Review: Food and Restaurants at Riu Palace Pacifico, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
For the most part, the food at Riu Palace was pretty good. There were some shining stars, and some major flops, but all in all, Riu offers a great variety of well prepared and tasty offerings.
Review of Riu Palace Pacifico’s Main Buffet Restaurant
The buffet restaurant at Riu is huge. They pretty much have everything that you could hope to find. And most of it is actually pretty decent. They have themed nights 3 times a week, and on our first night there, they were featuring Asian cuisine. I didn’t really come to Mexico to eat Asian, so I skipped all of that and went with the random Mexican offerings scattered throughout the buffet. They had a grilling station on the outside dining patio, which I visited to grab some grilled pork spare ribs and chorizo links. The chorizo was awesome. It had a nice Mexican spice mixture in it, with a touch of chili heat, and was grilled to a nice crispy crunch exterior while remaining moist inside. The pork ribs were really good as well (very moist and full of flavor), but the chorizo was better.
We ate at the buffet everyday at least once or twice while there. Burgers and such, sandwiches, steaks (Mexican style), salads, pastas, pizzas, seafood, casseroles, fruits, desserts, appetizers, Asian, Mexican, Italian, American….the list goes on and on. And that’s not even talking about breakfast. Riu’s buffet is probably the most extensive and well done that I’ve been to. Like I said, not everything was great or amazing, but for the most part, everything was good and a joy to eat.
Must have items to try at Riu Palace Pacifico’s Buffet:
- Crostini with Sauteed Calabacita Squash – calabacita is a traditional Mexican summer squash, the light green speckled kind you often see at the grocery store along side the zucchini. The squash was simply sauteed in butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, placed on the crunchy crostini, and topped with shredded Parmesan cheese. It was awesome! What a simple and perfect party appetizer.
- Camarones with Algae Soup – Holy crap this soup was good. It was a chicken based broth, with squash (calabacita again), carrots, onions, chilies, and large shrimp. The shrimp was very fresh and surprisingly not rubbery. I always thought that if you boiled shrimp in a soup for to long that tit would become a chewy messes, but instead, this shrimp was very soft. It was cooked with the shells on, and was just awesome. I squeezed a little lime juice in my soup to complete it. Awesome.
- Seafood Soup – this amazing soup was on their lunch menu one day, and it was to die for! It was filled with white fish, squid, crab, mussels, shrimp, salmon, octopus, and more, and was stewed into tasty perfection in a chili and tomato broth. A little table-side added lime made it perfect.
- Carne Asada – Nothing fancy, but some of the tastiest carne asada I’ve ever had. It was on the line every night, but would disappear as fast as they’d put it out. High demand item for good reason. Make sure you grab some for your meal, or for chewing on during your walk to your room. Delicious!
- Baked Guava – Damn this stuff was good! Quartered guavas, tossed in a brown sugar syrup, and then baked until soft and golden in color. Tropical, sweet, tangy, goodness. Can’t wait to make it at home. UPDATE: Here’s my version; Stewed Guavas with Vanilla.
- Breakfast: Cottage Cheese – I can’t even describe just how good the cottage cheese, and all dairy for that matter, is in Mexico. This cottage cheese was absolutely amazing, and I found myself eating it every day I was at Riu. I only ever spotted it during breakfast hours though, so be sure you head down to the buffet before 10:30 during your stay at Riu. The cottage cheese is very large curd, swimming in a thick milky cream, and has a very good dairy farm taste to it. I had the impression that it comes from a local dairy in small batches. It is significantly better than any cottage cheese in the US, and that’s probably because it doesn’t have any added gums, preservatives, and chemicals (just guessing). Our mass-produced slop is just that, slop, when compared to our southern neighbor’s cottage cheese.
- Breakfast: Tacos Beef Birrias – For some stupid reason, I had never thought of the idea of breakfast tacos prior to going to Puerto Vallarta. We’ve all had breakfast burritos, why are we not all eating breakfast tacos? They are lower in calories, quicker to make, and more delicious any day. I’m in love with them now, and it’s all because of the Tacos Beef Birrias at Riu Palace. These tacos were absolutely outstanding. Birrias is a traditional festive slow cooked meat stew (historically made with goat or lamb) from the Jalisco region, made with a roasted dried chili sauce. It is traditionally served with corn tortillas, or with the meat served on the tortillas which are then dipped into the stew broth as you eat them. Riu’s version skips the tortilla dipping and just serves the meat and broth right on the tortillas. The broth is a super flavorful combination of dried chilies, allspice, and who knows what else. To take it up another notch (which I highly recommend you do as well), I had the chef stick a fried egg on each of my birrias tacos. I then cracked the over-easy yolks and spread them all over my meaty treasure before eating. Topped with a little pico de gallo and some red chili sauce and delicioso!!! Complete breakfast happy perfection.
