A few months back, our friends from Oh Lala! invited us to sample their menu and taste of their wines. Which we did. Gladly.
Recently, Jorge and Mikaela asked us if we wouldn’t mind coming by and trying their revised menu and revamped wine list.
(Dammit, guys … do you have any idea how busy we are?)
So we invited Megan’s mom, Susan, to come and off we went.
Oh Lala!, in case you’ve forgotten, or are new to TSB, is a unique restaurant in the heart of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, which specializes in world-class cuisine and hands-on service. Chef Jorge Garcia makes virtually everything on the menu from scratch and tries to buy local ingredients whenever possible.
(That isn’t to say that the menu at Oh Lala! is restricted by what is available locally. There are certain items that he will bring in especially for the restaurant.)
The last time we dined with Jorge and Mikaela was inspiring. This time was no different. Being that we were one more person, there were more dishes to sample, which we begrudgingly accepted.
On the Menu:
Nordic Salad (Fine selection of Italian lettuce, Norwegian smoked salmon, goat cheese, garnished with olive oil)
Salade Méditerranée (Fresh selection of tomatoes, onions, goat cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
Cheese Plate Oh Lala Antipasti (Cured meats and a fine selection of cheeses)
Lamb Chops in a Mint Honey Reduction (Served with mint mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables)
Grilled Tuna Steak (Served with mashed potatoes in a soy-butter reduction)
Thai Beef Curry (Served with rice and vegetables)
Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberries
And … goodnight.
The food was exquisite. Susan particularly enjoyed it, marvelling at the mix of flavours and the incredible presentation that sets Oh Lala! apart from your average restaurant. She also took special note of the transparency of the process – Jorge’s kitchen takes the concept of the Chef’s Table and explodes it, making all seven interior seats kitchen-facing. From the beginning of a dish to the plating, you can see it all.
There really was too much food to go into absolute detail about each item. A brief note on each, then …
The Nordic Salad was our favourite of the salads. Using Norwegian smoked salmon, and not the standard North American variety, made for a much more delicate flavour. The fish was part of the salad, but not the only part. (You know it’s a good salad when everyone is eyeing how much the other people are taking.)
The Salade Méditerranée features tomatoes, julienned and tossed in oil and balsamic, and served with a generous portion of pepper-encrusted goat cheese.
The cured meats and cheeses were a welcome addition to the salad trio. Garnished with dried cranberries, they were the perfect buffer between the tangy Méditerranée and the delicate Nordic.
Wine: Las Moras, Blacklabel, Bonarda, 2009, San Juan, Argentina
Rating: Two-and-a-half Bottles
This is a really fun wine, because we drank this wine with every dish we were served and it never felt like the wrong bottle. Very pleasant, soft red fruit flavours, lifted by reasonably dry tannins, left your mouth feeling happy. (Yep. I just used ‘happy mouthfeel’ as a wine descriptor. Deal with it.)
We never asked what the bottle retails for, being assaulted as we were with a constant barrage of food, but we would feel comfortable spending between $300 – $400 pesos a bottle.
Back to the food.
Jorge brought us the entrées next.
Though two of the dishes offered mashed potatoes as a side, they were prepared so differently from each other that it really didn’t matter.
The tuna steak was … perfect. The way it is meant to be done. Lightly seared on the outside, the centre warm but not cooked, the flavours subtle and inviting. Close your eyes, and you could almost be tricked into thinking that you’re eating steak, thanks to the soy-butter reduction.
Lamb, in case you’re thinking of gift ideas for us, is always a winner. (Please don’t send us lamb in the mail.) Jorge serves his lamb with mashed potatoes and steamed French beans, the flavours buttressed by the mint in both the sauce and the potatoes. This gave your palette a chance to process the lamb without being overpowered by it. Then, the sweetness from the honey comes in and resolves the two salient flavours wonderfully.
The Thai curry was a real treat, since it cut through the other two dishes and smacked your mouth around like a trainer in a corner in the tenth round. Spicy without being unreasonable, it warms you up nicely and gets your reaching for your wine glass. Jorge prepared the curry with beef, seeing that we had lamb and fish already, but he told us that guests may choose from chicken, fish, lamb, beef, or shrimp in theirs.
At this point, we needed to rest. Our bellies were asking both for more and respite simultaneously.
We were given little quarter.
Jorge brought out the dessert and we were no less impressed. The Crème Brûlée was infused with orange and lime zest, giving it a playful aroma. The ice cream, plain vanilla with fresh strawberries, was the perfect companion – it’s simplicity highlighting the variety of tastes that preceded it.
Once again, we were astounded at Jorge’s skill in the kitchen, and the proficiency of his team. We were never left unattended and the wine flowed like … well, like wine.
If you haven’t discovered this gem of a restaurant, we encourage you to do so. Dinner is served every night except Sundays.
We hope that Oh Lala! revamps its menu often. We could really get used to this.