Posted by: Food Lover | January 9, 2013

Trattoria Michel – Puerto Vallarta

Sometimes you just have to follow your nose.

We were on a vacation, escaping the cold weather at home for the luxurious climate of Mexico. Staying for a few short days in the heart of the gay district, where good food and lively night life are everywhere, our hotel featured an alluring high end Italian restaurant on the main floor.

Each and every day we walked up to our room the alluring aromas accompanied us to the front door. One of us accentuated our food voyeurism by pausing to gaze into the restaurant’s kitchen which had an open window fronting the main street. In fact, it got to be a bit of an obsession, craning her neck for as long as she could, and even settling on the steps to openly stare whimsically at the staff working to prepare that evening’s offerings. What appeared to be the main chef even got to know us, waving and smiling with amusement every time we passed.

A meal there was not initially in our plans, but how could we resist, especially when we learned of the special 5 course Prix Fixe menu for New Years Eve. It didn’t hurt that Michel, the owner of the restaurant and hotel, had greeted us warmly early in our stay and made us feel most welcome. It was obvious we had to try Trattoria Michel and we never regretted the decision. Indeed, we canceled New Year’s reservations at another restaurant because the wafting scents from below were so seductive we could take it no longer.

Sadly, since our initial plans were for our vacation to include a food blog hiatus as well, we didn’t have our camera with us so have no photos to share of this fabulous meal; you’ll have to use your imagination as we describe the wonderful experience.

The meal started on a luxurious note, creamy foie gras accompanied by a gently spiced warm applesauce and delicious crostini. While we’ve had foie gras with apples, this lovingly prepared applesauce was new for us. The soft sweetness complimented the creamy richness of the foie gras perfectly, and the portions were just right for a first dish.

Next was the jumbo scallop and shrimp in a white wine sauce, with a little of their amazing tomato sauce, which we got to enjoy with more detail later. While not seared on the outside the scallops were perfectly medium rare. Shrimp in Mexico are always a wonderful experience and Michel clearly had some of the finest picks. It was cooked to perfection, firm and moist without being over done. Even the finest quality shrimp can be ruined when overcooked and this kitchen had clearly perfected cooking it.

The third course was almost a revelation. To be clear, one of us has something of an aversion to fully cooked fish. However, in this case a delightfully poached whitefish served with what can only be described as a sublime tomato sauce made us forget about seared tuna and sashimi for the moment. The balance of acidity and sweetness in the tomato sauce was unlike anything we’ve had before, and the richness of flavor took us both aback. We never knew tomato sauce could be this good.

Course four, or the main course, was a perfectly spiced and seared filet of beef, always a delightful surprise in Mexico where we generally focus on shrimp, pork and chicken. We’re learning that at the right restaurants beef in this country can be as outstanding as what we’ve become accustomed to at home. It was tender, flavourful and had a beautiful deep red colour befitting the perfect rare finish that the chef achieved.

And now to dessert: Vacherin glacé. Thanks to the thoughtful portions served earlier, we had the right amount of space left in our tummies to enjoy a generous dessert and not feel overfull at the end. We had never heard of this dish and it altered our food reality the moment we tasted it.

This dish redefined “ice cream cake”, which feels like an inappropriately pedestrian term when having something so divine. Ice cream cake generally brings to mind children’s summer birthday parties with Disney themes from Baskin-Robins. This was a culinary feat of genius. We tried to look it up, but most information appeared in French. Stated:

A frozen dessert made of meringue, vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet and decorated with Chantilly cream.

The bottom layer of the icecream cake was almost like a cheesecake, rich, thick and creamy. The top layer was a beautiful strawberry sorbet, which acted like a strawberry sauce, but without the overbearing sweetness. Once it melted in your mouth, it was like having strawberry juice dance over your tongue. When the two layers combined in our mouths it was like a velvety pudding. We’d never had anything like it before and will undoubtedly have wet food dreams for months to come.

The following link will show a chef making his version:

In short, if you are planning a visit to Puerto Vallarta, a city known for its great food selection, it’s essential to put time aside to visit this fantastic restaurant.



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