The New Kid On The Block
Pulpito 120, entre Amapas y Olas Altas
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
322 120 1014
If you know Puerto Vallarta then you should be familiar with the little strip of restaurants at the end of Calle Pulpito right before it ends at Olas Altas. The newest addition is Maia, love child of local chef Hugo Ahumada. (He named it after his daughter, who was born earlier this week just one month after the restaurant opened.)
You won’t find most regular items on his menu, which changes every day.
Hugo, who trained at PV’s famous Café des Artistes for 17 years, is himself un artiste vrai when it comes to food. One taste will tell you why. His philosophy is simple: to showcase the “soul of Mexican food” while featuring his country’s art and music. (The décor is a quixotic blend of modern, traditional and, um, inter-galactic—not unlike the food. For an ecological touch, Hugo uses ingeniously refashioned bottle parts as serving dishes and glasses.)
You won’t find most regular items on his menu, which changes every day, so sit back and try something different. After a quick description from Carlos, my server, I ordered the grilled fruit salad. Sprinkled with some enticingly mysterious croutons, and served on a bed of lettuce with a balsamic reduction, the blend of warm watermelon, pineapple, pear, mango and apple chunks was delectable.
I could tell I was onto something good, so I was anticipating the oxtail stew on grilled zucchini rounds with a red wine sauce. At first, the subtlety of the oxtail eluded me, but then Carlos suggested a Mexican wine (which I might have been reluctant to try if I hadn’t already tasted the food.) An unusually dry Merlot (San Tomás) from Baja pulled all the flavours together beautifully. (Incidentally, I asked Carlos when Mexico started producing such excellent wine. He responded exactly as I expected: A long time ago, he said, but people don’t trust them.)
The collision of sour and sweet was exceptional.
At that point, I might have left before dessert, but the experience had been so memorable I couldn’t chance missing something great. I asked Carlos for his opinion of two: Jericaya de maracujá (a passion fruit crème brûlée) or Jericaya de elote (sweet corn.)Both were good, he hastened to assure me, but the tartness of the passion fruit was really good. In fact, the collision of sour and sweet was exceptional.
Maybe it was simply due to my raving over the food, but I was soon presented with a complimentary beverage of milk, cinnamon and mescal, along with a beautiful plate of candied fruit tidbits and tiny meringues drizzled with syrup.
After that I couldn’t bear to leave, so I lingered over coffee, which I thought might prove the only ordinary part of the meal. Not so. It was subtly flavoured with spices and lightly sweetened. The perfect end to a perfect meal.
All photos by Jeffrey Round.
Author Jeffrey Round’s Lake On The Mountain, the first Dan Sharp mystery, won a Lambda Award for Best Gay Mystery in 2013. Pumpkin Eater, the second Dan Sharp mystery, is to be published in March 2014. Vanished In Vallarta, the long-awaited third volume in the Bradford Fairfax comic mystery series, will also be released in 2014. Visit his website: jeffreyround.com.
Tags: A Writer's Half-Life
, Café des Artistes
, Hugo Ahumada
, Jeffrey Round
, Maia Restaurante
, Puerto Vallarta