Restaurants & Bars 4

Epoca, Puerto Vallarta - my new favorite restaurant

elf.elf.baby | Feb 18, 201005:26 AM

After the Ernesto's issues (see other post), I went looking for a new rib place in Puerto Vallarta, figuring that there wasn’t going to be anything decent. I tried several recommended places for ribs to which I would never return, either at all, or for ribs. These included Gilmar on Francisco Madero (simmered; not worth further review), El Torito (sent back my platter TWICE to get the ribs to be even WARM, much less fully cooked) and even a great place which is a favorite for other foods, El Barracuda near the Hotel Buenaventura on the beach.

And then an angel appeared, in the form of a nice lady named Judy from Chicago, who mentioned Epoca, for smoked ribs and rack of lamb. I adore lamb chops, and am typically disappointed to the point of non-returning to a place when they call three single chops a rack (River Café, of yore). Judy said that depending on weight, Epoca’s rack was 6 or so. Off I went, that very night.

Epoca is located on the beach at Achilles Serdan, which is the street on the south side of the big huge giant condo monstrosity, which replaced wonderful tacky old Molina de Agua. They are the restaurant of record, so to speak, for the other condo complex which is on top of them, providing room service to that building as well as the new big giant ignore-the-building-permit-and-keep-building-higher-and-higher Molina.

I asked the waiter how big the portion was. “Three pieces,” he replied. Disappointed, I said that my friend had said that there were 5 or 6. Well, he continued, the 3 are all double bones. AHAH. When mine arrived, the pieces were on their little rumps, so to speak, bones in the air. And there were 4 pieces, I realized a few minutes later, and one of them had 3 bones. So there were 9 small chops. Now I have a good appetite, but with the salad I’d ordered, bread & butter they furnish, and roast potatoes I requested instead of some weird-sounding beet side, I could not finish everything. Well, not the potatoes, anyway. The chops were beautifully done and the bones were not shaved all the way to the chop part. I prefer that, because it’s so much fun to gnaw on the length of them. There’s a nice bit of au jus (the occasional piece of pretzel, or possibly sea, salt; just perfect) and pieces of fresh mint. And there was a lovely garlic topped asparagus. These are not the standard veggies with this; again, ask for them; there are also mashed and French fries, typically. I went back a couple weeks later for the same dish and it was, again, nine chops, and this time, not having had the (big) salad, I did finish. 269 pesos.
In the meantime, I’d gone to Rib Night! Now, I have written a lot of reviews for Chow.com on various New Jersey and Philadelphia area rib places, and most were more negative than not. And I’ve got disagreement from other rib fans who didn’t have the same enjoyable experiences that I did at Ol’ West, and, hmm, well, I guess that’s about it. Suffice to say that Epoca has the best smoked ribs I have had. They are really really good. They make 50 portions on Wednesdays, and reservations are necessary. That’s capacity – they usually sell out. The smoker is a SmokeVault and appears taller than the 24; I saw it and it looks like a Brinkmann (gas) with the wide sturdy legs. They use hickory wood.

The portion is 5 full size back ribs, cut so that there is about 2” of meat above the bone. There is a smoke ring. They do not parboil. They finish them on a grill, with a small amount of sauce with a perfect amount of heat. No rub. They do not remove the membrane, but it’s invariably crispy and so I didn’t mind it. The 2” of meat can have fat in it, but it’s easy to cut away. My fingers smelled like smoke. Except that one Wednesday they brought a FINGER BOWL and the limon (lime to us) removed that lovely scent. Actually, 2 hours later, the lime has disappeared, but the smoke lingers on.

Another night I ordered the Rib-Eye Al Pastor. The steak was fine, perfectly done, and again, a nice portion, like everything there, but there wasn't any Al Pastor-ness to it. But as far as a rib-eye goes, it was as good as (Bruce's) Back Alley, whose meat I consider excellent. .

The owner, Kurt, took over Epoca 5 years ago; his background includes producing events in the USA, and some of those were rib cook-off events. He didn’t compete but he got to taste a lot. It shows. The rib night price as of this writing is 179 pesos. Run, do not walk.

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