Entertainment | Restaurants & Dining | May 2009
|La Palapa Restaurant Week Review|
Gary R. Beck - PVNN
In 1959, back when there was no bridge across the Río Cuale, La Palapa opened for business on Playa Los Muertos. It was the last dwelling going south and many of their friends called them "crazy" for building a restaurant on a beach that required one to take a jeep, or one of Puerto Vallarta's two taxis, to get to... as long as the river wasn't too high!
But everyone agreed that the restaurant's uniquely tropical atmosphere, exotic drinks served in hand blown glassware, live music and freshly caught seafood from the bay prepared with local ingredients and family recipes made it well worth the drive.
Today, owner Alberto Perez González continues the family tradition of combining gourmet cuisine, friendly service, and the tropical setting of Los Muertos Beach to achieve the perfect balance between fine dining and the warmth and charm characteristic of Puerto Vallarta.
La Palapa's exceptionally warm service and comfortable, relaxing surroundings provide the consummate setting for fine dining. Candlelit tables on the beach offer the exquisitely enjoyable opportunity to dine with your toes in the sand, while the open-air interior offers more elegant surroundings enhanced by live Latin Jazz and a spectacular view of the moonlit bay.
During Restaurant Week 2009, executive chef Rafael Cornejo Solórzano offers artful creations to entice the taste buds. We started with Rice Paper Rolls, each filled with one shrimp, rice, strips of cucumber, mango and papaya with mint, spinach and chives. Each roll was nestled in a ceramic plate sectioned into six compartments. The underlying sauce was soy with a light orange touch. A masterpiece of flavor combinations.
Thinly sliced very fresh Ahi Tuna was laid in a circle and topped with Asian pear strips, sections of limón real, the true zesty lemon, and fresh basil strips. The combination of the moist delicacy of the fish with the slight sweetness of the pear and tangy tartness of the lemon worked extremely well. Circling the fish was a bright basil oil for added touch.
Catch of the Day was Grilled Ancho Encrusted Mahi Mahi coated with an apricot-mustard mint glaze. The fillet laid on a bed of tender couscous with a serving of thinly cut julienne French green beans. The glaze melded well and did not overwhelm the delicate fish.
Tamarind-Glazed Roast Chicken arrived boneless and tender with a sweet-sour sauce on top. The lovely presentation placed it upon an apple-onion-potato purée, thick, creamy and slightly sweet from the apple and onion, a stunning interpretation of mashed potatoes. The dish was topped with a generous amount of watercress which added a zing to the combined flavors.
Impressive and usually creative desserts appeared. Apple-Pumpkin-Pecan Strudel arrived warm with a scoop of an intriguing ginger-maple ice cream. The filling was finely chopped so each bite contained a portion of the ingredients, with the ice cream acting as a flavoring agent or assistive. Marvelous.
The second dessert read as "Pineapple and Polenta Upside-Down Cake." We were curious and a bit doubtful, but when tasted, found the polenta cake still had a texture of corn mini chunks, probably mixed with wheat flour. It was golden brown from baking. A thick slice of fresh pineapple was on top, so upon observation, the cake had been bake with the fruit on the bottom of a small ceramic dish, then flipped showing the dark caramel glaze from the bottom. A mango sauce accented the cake along with a caramel-lime ice cream. None of us had seen or envisioned such a culinary feat using polenta and were thrilled.
The bottom line is that this kitchen is on a whirlwind journey of combining unusual ingredients, mixing unlikely partners, and presenting the dishes in an extremely elegant fashion. We were very much impressed.
Live music from 8-11 pm nightly draws many patrons into the bar, with Alberto performing on Monday and Tuesday. Years of awards include 5 Diamond award winner and Virtual Vallarta 2008 "Best Breakfast, Romantic, Sunset and Outdoor Dining."
If you'd like to see what the original restaurant was like, check out their historic "before and after" black and white oversized photos in the hallway behind the restaurant. Take a tour of old 1960's Puerto Vallarta preserved for many visitors to view and enjoy.
The author was supplied one choice in each of the 3 courses on the special Restaurant Week menu and this review is in no way connected to his independent restaurant guide, "Puerto Vallarta Restaurant Guide Beck's Best," where write-ups receive no compensation.
Restaurant Week continues through May 31st at some of the most recognized restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. For a list of participating restaurants and Restaurant Week 2009 reviews click HERE.