Tres leches from the upcoming menu at The Restaurant at Las Ventanas al Paraiso (Brad A Johnson)
Worldwide exclusive: Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos has been serving so-called “Baja Mediterranean” cuisine (a term it coined) at its signature Restaurant since the resort’s inception in 1997. But come January, that not-quite-authentic approach will be jettisoned in favor of a new, more genuinely Mexican menu inspired by regional classics (still incorporating the finest local ingredients), thus creating a far more authentic sense of place and local culture at the resort.
Executive chef Fabrice Guisset, a Frenchman who long ago adopted Mexico as his home, encouraged his staff (as well as employees from other departments of the hotel) to bring him their best and favorite family recipes from anywhere in Mexico—Campeche, Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Baja, Yucatán, Veracruz—and he was amazed at the range and quality of ideas that came pouring in from proud cooks, recipes for everything from cochinita pibil (slow-roasted Yucatán-style pork) to tres leches (classic three-milks cake). He’s since been working with those classic flavors and concepts, creating modern interpretations and presentations for the new dinner menu, which he’ll debut at The Restaurant in January.
Suckling pig tamal with Oaxaca cheese foam (Brad A Johnson)
Kitchen supervisor Julio Luna offered his family’s recipe for suckling pig, and then, working with Guisset and using suckling pigs from a local farm, they translated the idea into an extraordinary entrée of slow-roasted pork served with a rustic tamal, topped with modernist Oaxaca cheese foam and a savory sauce of xoconostle (cactus fruit). Guisset has arranged to send Luna to Spain next year to stage with the legendary Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian.
Executive sous chef Victor Palma came up with an idea for mussels steamed in Negra Modelo, a dark Mexican beer, along with hoja santa, chipotle chiles and tomatillo. But for Guisset, merely steaming the mussels in the kitchen wasn’t spectacular enough, so he commissioned custom molcajetes (large volcanic stone mortars) in which the mussels can been cooked at the table directly in front of the guests.
Shrimp al ajillo with chorizo dust (Brad A Johnson)
Additional highlights of the upcoming menu also include braised short rib “pascalito,” whose sauce is sort of like mole made with pumpkin seeds, serrano chiles and epazote, and red snapper a la talla, a speciality from Colima, in which the fish is wrapped in a banana leaf and cook over charcoal. Starters include a gorgeous parrot fish tiradito, made with one of Baja’s best local catches, as well as shrimp al ajillo, made with prawns from La Paz or Mahia Magadlena, depending on the season, and garnished with chorizo dust.
Tres leches reinvented as a vertical Napolean with pasilla chile ice cream (Brad A Johnson)
For dessert, tres leches pastry chef Rene Bermond has reinvisioned the classic tres leches. And there will be a mind-blowingly delicious chocolate cake made with X-tabentum, a liqueur from the Yucatán made with anis and honey.
Naturally, a few of the classic Baja Mediterranean dishes will still be made available to guests who ask for them, although the standards probably won’t be listed on the menu. Guisset figures some longtime regulars will still ask for their favorite local heirloom tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella and grated garlic vinaigrette or the agave glazed chicken. And the longstanding tradition of serving prime rib on Friday nights will probably migrate to the resorts Sea Grill rather than being offered at the new all-Mexican, all-the-time Restaurant.
See also: Challenge the Chef: tortilla soup.
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