PHOTO: Every plate at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a canvas, full of multimedia art and multi-sensory pleasure. (photo by Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone)
Like the buffets in Las Vegas, dining at an all-inclusive resort has come light years from its origins … especially in the Riviera Maya. Limp, heat-lamp food has been replaced by show kitchens. Burgers and dogs have gone gourmet and theme restaurants aren’t about kitsch anymore, but rather, international flavors. Farm-to-table is in, authentic food even more so, and service has been elevated to a science in this region.
With the bar already set high, I knew I was in for a sweet treat at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Beyond the simply but elegantly appointed mega-suites; curving pools lined in turquoise tile sourced from Thailand to match the hue of the Caribbean; and an 89,000-square-foot spa ranked among the best on the planet, the reputation of this property’s dining preceded it. Even gluten-free and vegetarian travelers find well-marked bliss here — and good cause to rave about the dining.
As a food as well as travel writer, I was more than a little excited to marry my two favorite things on this trip. I pored over TripAdvisor photos, Yelp pictures, Instagram posts and read the restaurant menus recreationally. (Yes, I know that’s weird.) But none of this prepared me for the exquisite joy of feasting at a resort where an AAA Five Diamond and two AAA Four Diamond restaurants are not only on site, but included.
Read on for why for this hungry girl, AAA Diamonds are my very best friend.
Cocina de Autor (AAA Five Diamond)
Part of why I love to travel is the adventure aspect of it; I never feel more alive than when I’m seeing or trying new things. For that reason, my default vacation setting was not “resort” until I started working at Travel Impressions and began experiencing how resorts have been elevated to self-standing destinations worthy of many a visit. For travelers like me, this restaurant is an absolute essential.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, the TL;DR explanation of author’s cuisine is essentially this: a multi-course journey of flavors, textures, techniques and plating featuring unpredictable and unexpected combinations with catered-to-the-diner menus. They’re exquisite tastings that show off innovation in gastronomy, designed to surprise and delight the guest. And they’re usually very, very expensive.
Not so here! Dinner at this, one of the only AAA Five Diamond restaurants on the globe, is fully included … and it is spectacular. I widened my eyes in wonder as I popped a sphere of frozen tomato juice in my mouth only to have a complex gazpacho erupt then cascade across my tongue. I ate crisp trout skin topped with fish from a log, as well as truffles on a large stick. I yearned for more lamb meatballs rolled in crunchy “straw,” and dipped an apricot gelatin-covered bite of seared tuna in bacon dust. And I loved every minute of all 11 courses.
Pro-Tip: Did you know you can have the e-concierge make dinner reservations for you and your clients up to a year in advance? And that there is no additional charge to book the semi-private dining room at Sen Lin, the Asian fusion restaurant? Well, now you do. Take advantage of this special perk for special occasions!