- Breakfast: Birria de cordero (Lamb birria) – Richer and not spiced quite the same as the beef version, this lamb dish was still quite excellent and made for some awesome breakfast tacos (again topped with a fried egg). I recommend them, even if you think you don’t like lamb.
- Breakfast: Huevos con machaca – Machaca is another old school traditional dish in Mexico, and was originally made with dried beef or pork which had been reconstituted and then pounded tender. Now that refrigeration is everywhere, the dried beef has been replaced with fresh meat, which is then cooked long until tender and then shredded. It is most commonly served with eggs for breakfast, as it is done at Riu Palace. I again made breadfast tacos with it, and found it to be a very filling and satisfying way to start my day. Still not as good as the Beef Birrias, but well worth the eat indeed.
- Breakfast: Tortilla Chips with Salsa and Cheese – I understand that this doesn’t really sound all that impressive, but these things would disappear as fast as they would get placed on the line. The buffet workers couldn’t seem to keep up with the demand. I had to shove my way through the crowd just to get a taste, and then piss everyone off as I took several pictures later. By the way, that crowd was entirely comprised of Mexican natives. These were good, but not exceptional. However, they provided for an opportunity to savor the amazing fresh masa flavor of these local corn tortillas, cut into wedges and deep fried to a thick crunch. Best corn tortillas and chips I’ve ever had. They were simply smothered in red salsa, as well as salsa verde, topped with some sliced onions, and sprinkled with cotija cheese. Simple, tasty, and full of Mexico in every bite. These will be served at my next Mexican themed food party.
Review of Riu Palace Pacifico’s Guacamole Restaurant
Riu also offers several sit down reservation only restaurants. We tried their only Mexican restaurant, Guacamole, on our second night. It wasn’t bad, but was definitely Americanized fare. The wait staff was great though, and the formal meets casual atmosphere was enjoyable.
Riu Palace Guacamole Restaurant Appetizer and Salad Bar
Prior to your entrees being served, the staff directs you to the salad and appetizer bar in the center of the restaurant. It is filled with all sorts of delightful treats, the best being the green mussels (super fresh with a very clean flavor, served simply with diced jalapenos and red bell peppers), pork and chicken nachos (a bit salty, but very tender and packed full of chili goodness), and the tortilla soup. Damn that soup was amazing. It had a very cool sheen to it, and was thickened with fresh masa. That masa added such a depth of flavor to the soup, it was amazing. With some added avocado, tortilla strips, and sour cream, it was hands down the best tortilla soup I’ve ever had.
Riu Palace Guacamole Restaurant Entrees
The Garlic Shrimp was the best entree on the menu. It was served with a delicious savory corn truffle rice, and a fried spinach leaf for show. The shrimp was very large, fresh, moist and tender, and was seasoned perfectly with a good non-overpowering garlic flavor. The truffle rice served with it was fair.
The Beef Fillet was decent. The tender beef was covered in a tasty chipotle sauce. The roasted cactus served under it, however, was awesome. It was grilled, and had a hint of smoke flavor from it. It was crunchy but soft, and was a delight to eat.
The Stuffed Chicken Breast was moist and flavorful, but was very over salted. I ordered it primarily because it came with a chili tamale rolled in a banana leaf and served with a mole sauce. Mine came out without the tamale or the mole. When we brought it to their attention, they seemed a little put out, but brought me a tamale on a little plate. Still no mole. At least the tamale was good. I wish I would have ordered the Garlic Shrimp though.
Riu Palace Guacamole Restaurant Dessert
Guacamole’s offered a few desserts to choose from. I went with the delightful sounding “Coconut and papaya mousse with Mexican cajeta caramel and vanilla ice cream.” It wasn’t bad, but sounded better on paper than it actually was. The mousse was really just a flan without the caramel. I had a hard time picking up much coconut flavor, and the papaya only came through as a sour note. The ice cream was very good, and the little chocolate ball on the plate was amazing, with a perfect cinnamon flavor so typical of Mexican chocolates.
