Something wonderful is happening in Tulum beach. El Pez’ kitchen has been turned into a culinary techniques lab and in it renowned and internationally acclaimed chefs Paul Bentley and Eric Fischer three months of creativity and non-stop effort have produced an excellent new menu, which will be executed by well trained and skilled staff under Eric’s supervision, to flawlessly deliver it to your table with a romantic view to an incredible Mexican Caribbean sea, in a cozy and most relaxing atmosphere.
Eric and his brother John, also a chef, had already collaborated 2007 through 2009 at the iconic Ocho Hotel in Tulum beach with Kenneth “Kenny” Wolf, that owns El Pez. But, wait, there is one more surprise that makes this a match point worth seeing soon, John and Eric have brought their Altamar signature seafood restaurant in Tulum, to El Pez as well. As a result El Pez has the new menu proposal, plus some solid winners from Altamar’s, that include the Fischer family traditional recipes, such as “El Chupe de Camarones de la abuela”, a peculiar kind of shrimp chowder done the Chilean way. Altamar dishes are not only blended into the new menu, but also serve as a basis sometimes, like in the ceviche trio dish. I mean you can’t go wrong with this new menu at all; there is no way to do so.
I arrived early to our interview, so I relaxed in the living room overlooking the dining ample room hall. A soft sunlight came through the windows. It was a very pleasant afternoon of August. I watched the sea and set tables reflected in the large mirror in the living room back wall. To its side, a revamped bar, in tones of emerald green, dark wood and elegant mirrors.
From the bar Wilbert promptly brought to me one of the new cocktails that El Pez has also created for the dinner menu. It is called “Revolucion” – Spanish for the 1910 Mexican Revolution -. On first impression when you taste it, you feel the aroma and the flavor of jalapeño mexican hot pepper, with no trace of anything hot though, but then the longer palate baffles you because it summons a good old Manhattan on the rocks, except softer since it is prepared with rum and has no bourbon in it. I feel at home. There is a tad of an English accent in the whole place. I would have gladly opened a book and start reading, had I found a floor standing lamp in the corner.
Moments later, an energetic Eric finishes his kitchen activities and joins me in the living room. This is our conversation with Chef Eric Fischer. I’m sure you’ll want to make a reservation by the time you finish reading it.
What is going on at El Pez’ kitchen?
Well, we have been creating and producing what will be our new dinner menu coming September. We have also been training its kitchen staff in the new culinary techniques that need to be mastered for the menu. We are developing our crew further, and I have had the honor of joining the staff with two of my best collaborators at Altamar for this purpose. The result is very good. We are aiming at having our hotel guests and dinner customers completely satisfied with the overall experience. We also want our staff to be recognized proud members of El Pez family as a result of this.
What does the new menu aim at?
We keep focusing ourselves in fish and seafood high cuisine, but with an Avant-garde fusion proposal, where culinary techniques distinguish us from the pack by allowing us to deliver dishes that excel in their ingredients fine taste and texture. We have, for example, incorporated low temperature cooking methods, without going all the way into slow-food, that we put to use in our pork (actually a piglet or lechon in Spanish) and octopus dishes. Our fusion techniques are both to mexican ingredients as well as for other international flavors.
Were are resorting to micro greens and about five or six types of germinated seeds and plantules, prepared cold in salads or cooked warm, for dish garnish.
The new menu has twenty dishes, all very different among them, including some Altamar winners and was designed mainly by Paul Bentley. We have been working for over three months, sourcing and blending in local Yucatan Peninsula ingredients, getting preparations right in the kitchen and landing wonderful creations. We are launching the new dinner menu in September.
So, the Altamar brand comes to El Pez?
Yes. We are very glad about it. We are bringing the brand over with Kenny’s help, and at the same time blending in our winners, like “chupe”, “ceviche” and our flan, with the new menu.
What can we absolutely not miss from the new dinner menu?
We are proud of our pork confit served in a mint and apple pipian, garnished with fried plantains and sunflower germinated seeds. Pipian is a “mole” like tasty sauce prepared from the edible sun dried seeds of a squash.
This is actually one of our culinary techniques examples. The pork is first marinated in a mixture of axiote, cilantro, parsley seeds, allspice, Tabasco pepper, oregano and garlic. It is then cooked in the oven at very low temperature for 6 hours, immersed in olive oil and pork fat, bay leaves and oregano.
