Market, One & Only Palmilla
One Los Cabos eatery introduces cuisine made from local ingredients.
Indulge – Eat
When I walk through the shimmering, amber-lit glass entranceway and see the racks of wine bottles stored neatly in vaults, and the open kitchen, I think I could be at a slick eatery in Manhattan or Chicago. But Market (Km 7.5 Carretera Transpeninsular, San José del Cabo, 52.624.146.7000, oneandonlyresorts.com), which debuted just over a year ago, is actually part of the posh One&Only Palmilla resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. Market is Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first West Coast restaurant. It’s part of a Los Cabos trend favoring fine restaurants that use farm-fresh, local items to create world-class global cuisine. “Jean-George’s philosophy,” notes executive chef Alex Theil, “is to buy great products and to make simple things the best way possible. Many chefs try to make everything complicated, but Jean-Georges tries to make everything simple and very good.” At Market, the result is Euro-Asian-inspired cuisine, with Mexican accents, that’s neither overstated nor overworked.
The heirloom tomatoes for the watermelon gazpacho, as well as the squash, pumpkin, avocados, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables, come from an organic farm in Miraflores, an hour from the resort. The chili peppers — habanero, jalapeño, and other varieties — come from handpicked suppliers. The bluefin tuna is caught off Ensenada, the shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico, and the blue crab in La Paz.
To these traditional Mexican staples, Market’s recipes add Vongerichten’s characteristic Asian herbs and spices. Crystallized ginger and lime juice with a bit of mango enhance the La Paz blue crab cake; a ginger marinade along with avocado brings out the flavor in the ribbons of tuna, a signature appetizer that appears in several Vongerichten restaurants.
Theil, who hails from Austria, arrived in Mexico four years ago to serve as executive chef at C, the Charlie Trotter restaurant at One&Only Palmilla that Market replaced. He knew Spanish, having worked in Barcelona. “When I arrived in Mexico,” he says, “I traveled the country, discovering the local culture and sampling Mexican enchiladas, frittatas, and chipotle sauces.”
Among Theil’s discoveries: “I love jicama and tamarinds. These products don’t exist in Europe. I also like all the varieties of chilies as well as sea beans. Everywhere the locals put a little lime and a little chili on their food. Now when I go back to Austria and I have chicken soup, I think, ‘Where is the chili? Where is the cilantro?'”
Jicama, a kind of tuber-like legume, finds a place in Market’s crispy wild huachinango (red snapper). Sea beans, also known as “sea grass” or “sea asparagus,” add a salty taste and a crusty texture to the dish.
When I ask for his favorite item on the menu, Theil immediately suggests the roasted veal chop with chipotle glaze. Why? “First of all, the veal chop is a nice portion,” he says. “It has a simple garnish of sautéed porcini mushrooms from near Mexico City. Then, there’s an aromatic glaze of chilies with orange, lime, and lemon juices.”
I ordered the veal chop and can report that Chef Theil was right. I still daydream about the mix of tangy tastes and tender veal — it’s world-class.
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