Saturday, October 01, 2016

Riviera Maya's Banytan Tree at Mayakoba has a super sell with SAFFRON (9-29-16)

On the last night, I invited some hoteliers to join me at my hotel's signature restaurant Saffron which sits overlooking the river in a very zen setting that only adds to the ambiance.
We had some hor's d'oevres and cocktails at the managers cocktail party which was outside so on arrival we  asked to sit indoors. They looked at us like we were nuts since the temps were in the 80's and the humidity was close to 90%!
Nobody had asked me if I wanted indoors or outdoors when I reserved, but within seconds we were at a prime riverside table inside and our server Abraham was explaining the menu. We could not decide if we should take the set tasting or order a la carte, so within seconds, the Thai chef himself, Renu Homsombat , came out and began to recite the menu; we were convinced.
A simple amuse of Shrimp, Lemongrass, mushroom, cilantro and mint was an amazing blend with nothing overpowering believe it or not.
We ordered two Mexican wines which I adore (and brought home as well the next day since we cannot buy these here). Santo Tomas 2014 Viognier from Ensenda which had a very clean but aromatic flavor on the palate and worked nicely with some of the spicy starters. The red was , of  course, Adobe Guadalupe Gabriel 2012 which has to be the best red wine in the country. Oddly, two of my guests were married in Acapulco a couple of decades ago and the Santo Tomas was their white wine at their reception!
Lemongrass flatbread with kaffir lime flavor and rice crackers arrived which to be dipped in 3 different sauces: Cherry Tomato & Chicken; Coconut, Shrimp and Chicken; and Tomatillo, Serrano and Eggplant which reminded me of a hot pepper jelly spread. We did not want to fill up as we knew much more was to come, but the flavors were bold and bursting with seasoning.
Starters were superbly batter fried  and tender Calamari with two dips of Black Squid Ink and one of chili paste; I loved them all.
Spring rolls came fried and cold with rice paper wrap again with two dips Tamarind & Fish Sauce  for the cold rolls and Chili Sauce for the hot fried rolls.
Satay is often a disappointment if it comes dry but our chicken and beef skewers were moist as could be and here served with Peanut Sauce with Coconut or a cool Cucumber Syrup.
The dipping choices were truly hard to choose....we tried every possible combination. I had one skewer where the meat would simply not slide off and after losing a small piece of beef across the floor, I burst out, "I'm trying to get it off!!!" which got plenty of laughs.
The Seafood Salad of calamari, shrimp, mussels and scallop was like a ceviche salad with a sauce including mango, cilantro, basil and a hint of mint with a very spicy Thai fish sauce that we all loved (except one person who can't eat fish!). It was decorated with gorgeous purple edible Thai Butterfly Flowers.
Photos are always on FB!
The next course was a (thankfully) small bowl of Thom Ka Gai made from chicken and while intense on the lemongrass and ginger, it was also very rich in coconut.
At this time I noticed the soft music and truly elegant feel to the setting which truly relaxed us.
Main courses arrived after a while as we needed a rest and my favorite was the Placam Rod Fish with a fabulous sauce.
Juicy Grilled Shrimp were in a bbq-like sauce of Sesame Shallot and Tamarind, while the Vegetable Dish of Mushrooms, Fried Garlic, Peas, Broccoli, Cauliflower in Oyster Sauce were all Wok-Stir Fried to perfection. Another favorite dish was the Penang Curry of Beef with Coconut Milk, Basil and Peanut giving this Malaysian dish a very Thai turn that wowed us.
Abraham returned with a huge platter and four gigantic bowls of rice which required two people to serve. we could choose from Saffron rice, jasmine rice, brown rice and Pandam which is a Thai Coconut rice with a hint of Peppermint.
We had no clue that dessert was included but it arrived after some while in the form of superb Creme Brulee, Bananas in Fried Crispy Dough and Fresh Fruit, sadly most of which went untouched.
The service here was impeccable and indeed the only complaint I had was that the larger spoons that are in the sauce dishes have a tendency to fall out when you pass the plates with them; smaller dainty demi-tasse like spoons would be super.
I love Mexican food, but this Thai meal using local ingredients was a true treat and change that was most welcome.
Indeed, I shall miss the many friends in my business that I got to see this week as well as the Banyan Tree and my gorgeous Spa Villa (check out the video on FB).