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Mexico

Puerto Vallarta Report - Long

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Restaurants & Bars 2

Puerto Vallarta Report - Long

SLRossi | Mar 24, 2003 02:57 PM

Thought I'd provide some info on PV for the board, since when I looked before our trip the info was a bit stale and sparse. Our villa was conveniently located on Calle Iturbide, so everything on this list is within walking distance of there, at least for those who are not afraid of the trek to a couple of the off the beaten path places. Let me say up front, we did not have a bad meal while were there. I was also impressed by portion size on the trip. For the most part portions are small by our standards, which appealed to me since portion sizes have gotten out of control in recent years. Most of us were able to finish our meals, an unusual occurrence at home.

La Bruja - This was my favorite all around meal of the trip. The place is small (8 tables?), off the tourist path, was patronized by locals and tourists alike, and inexpensive. The dining room is way casual, and open air. Margaritas were a whopping 28 pesos each, encouraging my consumption. House made chips and salsa fresca are brought to the table. Salsa was fantastic, and Serrano provided it a nice kick. Appetizer options were uninteresting, but I'd encourage folks to order entrée items to share. The shrimp cocktail was unlike any other I've ever had. A huge serving with dozens of shrimp, submerged in luke warm sauce with diced vegetables. Came off more like a soup (75 pesos). I had ceviche for my meal; it was superb. The octopus, shrimp, and white fish were all tender and delicious. The sauce was well seasoned and balanced. My only complaint is that it was not spicy, however the staff was only too pleased to bring this gringo some diced serranos. The chilies made it hot, real hot. The serving was too much for me to finish, an unbelievable amount for 75 pesos. Others had their flaming flank steak, fajitas, stuffed fish, and all thoroughly enjoyed everything. House made tortillas kept appearing until we could take no more. No dessert, since we were stuffed. Eight of us ate and drank like royalty for 1200 pesos, including tip.

De Santos - This was the best food of the trip and the most expensive. Food was on par with some of the finer San Francisco Restaurants, except cheaper. I think I ordered the most expensive item on the menu, at 190 pesos. Atmosphere is pretty crisp and hip. White table linens and touches of the new, blend well with old bricks and arch construction. A DJ spins music to the mood of the crowd, playing modern music. An open-air patio is located in the back. Wine list was poor and over priced. For example, Fetzer was on the list at ~400 pesos. I started with lobster bisque that was tasty, but not extraordinary, and IMHO not actually bisque. The base of the soup was clearly the same as was used for the lobster ravioli another at the table had. My main course was roasted suckling pig. In a word, awesome. The somewhat fatty meat was roasted to perfection, and was served with the ribs and crispy skin attached. Roasted yukons accompanied the meat, and were had copious amounts of roasted garlic and rosemary. They were some of the best spuds I've ever had, so I'm guessing they were roasted with the pig. Wife had gnocchi with mussels and pesto. The dish was well flavored, but the gnocchi were a bit chewy. Ok, but not quite what we hoped for. Others at the table had salmon crusted in potato and simple grilled mahi mahi, and raved about it. For dessert we had a black sesame and coconut cone filled with coconut ice cream that was fantastic, and a warm chocolate cake that was rich and light at the same time. Service was pretty good, and staff was friendly.

De Santos also has a club next door, with an interior room and bar on the ground floor, and an open-air area and bar on the roof. Large couch/futon sort of things about for comfortable and relaxed seating. The night we were there for dinner it was empty, however, when we returned Friday night the place was packed. The crowd was young, with most in their late twenties, and looked to be locals. Let me say that I've never seen so many beautiful people in one place at the same time. Wife and I were both pleased with the "scenery."

La Mejor Opcion - On a side street, clearly catering to locals and regular visitors. The place is small, with maybe ten tables. Food is casual and eclectic. I had grilled beef tenderloins with garlic sauce. The sauce was rich and a nice compliment to the expertly prepared meat. Uninteresting potatoes and vegetable were served with it. Filet at 100 pesos though, I'm not complaining. Wife had a curried chicken breast, with pretty traditional Indian accoutrements, and it was quite good. Another had the least interesting sounding thing on the menu, a fish fillet baked in parchment, but it was outstanding. Several had a mango "flan" for dessert; it was just ok. The most amazing part of the evening was when the waiter appeared at our table moments before dinner was served, and said that the staff would like to care for the 1 year old baby one couple had, so that they could enjoy their meals. A bit cautious, the parents graciously accepted. The staff was great with the baby and mostly stayed in sight to comfort the parents. This endeared the place to all of us.

Tutti Frutti - This is a super casual lunch spot. They only have counters with stools, maybe seating for a dozen or so. They offer "shakes", which are blended drinks with ice, fruit, and your choice of water or milk (25 - 30 pesos). Try one with local fruit… delicious. Their tortas are out of this world. We tried both their chicken and pork. The local bread is delicious, and their preparation of the meat was fantastic. Fresh cheese is optional, at no extra charge, do it. I added the house made chipotle salsa to my pork torta, I'm craving it again now. The tortas are small; one could easily eat two if they were hungry. At 25 pesos a piece though, who cares? The ladies running the place are wonderful, and nearly everyone we saw in the place was a local. We tried to return on Sunday before heading to the airport, but found they were closed. For that matter, most of the less touristy places seemed to be closed on Sunday.

Memo's Pancake House - A very Americanized place, but was packed by locals and tourists alike. Memo was a gracious host as well. They offer numerous kinds of specialty pancakes, and traditional breakfast fare. I had their Mexicana scramble with an order of chorizo. Others had eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, French toast and a number of the pancakes. All were good, but nothing special. With a beverage it was only about 40 pesos each.

Red Cabbage - Off the beaten path, a cab ride for many. I enjoyed the long walk into the colorful neighborhoods though. This place had the best margaritas of the trip (40 pesos). Delicious and strong! Many of us had two and got pretty buzzed (we're not light weights either). The soups to start are a must. Most either had the black bean or tortilla. Both had great flavor concentration, demonstrating their understanding of the importance of a good base for any soup or sauce. A number of folks had the mole; it was rich, dark, and everything mole should be, without the oil slick usually found on mole stateside. I had chipotle ribs; they were amazingly tender and flavorful. I had hoped they'd be a bit spicier though. The rice and beans accompanying the ribs were very good too. To be honest, the margaritas prevent me from remembering what others had. Dishes averaged about 90 pesos each. For dessert we had house made coconut ice cream and bananas fosters, both were excellent. The coconut ice cream was very rich, creamy, and had the perfect amount of coconut… this from a guy who would never have ordered it himself.

Graffiti - A couple of French guys run this casual Mediterranean place. Good spot for an inexpensive and casual lunch or dinner. For lunch we had tuna salad filled avocado, and a sauté of shrimp over rice. With a glass of wine and a beer the meal was 140 pesos with tip. It's on one of the many walkways leading up the hill, so don't expect to find it without looking hard.

Le Bisquit - An out of the way bakery that caters to the locals. Owners are a couple of US expatriates, and are super nice. You can order specialty breads ahead of time for a tasty morning treat. Try the limon bread for something special.

La Casa de Tequila - This is a tequila bar located in the heart of the city. Certainly there for tourists, but this tourist loved the place. What a great place to cap the night. They offer at least 100 tequilas, and most you've never heard of. They range from dirt cheap, to about 500 pesos a shot. Cuban cigars are offered for sale, and their prices are better than the cigar shops. I got a fat Cohiba for 120 pesos, which smoked wonderfully with the 100 peso sipping tequila I had. In the late afternoon and early evening they offer appetizers, and several folks told me they are quite good.

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