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Vacations® •

Fall 2017 • 55

FIFTH AVENUE IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN

But I’m here looking for more than your average

Saturday night nosh. Accompanied by two local

experts well-versed in all that makes this cuisine

special, we are searching for true Mexican food in

one of North America’s biggest tourist destinations.

“Our main goal is to show people that Mexico is

beautiful, and that it’s much more than the hotel,

and the beach,” explains Florencia Cevutti, one of

my guides this evening. “We want people to know

the culture – and to be part of it.”

Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya is a

favourite vacation destination for Canadians, but it’s

also an excellent place for a good meal, if you know

where to look.

Mexican food is one of the only national cuisines

in the world recognized as a cultural treasure by

UNESCO for bringing together colonial influences

and ancient cultures. Here in Playa del Carmen, all of

the complex flavours of this country come together.

After a quick stop for some amazing ceviche at

La Casa del Agua, made with local grouper, green

tomato, chunks of cucumber, avocado and red onion,

marinated in lemon juice, we walk a few more blocks

to Mi Pueblo.

This colourful restaurant, my other guide, Dalit

Levanah Lara, notes, serves up traditional tastes that

take many Mexicans back in time. Surrounded by

murals – vibrant depictions of the Day of the Dead,

lucha libre wrestlers, and other national icons – we

tuck into Sopa de Fideo, a traditional noodle soup.

We follow it with a dish that combines chicken, Oaxaca

cheese and lettuce wrapped into a buttery-soft corn

tortilla, all of it smothered in dark and delicious mole

Poblano.

“This is the original mole—and the most complex,”

Lara explains, noting that this special sauce dates

back five centuries, and is served at important

occasions. But it’s not easy to make: this mix includes

both hot chili peppers and chocolate, and some

recipes require more than 30 ingredients.

“My grandmother used to take 15 hours to make it,”

Lara remembers. “It is the taste of my childhood.”

But it’s not just local restaurants that are placing an

increasing emphasis on serving authentic Mexican.

Ten minutes’ drive from Fifth Avenue, at the Fairmont

Mayakoba, a lush, five-star resort with villas strung

along a series of small waterways, acclaimed Mexican

chef Richard Sandoval has recently overhauled the

resort’s three major culinary outlets, transforming

them from stodgy and traditional to fresh and

progressive (shared plates, locally sourced fish,

and Latin-Asian fusion).

Worldly Delights

Best Mexican

Eats by the Beach

Mexican food is one of the only national cuisines

in the world recognized as a cultural

treasure by UNESCO, deemed to

be integral to the culture’s

heritage.

By Tim Johnson

It’s a busy weekend evening here on Fifth Avenue in

Playa del Carmen, the pedestrian street teeming with

hungry travellers, most of whom seek and find fare

that’s strictly mainstream: tacos and burritos are available

around every corner, mucho margaritas at bar after bar.

MOONLIGHT DINING ON THE BEACH

CERVICHE

BEST EATS BY THE BEACH

54 • Vacations

®

Fall 2017

CHEF RICHARD SANDOVAL AT FAIRMONT MAYAKOBA IN RIVIERA MAYA