the spot: La Casa del Playa Tikinxic South End Bahia, Isla Mujeres Quintana Roo Mexico
the eats: enormous plates of shrimp ceviche, Pescado Veracruzano, Pescado Tikinxic, even my kids pasta was off the chain!
the bucks: $10 a head, the Tikinxic is $15 a plate, that’s also a kilo of fish
the full nelson: this is the kind of place that makes me want to move to Mexico
Maybe it’s the almost two thousand miles that separates me from Cancún, but looking at these mouth watering pics from my meal at La Casa del Playa Tikinxic, well, it makes my mouth water. And probably yours too, if you possess even the slightest appetite for fresh seafood.I’m a bit of meat eater so when I get down to coastal Mexico, it takes a meal or two for me to get my appetite bearings straight. Down here, you best skip the beef and keep the focus on what the fisherman caught a couple hours ago because that is literally what is on the menus down here in Isla Mujeres, an little island that’s a short ferry ride from Cancún, Mexico.
At La Casa del Tikinxic, an absolute must visit restaurant in Isla Mujeres, they are literally breaking down whole fish before preparing it. And they didn’t mind when a hungry tourist armed with an iPhone wanted to step into the kitchen to get a snap of the goods. This fish is practically sushi grade when it comes to freshness.
And it’s not just the fruits of sea that are worth taking note here. The fruit and vegetables that are native to the island of Isla Mujeres are exceptional. There is farm to table and then there is sustenance served to you by the hand of God. When’s the last time you bit into an orange and thought along those lines?
With great power comes great responsibility. In this case that means if you’re gonna cook all this superbly fresh fish, why mess around with a gas grill or a frying pan? Just like good barbecue, real smoke means real flavor so expect this kind of rustic open fire cooking, as seen above, to be at your disposal. Especially when it comes the namesake dish here: Tikinxic. With origins dating back to the Maya era of Pre Hispanic Mexico, Tikinxic, also known as Tikin Xic, is a method of cooking fish where whole fish is covered in a citrus spice paste, wrapped in banana leaves and slowly cooked over fire. If you think cedar planked salmon is flavorful method of cooking fish on a grill, you ain’t tasted nothing yet.
Unfortunately and fortunately for me, my 7 year old wasn’t in the mood to wait for me to order a dish that takes 45 minutes so I got to explore the rest of the menu. Ceviche was a must order and all told we could have stopped there as the shrimp ceviche was easily enough for two people to share. The shrimp had all the citrusy zest one expects from ceviche but also had a plump and bouncy texture, all thanks to just the right marinade time. Too often ceviches sit for extended amounts of time in citrus based marinades where the acids can macerate the fish or shellfish. Also, that shrimp was stupid fresh.
The Pescado in my Pescado Veracuzano was Grouper and also shared the shrimp’s superbly fresh quality. Though one might lean towards the idea that fresh fish should be adorned simply, the vibrant chiles and and the umami from the sautéed bell peppers and onions were a welcomed flavor addition and contrasted nicely with the buttery texture and flavor of sautéed snapper. I have had some lackluster versions of this dish stateside, but in Isla Mujeres and certainly at La Casa Del Tikinxic, you are getting the real deal. And in case you were wondering, my kid loved the pasta.
Most astonishing to me here are the prices and a lot of that goes to an exchange rate that benefits the US dollar. All three plates were enough for two people to share, and they all sailed south of the $10 mark. God I love Mexico, Isla Mujeres and La Casa del Tikinxic. If only two thousand miles didn’t separate us.