My wife and I celebrated her birthday by staying at El Taj and drinking and eating our way through what we thought would be Playa's finest restaurants. Here are our conclusions:
Many of the acclaimed Ital/Med eateries graded out about the same. We dined at OH Lala, Casa Med & Como Como.
OH Lala is tiny with all outside seating and no atmosphere. The chef/owner and his family are friendly and service is very good. The food also is very good, but not fantastic. We had lobster curry, B+/A- (lobster a bit chewy), tuna in soy B+/A- (tuna a bit overcooked), some wine and cheese. Overall, quite good, but those who claim that it compares with the finest in Italy or New York or other major cities are mistaken imho.
Casa Med had a nicer atmosphere, but the service was not as warm. We had duck pasta B+/A-, mushroom truffle risotto B+/A- and a tasty tira misu A-. Overall, the experience was about as good as Oh Lala..very good, but not quite excellent.
The last Med eatery was Como Coma, which was full and seemed to be very popular. Again, the prices were about the same as the first two, the atmo better than OH Lala, but not as nice as at Casa Med and the food about equal. We had home made pasta with mixed seafood and lobster, both B+/A-.
The other nights we ate at Mayan restaurants, Yaxche, Xulum and Luna Maya. The last two were our best meals of the trip.
Yaxche, while the most acclaimed and the prettiest decor, had rushed, somewhat impersonal service (even though they were not that busy). The food quality was about the same as in the Italian places. We had their sampler platter B+/A-, duck mole taqcos A and turkey mole negro B+, along with a Mayan brownie with pumpkin ice cream B.
The second best meal of the week we had was at Xulum, a little off the beaten path from our hotel. The place was very pretty, but almost empty. They had a great seviche sampler A, shrimp & squid in garlic sauce A-, chicken mole A+ and deer A. Service was warm and timed perfectly. We had a great time.
Lastly, Maya Luna was our best experience. Located on 5th ave and 38th, it is hard to find unless you look up as it is on the second floor with little signage at street level. Pretty both inside and out, the service and food were just great! We had chicken tinga apps A+, chipotle scallops A, duck mole A+, and salmon in some kind of a wonderful sauce with risotto A+. The desert, pumpkin flower goat cheese cheesecake with corn ice cream was both unusual and wonderful A+. It was our best meal of the week.
We also did go to Aguachiles near 5th for a quick lunch and I was a bit disappointed. We had the shrimp/scallop Aguachlle over pasta B+ and a pedestrian guac C. The help seemed disinterested and we even had a hard time getting someone to take our order, let alone make any kind of suggestion. By the way, lest you think we are snobs or come off as demanding, we love holes in the walls with great food and I was really looking forward to this place. Not bad, but a disappointment considering all the Chowhound raves.
Lastly, we had apps at Imprevest: tuna tartare with a citris foam A- and duck tacos B+/Al. The place is small but nice and probably you could have a good meal here as well. We also went to Alux, just for drinks and to see the caves. The ambiance was really cool and the drink menu varied and tasty, well worth the cab ride.
All in all, we had a great week in Playa, sightseeing, swimming, sunning, drinking and eating. I know that each person's tastes are different and you may completely disagree with mine, but I hope that this review helps anyone unfamiliar with Playa to find some great eats to make your vacation even better,