International Restaurants: In Search of Exotics
Published Apr 27, 2007 - (Updated Jun 27, 2012)
Today, Puerto Vallarta’s international restaurant scene can satisfy even the most sophisticated bon vivant. Of course, chances are that if you are visiting Mexico for the first time, you will want to experience authentic Mexican cuisine with its broad variety of flavors first and foremost. Peruse the restaurant reviews in this magazine, however, and you will find that Puerto Vallarta dining choices can also transport you in a heartbeat to Thailand, France, India, Spain and several other countries, their cuisines very well represented here.
But what happens when it is time for your favorite international restaurant to restock their pantry, or when you wish to recreate your favorite dish at home? You will find that, while Puerto Vallarta is growing by leaps and bounds, you still cannot simply walk to your nearest grocery store and purchase a handful of fresh galanga for your Thai coconut soup or a jar of squid ink for your paella. Indeed, running a successful international restaurant here is no small potatoes in this day and age, let alone decades ago when pioneers such as the late chef Roger Dreier first opened their international restaurants in town.
Fortunately for many of Vallarta’s restaurants (and very much to our benefit), most ingredients required to prepare exotic dishes from faraway lands are more readily available today than ever before. This is particularly true for French or Italian restaurants, whose longer presence in our culture has allowed them to permeate much more than their Asian counterparts. Regardless, restaurants creatively rely on several strategies to deal with ingredient availability limitations while remaining true to their recipes’ authenticity. Some replace exotic legumes with local equivalents. Others purchase groceries and canned goods in bulk from larger cities, such as Guadalajara or Mexico City, and even from the United States and several European countries. At least one successful restaurateur in town relies on his own farm to harvest the many Asian spices required in his dishes. Finally, when push comes to shove, restaurant owners simply rely on the kindness of friends, relatives and faithful customers to stuff their suitcases with hard-to-find items every time they come to town.
Raising this topic with international restaurant owners in town reveals several common threads. They are all committed to providing you with the most authentic experience possible while offering the best value. And based on the recent surge of international restaurants in town, it is clear that Puerto Vallarta will continue to be considered the finest dining destination in Mexico for years to come. And you will definitely enjoy your international food experience in Puerto Vallarta much more if you chew over (no pun intended) the many challenges that local restaurateurs have to overcome on a daily basis to bring their finest creations to your table.