I still run into people in my travels that look down at the idea of luxury all-inclusive hotels. Their main perceptions seem to be that they’ll be huge and overcrowded and that “the food won’t be very good.” While both may be true of some of the low-end all-inclusive vacation factories serving the masses, it’s not true at the high-end places catering to travelers who can afford to stay anywhere. In the case of the Velas Resorts around Mexico, the restaurants are as good or better than anywhere you could go independently on your own.
The three Velas resorts around Puerto Vallarta host several gastronomy events throughout the year and if you’re lucky enough to be a guest during one of them, you’ll get a real treat. I was in the region during their “A Bite of Mexico” event, which ran from July 8 to August 3. Each resort had a series of guest chefs from other parts of Mexico, each showing off the unique dishes from their region.
Gourmet Dining at Grand Velas
At the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, the executive chef from France was cooking up some special dishes, but so was the chef from Rosetta, one of the highest-regarded restaurants in competitive Mexico City. Another chef hailed from Moyuela of Puebla and a local chef from Loma 42 and Emiliano.
Our dinner was a special tasting menu created by Federico Lopez, a chef trainer and catering company owner from the Yucatan who has headed up the kitchen at multiple restaurants around Mexico. He hails from the Yucatan Peninsula now, so the offerings had a strong emphasis on that region’s unique flavors–after the cocktails and tableside guacamole prep that the Frida restaurant at Grand Velas serves always.
My raw animals aversion kept me from getting too excited about the rare lobster ceviche, but my dinner companion loved it. I liked the wine better: Casa Madero chenin blanc, from one of Mexico’s oldest wineries.
Next up was a flavor-packed fish ceviche tostada with black recado–an ingredient used a lot in the Yucatan. Then, along with a bubbly rosé, we had a refreshing salad with grilled watermelon, iced pomegranate, pitaya, and cotjia cheese.
A still Mexican rosé came out with the next course, a beautifully prepared single giant prawn with Veracruz style chipotle sauce. Then the wine glass got switched to a Baja Alto Tinto chardonnay for a fish filet with green pumpkin seeds, a baby sweet corn in the husk, and plantains in a lovely sauce.
Yes there’s room for dessert when it looks like this. Several kinds of ice cream, including coconut, with a meringue and sugar straws on top.
This was one of the best meals we had in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit on our last visit and we had a lot. See this post on the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta proper. Follow this link for our updated review of Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.
This was a special event, but as we note in that review, you’ll eat really well there all year and several of its resturants have won AAA 4-diamond awards. That’s not very common with all-inclusive hotels, but this one has always been known for its above-average dining experiences.
Fine Dining at Casa Velas
Another night we dined at the adult all-inclusive boutique resort Casa Velas, in the Puerto Vallarta Marina region next to the golf course there. This is a more low-key place to stay, a short walk from the beach but not on it. It is a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member and its highly regarded Emiliano restaurant is going to keep your taste buds tantalized during your stay.
We were there to sample the guest chef’s menu though, so we got to try items from Humberto May from the Riviera Maya, who was on deck that week. (There were three different ones rotating through in other weeks.) This one was a full menu rather than a set meal, so we could choose some different items to try between us.
One of us started with a ceviche, another with a quinoa salad, and both were as tasty as they were beautiful.
We moved on to two different fish dishes. One was a striped bass with Yucatan spices, tomato broth, crispy basil, and “chorizo soil”. The other was a red salmon marinated in “smoked piña colada.” Both were bursting with flavor and contrasting textural elements.
Of course we had to order dessert and I’m so glad we did. Check out this work of art that came out of the kitchen: a blackberry cheesecake that tasted as good as it looked.
I passed on the coffee as I was ready to crash after a meal like that. Instead I topped off dinner with my first taste of Don Julio 70 Claro, a rather strange but satisfying tequila option.
Scroll back through this post and just look at the photos. Is that how you think people are dining at an all-inclusive hotel in Mexico? Well at the right one they are, whether there’s an event going on or not. Even at the less luxurious Velas Vallarta resort, I ate really well on two occasions I stayed there, once with my family and once for a conference. If you remember the Velas Resorts name when you’re booking in the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta region, or Los Cabos, you’ll be very happy with your choice each mealtime.
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