Mexican cuisine is just one option when visiting Puerto Vallarta. The seaside town provides arguably the best dining scene in all of Mexico outside of the capital city. But as patrons can chose from the numerous top-notch international options (as this week of posts shall highlight) many always, well I always, search for good quality local cuisine. In Puerto Vallarta I found just that at “El Arrayán.”
Located a few blocks from the iconic malecon in the central part of town, the restaurant provides a casual, comfortable setting and showcases unique, regional and flavorful Mexican food.
The owner, Carmen, greeted us when we entered and explained the menu she prepared. As invited guests she provided us with our options, and I selected the Cochinita Pibil for my main. Delicious. But since we heard her menu includes cricket tacos (Chapulines), we made sure we ordered a plate for all of us to try as an appetizer. The speciality, famous in the state of Oaxaca, created an adventurous element to the meal. And for me, I truly believe you could put anything in a taco and it will taste good.
Yet the restaurant offers more than cuisine. The decors augments the dinning experience. Mexican art adorns the walls, colorful pinks, green, browns create a festive mood, and an arrayán tree in the open-air central patio provides a grounding. A comfort. And the restaurant takes its name from the tree as a similar one reminds Carmen of special childhood memories.
I alway wonder why many destinations rarely seem to have quality local cuisine that also cater to visitors. Why do travelers always need to always search out “where the locals go.” But in Puerto Vallarta that is not a problem. In fact, although el arrayán might be a tree native to Jalisco in Mexico, but to me it translates to tasty Mexican in down town Puerto Vallarta.
Tip: Try the Mole. Every cook always has their own “mole” recipe. Whether handed down for generations or a derivative from a fellow chef, the chocolate spice of Mole is always different and usually delicious. Also, mosts chefs never tell divulge the recipe.
After I discussed Mole with Carmen, she made sure I tasted her version of the famous sauce. And what I enjoyed about it, was the fact that in the warmer climate (I am used to Mexico City’s versions) she created a lighter, softer sensation. And yes, I went back for a second and third taste to make sure. Yum.
Stay Adventurous, Craig
This is third installment of the Culture Through Cuisine – Restaurant Week Series and the first of five posts on Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Additionally, this post is part of the Mexican March Madness 2011 series.
Also, I’d like to thank El Arrayán for providing a wonderful meal.