PHOTO: Glamorous, sultry and with tremendous range — nope, we’re not talking about crooner Edith Piaf, but the restaurant at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. (photo by Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone)
We, of course, had to cover the headlining AAA Five Diamond Award-winning Cocina de Autor at Grand Velas Riviera Maya first, but that didn’t mean I was playing favorites. That multi-course tasting experience was doubtlessly a singular experience, but sometimes, what’s close to the heart can be something a little less novel.
The (AAA) Diamond that was definitely one of my best friends during my too-short stay was this gem of a restaurant, which was impeccable from the opening note of ambiance through the building crescendo of service and gastronomy to the encore of a surprise macaron and truffle plate.
Without further ado, here are the details.
Piaf (AAA Four Diamond)
Is there any type of food more renowned than and glorious as fine French? If so, lead the way, but not while I’m within range of this incredible restaurant.
Before menus are even dropped at the table, your jaw is sure to drop as soon as you step in. Designed in a style reminiscent of Paris in the glamorous ’40s, it’s sultry in its dramatic tones of red and black and chandeliers and draping curtains made of cut crystal. The restaurant is named after Edith Piaf, a famous cabaret singer who gained so much acclaim, she was considered France’s national chanteuse. But today, it’s me who’s singing … the praises of this exceptional restaurant and Chef Michel Mustiere, one of only seven chefs in Mexico (and one of just 300 in the world) to have earned the title of Maitre Cuisinier de France.
The bread was a selection of fresh-baked, crusty miniatures of French bread, but to die for was the melted Gorgonzola, caramelized onion, nut-stuffed viennoiserie pastry; I could have eaten that alone and called it a good night. But the bliss continued with an escargot ravioli starter that was unlike anything we’d ever had, wrapped in toothsome handmade pasta and lightly coated with a silky cognac reduction. French onion soup topped with Gruyere was an obvious choice, and although we passed, it’s interesting to note that the luxury foie gras was not off-limits. High value with every stay, indeed.
Being total Francophiles when it comes to their cuisine, we had to try several things. The staff not only understood without judgment, but facilitated a tasting menu of our own. We went for the duck and the short rib bourguignonne, both of which were luscious twists of the classics. But the grouper fillet topped with truffled creamed spinach we loved so much that we ordered a second. To cap off an exquisite dinner, souffle was a must, the chocolate just edging out the Grand Marnier version. We had to be rolled out, and soon after I noted the location of two exceptional fitness centers.
Pro-Tip: Did you know you can order multiple appetizers, entrees and desserts at all a la carte all-inclusive restaurants? Just pace yourself accordingly, and ask for smaller portions if you only want to do a tasting and can’t commit to a hefty main. Also, don’t be shy about including your dessert order early on! Certain dishes, like souffles and baked Alaskas require additional prep time, so the kitchen will be grateful for the heads-up.