Recently spent 3 days and 3 nights in the Nuevo Vallarta/Puerto Vallarta area. Some highlights:
El Arrayan: We found this on a "best of" site for PV, and immediately highlighted it b/c it was supposed to be very authentic and family-run. We were a bit leery walking up to it b/c it's off the beaten path, but kept the faith. Well worth it. The owner, Carmen, is a great hostess. She will walk you through the menu and help provide a very comfortable dininig experience. She has also chosen a very nice Mexican wine list, two bottles of which we brought back to the room, a nice Viognier and a Temperanillo that was good but best enjoyed quickly, not a bottle that needs--or benefits from--time to open up too long. The steak mole was nice, but perhaps would be better suited to chicken. Not overly rich, but pleasant. I had a very traditional dish called chiles en nogada, which featured peppers stuffed with meat and vegetables, topped with a creamy sauce and pomengrates. Very good. Our appetizers were very good, and they are willing to do half portions on them if you would like to try little tastes. The scallop and avocado ceviche was very nicely presented in a mound, and though I am picky about scallops, I thought this was quite nice. We also tried plantain empanadas, which were cooked just right, not in an overly thick crust but tender and tasty. Specialty drinks were good here too: a nice vodka-mojito like drink but made with basil rather than mint and the namesake house speciatly margarita. The patio here is very nice--open but high-walled--and centers around the namesake Arrayan tree. There is bright and festive art on the walls.
Café des Artistes: This was our fancy dinner, as recommended by Conde Nast as one of the top new destination restaurants in the world. A couple surprising things about it: They sing happy birthday, weird I thought for a restaurant of its caliber, and they give you a comment card at the end. The menu is marketed as French-Mexican, but we found it to be mostly French with a nod to local ingrediants. The wine list here was puzzling as well, with some nice French bottles at reasonable prices and some ordinary CA ones at extremely high markups. Disproportionate import taxes? Weird. We started with the tradition cream of prawn and pumpkin soup, which is ladeled fro a very large pumpkin brought tableside. Very nice, and very rich. Good. For the main course, we shared the grilled tenderloin petals (steak) with camembert cheese and chipoltle. Also very nice. As I recall though, pacing was a bit of an issue with wine, etc. Overall, a nice experience but nothing I would rush back to when we can eat at somewhere like El Arrayan, for less money and more authenticity. I also tried two of the "shots," because I found the concept so interesting. I think calling it a shot is a bit misleading b/c you can't really shoot it. in fact, they are remotely sharable. The soft shell crab tempura on leek and potato was interesting, but I thought the crab was a bit overdone and the consistency of the leek/potato was more potatoey and less soupy than one would expect from a shot. We also tried the scallop ceviche and coconut foam shot. The scallop was nice but the foam didn't do much.
Taco spot in Buscerias Main Square in front of church: We were told by our driver to Punta Mita that this was the best taco stand in Buscerias. We talked our return driver into eating with us (we bought him tacos). We each had a carne asade and a carnitas. The carnitas was very good. There were several different salsas to choose from, as well as cucumbers and radishes. Connected to this stand was a quesadilla maker who was pressing the tortillas and cooking them onsite. Filled with cheese, it was very simple but nice. Apparently they are there starting at 5pm on weekends. Very local and authentic experience.
Comidas Tipicas de Tlaquepaque: The actual name of the restaurant is not on my credit card receipt. Shoot. It was El something that started with an "A", Abenjo or something? Address is Juarez #231. It's been around for 20 years. This was a pleasant surprise and we were very lucky we found it. The planets must have been in the right alignment b/c so many things could have gone wrong in choosing a restaurant in an unexpected layover city, where our taxi driver who spoke very little English randomly dropped us off. Not only was the meal amazing, but they got us back to the airport on time and the price was right. $44 American dollars, including tip. We started with fresh gaucamole, no sour cream filler, with big chunks of avocado. They had a nicely spiced salsa, which it paired well with, along with the usual pico de gallo. The birria was excellent, tender goat in a nice tomato-based broth. Delicious. My white fish in verde mole was nice, very fresh and not overcooked. The mole was a little heavy for the fish but I still enjoyed it. The chicken enchiladas in mole poblano was out of this world, the right consistency and beautifully rich. Perhaps the best version of that particularly mole I've ever eaten. Margaritas were tasty and not too big. Lovely patio with strolling mariachis and bouganvilla fountain.
Tino's in Paradise Village: Went here our first night. The lobster was overcooked, very disappointing. They were out of the snapper. My white fish dish was ok, but nothing special. Not sure why everyone makes a big deal out of the Tino's restaurants in the greater PV/NV area, but maybe the others are better. Would not return or recommend.
Rocio's in Punta Mita: We were recommended to venture here to find a boat to take us out for snorkeling and since we were hungry we thought we'd try the food also. The special seafood platter was ok (lobster and shrimp) but nothing special. However, the barbecued red snapper was amazing. Interestingly cut the filet was exceedingly fresh (Im almost convinced they caught it just before serving b/c we waited for well over an hour) and served Zarendo (?) style. Deliciously juicy. Margaritas not bad either (and big!). Tables right along the sand, very pretty.