The interesting part of the dish comes when we peel the pork skin off and then lay it flat in a tray and fill it back with the tender shredded piglet meat, doing away with all cartilages, bones and any other texture different than just the meat. Then we seal this off with the skin and apply weight to it all for about a day, at the end of which it is turned 180 degrees flat and cut into 2 inch square servings.
When we need to prepare an order, we finish the pork serving by grilling it on the skin side. This is very practical since no extra oil is needed and the crispy pork rind gives the final crunchy texture to the whole mouth experience. It is so soft and delicate that you can eat this using just a fork.
The dish is served by setting the pork on the refreshing mint and apple cold pipian and garnished with the fried plantains covered with a sunflower germinated seed and sour orange salad.
Another promising dish is our sugar beat and sweet potato salad with piloncillo sugar and sour orange dressing, served with fresh goat cheese and sprinkled with dehydrated black olives powder.
We have a delicious and very special preparation of octopus with guajillo chile, done in low-temperature oil and guajillo for three hours. Excellent flavor.
The Yucatan style shrimps in an axiote, orange and lime sauce, served with grilled pineapple, would be another fine example not to miss.
Also the Chilmol shrimps are something you should not miss. Chilmol is the Yucatan version of mole. We start by roasting black the chiles (hot peppers), mole assorted seeds and spices and then grind these to make a paste with oil and dried tortilla. Shrimp goes sauté with garlic, flamed and is then put off with wine and reduced to receive the paste.
A simple menu option would be the tuna, mexican sauce and mayonnaise sandwich served with pork crispy rind and Valentina sauce. We call it “Guacamaya” (Spanish for the colorful macaw parrots).
Then, coming from the Altamar tradition, we have the chupe de camarones (our grandmother’s recipe), and the Altamar Ceviche (shrimp, octopus, grouper fish, corn, avocado, ginger and onion).
But we have also created the Ceviche Trio, a dish based on the Altamar ceviche, plus a Peruvian style ceviche made of tuna, ginger sauce, lime, soy and miso, and a unique coconut milk based red snapper and scallops ceviche with watermelon and green papaya pickles and fried shallot. Each ceviche is served in its own glass bowl and set on crushed ice on a wooden platter. [Eric suggests pairing with a Torrontes wine that goes well with soy, miso and pickles, or with a white wine blend of Chardonnay and Semillon]
Do you continue choosing your own fish Eric?
In a sense I do. See, after years living here and fetching my own fish, I tried many places and ended up deciding to buy it at the fishermen coop of San Lorenzo Chiquila, in Yucatan. We always did so in Altamar. This time, at El Pez, we have given all the exact specifications we need to a friend that will be bringing the fish from Chiquila for us. [Chiquila’s coop has a walk-in cold room with a standardized and well assorted stock of freshly caught fish. Chiquila is the boarding port North of Yucatan of the ferry service to Holbox island].
There is also a new cocktail menu isn’t it?
Yes indeed. The “Revolucion” cocktail that you just had is an example. I personally surprised myself when we experimented with a cantaloupe Pisco sour. We called it “El Campesino” (The peasant). There are many new drinks to come and try.
Is El Pez’ breakfast and lunch menu changing as well?
No. We are not changing it at all.
We want to keep it as is. It works very well with our hotel guests,kids and grown ups, seeking a family-style menu. It serves fine our recognized hotel twelve rooms and Beach house guests that opt for dining out and not cooking in.
The original menu was designed by another acclaimed Chef Heiner sometime ago, and it includes adobo fish (fish is marinated in the “adobo” prepared with four classes of chili peppers, garlic, tomato, onion, thyme, bay leaves and oregano, all fried until golden, in lemon, salt and garlic), chicken or fish fillet baguettes and shrimp, fish or chicken quesadillas that our youngest guests are most fond of.
Eric I congratulate you, your kitchen staff and all the El Pez family, for this outstanding new menu which sets the bar in Tulum beach dinning from now on! I am counting the days to September!
El Pez Hotel in Tulum Beach gives final touches to new Avant-garde dinner menu, available in September by Juan Ayza M is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinObraDerivada 3.0 Unported License.
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