While Mexican cuisine is celebrated across North America and the world, there is nothing like enjoying it where it all began. When traveling to the Yucatán Peninsula, you are in for a real treat because everything you think you know about the food in Mexico is completely turned around here. Still thriving on traditional ingredients and cooking methods, the finest bars and restaurants in the Riviera Maya constantly reinvent themselves to offer only the finest and most remarkable dishes in a true Yucatán manner. Caribbean freshness straight from the sea using only the most sustainable fishing methods then dressed in zesty lime and chili flavors, cooked over flaming grills – this is what it’s all about. From casual beachfront and relaxed open-kitchen atmosphere to white linen fine dining, we’ve compiled a curated list of the best restaurants in the Riviera Maya.
Coral Bar + Grill
Set within the famous Viceroy Riviera Maya Resort, Coral Bar + Grill offers alfresco dining with fantastic ocean views and an accompanying gentle Caribbean breeze. The menu focuses on a mix of Mediterranean-inspired dishes and the flavors of Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula. Led by executive chef Carlos Zamora, the restaurant focuses on freshness, Caribbean flair, and locally-caught and sustainably-sourced seafood. Did we mention the fantastic wood-fired pizzas? Open for lunch, dinner and cocktails, Coral Bar + Grill is the perfect spot for a daytime catch-up with friends as well as a candlelit dinner once the sun begins to set. Fresh ingredients are married with more intense flavors of meat and seafood cooked over a live fire and dressed in a shallot and parsley vinaigrette, accompanied by some zesty lime notes.
Rarely will anyone staying in the Riviera Maya miss out on visiting Tulum. Once you do, a visit to Hartwood is an absolute must. The most sought-after dining spot has a legendary reputation in the region – and it’s easy to see why. The down-to-earth nouveau cuisine restaurant is so full of character and an ingredients-first mentality that you get so much more than just a meal here, making for an experience like no other. The restaurant prides itself on sustainability, as everything from lights to music is powered by solar panels.
All the food is prepared by open fire within the hand-made wood-burning oven and grill. Hartwood only uses sustainable fishing methods to preserve a healthy aquatic life. Prior to the meal, you can enjoy a refreshing cocktail with mezcal, gin and tequila. The menu changes daily, but if there is one thing you can be absolutely sure about, it’s that you won’t be leaving disappointed. The most perfectly cooked locally-caught whole fish with stunning juicy heirloom tomatoes and capers – it’s the most flavorsome carousel for the taste buds. The restaurant takes reservations only one month in advance and strongly encourages walk-ins.
Tempo by Martin Berasategui
For 39 years, Michelin-starred chef Martin Berasategui has devoted himself to understanding the intricate process of cooking in-depth. Tempo is where gleaming culinary excellence comes together with contemporary elegance and the 9-course tasting menu of elaborate gourmet Basque cuisine with a molecular touch is the brightly-shining gem that keeps attracting patrons from far and wide. It’s a true delight to the palate in the form of the most exquisite sea and country ingredients. Delicate flavors from across the globe are present in the form of Russian-style caviar, Kimchi-sauce dressed red tuna tartare and grilled lamb. The desserts are not to be missed, from the caramelized bread soup to the cold basil essence with apple sorbet.
Innovative cuisine presented in a truly spectacular manner – Benazuza excels in edible pieces of art. While the term they use themselves, techno-emotional cuisine, might seem a little daunting at first, it’s worth every word of praise. Mexican influences are ever-present throughout the fine dining experience, but above everything, creative thought and innovation with a sprinkle of molecular cuisine lead the way. Don’t expect large portions here. This sought-after establishment thrives on enjoying an experience and up to 30 courses can be expected. Only the freshest, high-quality ingredients are used when preparing dishes in a cutting-edge way.
In every way as spectacular as the UNICO 20°87° resort where it resides, Cueva Siete is a visually stunning and atmospheric regionally-inspired restaurant. Celebrating all things Yucatecan, each dish pays respect to deeply-rooted Mexcian traditions and flavors. Chef Xavier Perez Stone and his team offer a relaxed culinary experience reflecting on the local culture and ingredients it is known for. Before sitting down for a meal, it’s impossible not to be in awe of the stunning setting – dark tones with harmonious wooden, metal and stone elements are brightened up by the most relaxing light fixtures. Rich, warm tones and textures exude character and you can immediately feel the inspiration behind the concept. Start with the fantastic bone marrow, black beans, and dried pepper adobo sauce starter before moving onto the catch-of-the-day fresh ceviche.