Entertainment | Restaurants & Dining
|Restaurant Week at El Arrayán|
Gary R. Beck - PVNN
May 23, 2010
Delightful owners Carmen Porras E. (supporter of Slow Food cooking techniques movement) and Claudia Victoria plus Executive Chef Mariano Valdés Ruiz present a menu of old traditional Mexican family specialties, which makes El Arrayán a must-visit every year during Vallarta Restaurant Week.
|Puerto Vallarta's favorite Mexican Restaurant, El Arrayán, is located at #344 Allende, just a short stroll up from the Malécon. For reservations, call (322) 222-7195.|
The open-air garden area has tables along the sides, covered by stone ceilings to protect guests during the rainy season. In the center of the brick pillared garden grows an arrayán tree, famous for its flowers which are fragrant and used in cooking. The graceful, lovely tree reflects the owners and their establishment.
We were greeted warmly and shown the table. Wall panels of indigenous Huichol artwork, some eight feet long, fill the open space and transport guests back into historical Mexico. This is not Tex-Mex! The list of cocktail creations start the dinner on an exciting new note, combining fresh herbs and fruits with alcohol or sparkling water.
Starters arrived soon after ordering. Pan de Cazón was mini tortillas layered with minced fish, very soft, and puréed black beans, accented with a light tomato spice sauce. Broad Bean Soup was infused with mild chile, pieces of the bean and topped with crispy rings of pasilla chile, melding well the soft flavors.
Morelos Salad was a plate so beautiful to admire, yet had to be tasted and shared. The components were jicama, orange sections, onion, cucumber and cilantro, dressed in a expressive citrus vinaigrette, dusted lightly with chile powder. Each ingredient was evident and combined as a wonderful whole entity.
All three entrées were enticing. Fish Fillet of the Day, delicious Amberjack, was wrapped in aluminum foil and steamed, accented by Achiote sauce with a scoop of rice alongside. Achiote, the Nahuatl word for the shrub, its seeds contain annatto, is a spice, quite mild, and bold red. The sauce complimented the medium-flavored fish, not overwhelming it with heat. Carmen emphasized that none of their dishes offered on the regular nightly menu are so chile-infused that your mouth explodes resulting that the rest of the meal all you can taste is hotness. She insists the natural subtle flavors of each ingredient be in the forefront, not a hidden overwhelmed afterthought.
Pork Loin was sliced and sautéed, then served with a fruit molé composed of pineapple and plantain underneath. A generous serving of diced chayote, a favorite mild squash of many diners, added a simple coolness.
A huge beautiful Beef Filet was laid atop ancho and guajillo chiles sauce with a mound of crisp green beans and zucchini strips. The portion was very large with the diner needing a take-home packet. Meat was cooked as ordered, which we find is more common than in past years' experiences. Well-done used to be the only way meat arrived at the table, no matter how ordered and in which language.
Possibly best of all were the desserts. Corn Bread, very dense with the corn finely ground into a meal, was baked until dark golden brown on top. Then a large square was placed on the plate with housemade vanilla bean ice cream. Here the ripe beans are split and scraped with the liquidy essence going directly into the cream mixture before blending and freezing. This is heads above customary vanilla ice cream as one taste will attest.
Caramel Flan is so popular here that one guest reported he ordered it almost every visit. It is baked at the proper temperature so no holes are found throughout the custard. Instead, the texture is soft and creamy, excited by the deep caramel accent.
El Arrayán is for serious lovers of authentic traditional Mexican cuisine. The fine staff is very attentive and smiling, answering any question you have and fulfilling your desires. An added bonus is on Saturday nights, the famed duo Los Frijoleros perform soft music with guitar and vocal.
They are so talented a visit here is worthwhile if only to hear their three-set performance and have a snack and drink. They offered three out of their four CDs for sale with several purchased for the casa. Their music makes any day or evening a delight in Puerto Vallarta. Note that cooking classes also are offered... give them a call for information.
Located at #344 Allende, just a short stroll up from the Malécon in El Centro, El Arrayán is open Wednesday-Monday (closed on Tuesdays) from 5:30 pm to 11 pm. Visa, MasterCard and American Express Cards are accepted. Reservations online at ElArrayan.com.mx or by calling (322) 222-7195.
Click HERE to learn more about El Arrayán.
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 2010 reviews click HERE.