22 March 2008

You MUST experience Hechizo's Restaurant!

Hechizo is exactly what it’s name implies…. an enchanted place, hidden away in surroundings of tropical foliage and flowers. We were there at night, and walked along a winding path mysteriously lit by dim circles of light coming out of huge pink conch shells on small posts, and were stunned by a really enormous aquarium at the entrance teeming with gorgeous and exotic fish dramatically illuminated, counterbalanced by a large display of exquisite shells on the other side of the entrance hall. Unlike other high-end restaurants, there was no background music. Instead we were serenaded by the infinitely more appealing sound of the waves on the beach and the song of the crickets and other night creatures just outside.

We were seated at a table with the exact number of places for our group of eight, in a semi private room of very good proportions and little décor other than a collection of rustic weather-beaten paddles on one wall. All very muted and in good taste.

Hui, the chef’s wife, greeted us and described in great detail a generous collection of appetizers, all of which made our mouths water. There is no printed menu. We had pomegranate margaritas, which were delicious, while we waited for our different dishes. They arrived in quick order, carried by several what I suppose are souschefs. No trays are used. I had crab salad on a bed of watercress with a divine dressing of something I have forgotten because I was overcome by all the stimulation…. the atmosphere, the diversity of the selection of dishes, the stillness, the sound of the night critters, the conversation... and of course, the margarita. I’m afraid I ate it rather quickly. It was delectable.

Very shortly after we all finished our appetizers, one of which was sliced duck breast on a bed of something with gravy (I would have loved to taste that as well), chef Stefan appeared at the table to tell us about the main dishes for the evening. I wish I could remember them all. One was black cod, which both my neighbors had and almost swooned over. I am not partial to seafood so I had lamb, a shank I think it was, very generous portion, on the bone, tender and dripping with an absolutely superb gravy. The fact that the conversation slowed down quite a bit while this course was being eaten attests to its marvellousness. All the dishes were, of course, beautifully presented on simple white plates. I was sorry I did not have my camera with me. All the while, freshly baked, warm, dinner rolls were being brought to both ends of the table at regular intervals. As soon as they were all gone, a silent figure in white appeared with two more baskets.

I do not remember the names of the desserts, not even mine. I just remember it involved a pastry made with almonds and a little ball of ice cream and a sauce of some kind, the combination of which was real “hechizo”. I stole a spoonful of my neighbor’s dessert when she got up to powder her nose and found it to be equally divine. None of the desserts were too filling, and I did not have that “stuffed” feeling that comes from places that concentrate on quantity rather than quality.

In all, a delightful evening with truly wonderful food!

Nina Hamer, Soliman Bay, MX

** You must email or call for reservations in advance. Email address is hechizo_tulum@yahoo.com. Cell phone is (984) 100-0710.

The owner’s names are Stephan and Hui. They are open December to May. The restaurant is located on the Tulum beach road at Rancho San Eric, 2 driveways on the left before the entrance to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Reservations for dinner are accepted via email and required. Closed Mondays. Cash only accepted, no credit cards. First seating is at 6:30 PM. Expensive but fantastic!

DIRECTIONS TO HECHIZO from Akumal: On highway 307, heading south (driving from Akumal to Tulum), you will come to the Coba/Boca Paila intersection (you will see a San Francisco supermarket and Hertz car rental on your right). At this junction, turn left, towards the ocean, keep going until you come to a t-junction then turn right. You will now be travelling south, along Tulum beach, the road that heads to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere, Boca Paila & Punta Allen. Driving south you'll pass many little hotels and cabanas: Zamas, Maya Tulum, Ana y Jose, Las Ranitas, Tierra del Sol. When you see the sign for "Casa Magna", you've almost reached them...keep going until you see some flags on the right and an undulating stone wall on your left. You'll see a yellow sign on the left that says "Rancho San Eric". Turn left into the driveway and follow the little private road into the compound. You'll pass a couple of private houses (such as Casa Blanca), but keep on the road until you come to the restaurant sign "Hechizo" on the left, and the restaurant parking on the right. **You'll know if you've passed the entrance into "Rancho San Eric" when you enter the arch into the Sian Ka'an biosphere. Just back up about 100 meters and you should see the "Rancho San Eric" sign.

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