurs argue is the best in the world (I absolutely agree, agree and agree). The other was the Foie Gras paired with cactus and chocolate.
Much to my dismay, both were ONLY offered on the Chef’s Table, which I royally screwed myself out of. Executive Chef Eugenio Villafaña is knows for his sophistication of the dishes he brings to the not-so-typical Mexican fare of dining. He also oversees the other six restaurants of Royal Hideaway (which I must attest, were simply delicious). This extraordinary experience of dining was not missed having just had the regular menu. His “superfoods” (as he refers to) include avocado, achiote seeds and cacao. I am still dreaming of this table.
I excitedly and humbly requested if the manager could perhaps let us experience these two fine dishes and unfortunately, the Foie Gras they did not have but I was immediately ham-happy when he brought out a beautiful plate of the luscious, pink, rolled up pieces of Jabugo. I kid you not food lovers, that was literally heaven and the Jabugo didn’t know what it was up against as it simply melted off the tongue. Repeat. And order another round, to which the manager happily complied and was somewhat in shock with the remaining three entrees we had ordered prior to polishing off the other three appetizers.
I could go on and on about this place but here are a few thoughts from the manager, Humberto Arguellos. (stating his English is not so good, I think it’s great)
MML: What separates you from other restaurants in Riviera Maya?
HA: First of all, we have a AAA Four Diamond Award and LHW standards which qualifies us as a top restaurant in the world so we follow those procedures to provide high quality service. Everything is done with our Hearts.
MML: How has Chef Villafana changed the expectation of the Hotel in terms of cuisine?
HA: The Chef has become a key to reach the results that we have, for example, he has developed a special menu for the Chef’s table (which we didn’t pre-book, smh) along with personal service and attention.
MML: What would you say is your favorite part of managing this restaurant?
HA: The best part of managing this restaurant is the people. I love meeting new people and to see known faces when they come back every year. I can say that I’m very proud of our Restaurant, especially of our team. The staff go to great lengths to provide high quality service and to see people smiling when they try our food and when they have a great time in our restaurant. The best part of my job is to see smiles and the people who return to be part of our Royal Hideaway family.
I’ll drink to that!
Lastly, our waiter was incredible throughout the experience: Eric Borges deserves a nod.
Our wine was impeccable: Valduero 2005 Reserva, Spain
Our meal: Left us wanting more.
Our bellies: Satiated. Almost!
(My second favorite eatery – La Pallazza)
Photos via Occidental Resort Royal Hideaway
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