Riu Palace Guacamole Restaurant Mayan Coffee
I’m not a coffee drinker. I just don’t believe in the stuff. And I normally wouldn’t write about it, but the Mayan Coffee at Guacamole was one hell of a show. They took some special coffee brew, which I’m guessing was full of spices like cinnamon and maybe nutmeg, and mixed it with a bunch of booze (Kahlua and some tequila) in some metal “gravy” boats. They then lighted it on fire, and mixed it by hand by pouring it into long strings back and forth with the stream burning bright blue. This table side show went on for several minutes, and was really cool to watch. The still burning brew was then poured into sugar rimmed glasses, where the fire caramelized the sugar, and then was topped with some foaming concoction, perhaps cream. It was awesome, and the table next to us that ordered it said that it was delicious.
Riu Palace Pacifico Krystal Restaurant Review
Another reservation-only onsite restaurant, this one not allowing children, Krystal clearly tries to appeal to the uppity traveler. It is a typical Avant-garde molecular gastronomy type place just trying too hard. Some of their items were really good, most were not. Here’s what we ate:
Riu Palace Krystal Restaurant Starters and Appetizers
This was one of their starter options, and wasn’t all that bad. It was a spoonful of smoked salmon which was converted into a soft mouse-like texture, and then topped with a runny cream cheese. Next to it was a little birds nest made from Parmesan cheese strips, which kind of looked cool but only tasted OK. In the glass behind it all was a very odd concoction of tomato mouse and cubed watermelon. The two flavors surprisingly worked very well together. And even though the mousse had a very intense tomato flavor, the whole thing was lacking in total execution. Perhaps a tomato and watermelon soup would work better.
We were then brought our selection of soup. We all went with the Pumpkin Soup. Great choice. This was probably the best thing on Krystal’s menu. It was delivered to us as a bowl with candied sunflower seeds, little sweet drops of something, and a single overcooked scallop. The scallop was rubbery, dry, and a touch burnt, but the other components were awesome. Our waiter then came back to the table with little crocks full of the pureed pumpkin soup. He poured each crock into our bowl and left. The aroma of the soup was intoxicating, and the flavors were spot on. The candied seeds were a real treat of crunch and sweetness. Riu’s chefs are masters at soup.
Riu Palace Krystal Restaurant Entrees Opinions
Well, I guess I can’t complain too much about an all inclusive resort serving attempted gourmet entrees, but some of Krystal’s need some work. However, others were spot on.
The lamb entree was beautiful, and was cooked to a perfect medium pink. It had a nice mild lamb flavor, and was served on a bed of sauteed vegetables, which were also very good. The mint jelly sauce dabbed around the plate looked cool and was also a perfect flavor pairing with the lamb. Great dish and great execution.
Krystal’s beef steak on the other hand was a catastrophe. The steak itself was not very good or well prepared, and the sauce on top of it didn’t do anything to help. It could have been much worse though, and still merited eating. The scalloped potato square was very delicious. But the real disaster came from the accompanying mushroom mouse. I don’t know what the hell their chef or management was thinking letting this Frankenstein Fungus be served. It was freaking disgusting. First off, the sickening gray color reminded me of something dead I saw once. Second, the texture was that of over-chewed gum. Gross. But most importantly it tasted like hell. It was very mushroomy, which in itself is not a bad thing, but it wasn’t seasoned well and just tasted of ass. Horrible. Truly horrible.
The Chilean Sea Bass which I ordered was very good. Chilean sea bass is one of my favorite fish, and Krystal did it justice. It was perfectly cooked, with a light brown crust and a super moist and flaky center. It was drizzled with a balsamic reduction, which worked but I could have done without it. My only complaint was the accompanying Basil Foam. It was a super rich pile of creamy goo that was OK, but a total distraction. It reminded me of a pile of green colored mayonnaise.
Riu Palace Krystal Restaurant Has Excellent Desserts
After enjoying and hating our entree round, it was time for some sugary treats. Krystal does a good job with their desserts. We had both the Molten Chocolate Cake and the Passion Fruit Bonbon.
Molten Hot Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream. Do I really need to say anything more? Delicious, of course.
Despite this thing looking exactly like an offensive penis on a plate (honestly Riu, what the crap were you thinking?), this thing was incredible. It was tart, sweet, and provided a very intense passion fruit flavor. It was a joy to have in your mouth, even if it made you feel oddly gay doing so.
Riu Palace Pacifico Offers Terrific Food for an All Inclusive Resort
I was very pleased with the quality of food at Riu. So many all inclusive places cut corners on their food, but Riu see’s the vision and serves their guests right. I had a pleasurable eating experience every day while staying at Riu, and only found a few items that we true disappointments. If you’re looking for a great hotel, great resort, and great eating experience while in Puerto Vallara, Riu Pacifico is the right place for you. Thank you Riu!
The Bald Gourmet enjoys his eating experience at Riu Palace Pacifico while in Puerto Vallarta.
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