The chef’s experience at Benazuza restaurant at Grand Oasis Sens is known as a “mixologist’s table.” // © 2016 Grand Oasis Sens
Feature image (above): At Mahekal Beach Resort, diners will experience traditional Maya cuisine. // © 2016 Mahekal Beach Resort
Food is a big draw for many clients looking to vacation in Mexico. But when you add a chef’s table experience, the personal interaction with a culinary mastermind can help any traveler become even more aware of the creativity and genius that goes into a noteworthy menu. Here are a few of the best places in Mexico to claim a seat at the table.
Chapulin, InterContinental Presidente Mexico City
At InterContinental Presidente Mexico City, located in the upscale Polanco district, one of the newest restaurants is Chapulin, a stylish venue headed by chef Josefina Lopez Mendez. Her contemporary Mexican delicacies — which can be paired with more than 200 wines and nearly 50 artisanal beers — can be sampled in one of two private dining rooms.
Frutas y Flores, InterContinental Presidente Guadalajara
InterContinental Presidente Guadalajara — located in Mexico’s second-largest city and sister property to InterContinental Presidente Mexico City — also offers a chef’s table program, at its Frutas y Flores restaurant, which serves Mexican and international cuisine.
La Table Krug, The St. Regis Mexico City
Mexico’s largest cities offer their own sophisticated takes on the chef’s table concept. At luxurious The St. Regis Mexico City, up to 12 guests can take a seat at La Table Krug, a tiny French restaurant known for its 11-course “culinary journey,” designed by executive chef Sylvain Desbois.
Benazuza, Grand Oasis Sens
Grand Oasis Sens takes a slightly different — and more liquid — approach to its offerings, describing the chef’s experience at Benazuza restaurant as a “mixologist’s table.” The evening begins at the bar, where guests sample a “molecular gastronomy concept” through cocktails — including drinks such as Caipirinha on a Stick, Mojito Jelly and Fluffy Pina Colada.
Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun
The long stretch of sand running along Mexico’s Caribbean coast is home to a large number of opportunities for one-on-one time with chefs. Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun opens its main kitchen to a maximum of eight guests from 6 to 8 p.m. every Monday, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what goes into chef Sergio Zarate’s customized menu, which features dishes such as strawberry gazpacho, tomato bisque and zucchini cannelloni.
Mayan Culinary Casita, Mahekal Beach Resort
At Mahekal Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mayan Culinary Casita restaurant offers a multicourse lunch that focuses on traditional Maya cuisine. Chefs offer insight into the menu as they explain how pre-Hispanic traditions live on with tasty dishes such as lime and chicken soup and locally caught fish, as well as through the use of heated pit ovens.
Nizuc Resort & Spa
Executive chef Vincent Wallez, who hails from France, puts his own unique touch on the chef’s table experience at Nizuc Resort & Spa, offering guests a choice of cuisines that include Peruvian, contemporary Mexican, Asian, Mediterranean and Italian. A maximum of eight guests can participate in the program, which starts with private tour of the kitchen and continues with a guided tasting menu.
Royal Hideaway Playacar Resort
The all-inclusive, adults-only Royal Hideaway Playacar Resort is home to a chef’s table led by chef Armando Navarro, who oversees a wine-pairing dinner that incorporates local flavors. Guests can witness the entire staff working in the glass-walled kitchen and also view a television mounted inside the dining room that shows a “chef’s vision” view of the action. According to hotel management, guests have sometimes used the dessert as an occasion for surprises — one person hid a wedding ring inside a chocolate egg.
Royal Playa del Carmen
Royal Playa del Carmen offers a Chef’s Plate experience as part of its all-inclusive dining options, with international cuisine influenced by Yucatan traditions. Chef Felix Dzib creates a new menu every night for an average of 30 guests, with seven courses accompanied by a wine list with more than 300 labels.
Cafe Des Artistes Los Cabos, JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa
In Los Cabos, JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa is home to Cafe Des Artistes Los Cabos, run by renowned chef Thierry Blouet. Blouet — who also runs a Cafe Des Artistes restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, which touts a Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences — oversees a chef’s table experience that samples his much-praised blend of Mexican cuisine with French influences, coupled with wine from Baja California.
Blouet is one of the local chefs who are usually present for Puerto Vallarta’s biggest annual culinary event, Festival Gourmet International, which also allows visitors to interact with multiple culinary masters.
Casper’s Wine Cellar, Now Amber Puerto Vallarta
Among the hotels that offer year-round chef’s table programs is Now Amber Puerto Vallarta, which recently introduced the option at Casper’s Wine Cellar, featuring a five-course menu and wine list prepared by a resident sommelier.
For U.S.-based travelers who don’t have time to travel far south to a large hotel, the border city of Tijuana has options as well — such as Mision 19 restaurant, where chef Javier Plascencia serves Baja Mediterranean cuisine, which combines traditional Mexican flavors with elements such as olive oil, arugula and abalone. Set in the Zona Urbana Rio business district, the venue provides a chef’s table with a contemporary ambiance.