Though simple taco stands line the streets of Los Cabos, Mexico, the city's fine dining scene reveals a marriage of ingredients and flavors of the Baja California peninsula with culinary influences from around the world.
Seafood straight from the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, local produce, and traditional Mexican preparations feature heavily on the menus of Los Cabos’ most popular restaurants, but French, Asian, Italian, Moroccan, and Spanish cuisines make appearances as well. While each restaurant has its own cooking style, each is ultimately authentic to Los Cabos and its vibrant culture.
Nestled on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Capella Pedregal’s El Farallón restaurant and its chef Marco Bustamante focus on fresh seafood from the waters surrounding Cabo San Lucas. Upon entering the restaurant, diners are greeted with the day’s catch displayed on ice. Diners can choose from the seafood selection before watching it be grilled with vegetables and regional spices. Signature dishes include chowder with local clams, market vegetables, and chipotles, and the Bounty of Ensenada, a mixed grill featuring four types of fish, chocolate clams, and Pacific lobster. Bustamante’s simple treatment of fresh ingredients reflects his cooking style, which incorporates cuisines from all over the globe.
"I am a French-trained chef [who likes] to eat, cook, and research food and flavors of Asian, Latin American, Italian, and Spanish cuisines. I focus on intense, clean, balanced flavors and we strive daily to source the best local ingredients," said Bustamante.
The restaurant’s exposed cobblestones, wicker chairs, and wood tables create a rustic ambiance in contrast with the elegance of the food. Diners can sip on signature cocktails, such as the Capella Margarita, made with reposado tequila, or the Capella Sling, made with vodka and pomegranate-infused tequila, while watching waves crash on the rocks below.
"In creating the concept, we took inspirations from other seafood shops or 'puestos' that you find in most coastal towns in Mexico. [We] combine the seafood market feeling with an amazing view and alfresco dining, and we thought one could experience the true essences of Cabo," Bustamante explained during The Daily Meal’s recent visit to the restaurant.
Chef Larbi Dahrouch also takes advantage of the region’s bounty at Agua, the One&Only Palmilla’s restaurant, which overlooks the Sea of Cortez. Dahrouch’s food combines local seafood, spices, and herbs (many from the resort’s on-site garden) with the Mediterranean flavors of his childhood, creating a unique cuisine that Dahrouch has dubbed "Mexiterranean."
"My cooking style as a whole is modern-classic, based on the principles of cooking I learned from my family when I was young boy, from making Moroccan flatbread and fresh-churned butter with my mother to pressing fresh olive oil with my grandfather," said Dahrouch, who moved to France at age 14. "All of our signature dishes [at Agua] were created with local ingredients in mind and a sense of wanderlust."
Dahrouch’s dual influences shine in his most popular dishes, including a sea bass tagine with chermoula and a lobster enchilada. The restaurant’s décor mirrors the chef's cooking style: Moroccan lamps hang from the ceiling above the bar, where patrons can try a spicy serrano pepper margarita, while ceramic tableware in blue and white evokes Baja’s style.
"My food is distinct as it is nomadic, incorporating flavors from my travels, my heritage, and my training. It’s a worldly adventure of the palate," said Dahrouch.
Fusion of flavor and cooking style is also prevalent in the food of Tadd Chapman, chef and director of Don Sanchez in San Jose del Cabo. Chapman draws from a wide variety of cuisines, with menu offerings such as sous-vide filet mignon with Oaxacan black mole and a rosemary demi-glace, and black and white sesame-encrusted hamachi with a mango coulis.
The menu at Don Sanchez gets inspiration beyond Los Cabos. Photo credit: Ishita Singh
"The best word to describe my cooking style is 'fusion.' I try not to limit myself to one style of cuisine. We try and feature traditional ideas with a twist, fusing Mexican cuisine with Mediterranean, French, and Asian cuisines," said Chapman.
While the restaurant's menu is shaped by international influences, the décor of Don Sanchez is very much local. The tables are handcrafted by local artisans, the wine list features a multitude of Mexican wines, and the restaurant even offers impromptu salsa lessons.
Try the cocktails at Don Sanchez. Photo credit: Ishita Singh
"We are trying to offer a cultural life experience, featuring local foods prepared in a contemporary Baja style," said Chapman. "When visiting another part of the world, one should try and experience the culture of the area, through food, drink, music, and artistic expression."
The culinary scene in Los Cabos offers the best of both worlds: a journey to faraway places as well as a taste of home, and a respite from the ubiquitous tacos and tortas.
Hospitality was provided to the author.