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How chefs in Los Cabos, Mexico are crafting menus that are unique and innovative

 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

Los Cabos is shrugging off its reputation as the go-to party destination and instead embracing its status as an emerging leader in gastronomy.

I visited the Mexican destination on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, where desert, sea, and mountains all meet, in October, which is what may be considered the off season. However, because it rains just 10 days a year, it meant the trip was filled with plentiful sunshine, gorgeous pink and orange-strewn sunsets, minimal tourists, and lots of incredible meals.

Having a dairy allergy, I was slightly worried going into the trip that my dietary restrictions would prove to be an issue, as cheese and other dairy products are commonly used ingredients in Mexico - like most other countries around the world. What I expected to be an issue at times, or at the very least a hindrance to restaurant staff, was seamlessly catered to without a second thought at every single restaurant I visited.

From the remarkable food at the hotel where I stayed, Nobu Los Cabos, to the memorable meals at lesser-known, hole-in-the-wall spots in the Mexican city, this is where, and what, to eat in Los Cabos.

Where to eat if you want fine dining

Muna Restaurant

My first meal in Los Cabos was at the Mediterranean-inspired Muna Restaurant on the grounds of the stunning Nobu Los Cabos hotel.

At Muna, I enjoyed a tasting menu crafted by Chef Paolo della Corte and expertly paired with wine by the in-house sommelier Rogerio Montesino.

Muna Restaurant at Nobu Hotel Los Cabos (Nobu Hotel Los Cabos The Residences)
Muna Restaurant at Nobu Hotel Los Cabos (Nobu Hotel Los Cabos The Residences)

For appetisers, I had patatas bravas and an almond hummus with onion ash and fresh black truffle that was easily one of the most delicious things I’d ever eaten.

Our tasting menu at Muna consisted of incredible courses (Chelsea Ritschel)
Our tasting menu at Muna consisted of incredible courses (Chelsea Ritschel)
The seafood risotto at Muna Restaurant (Chelsea Ritschel)
The seafood risotto at Muna Restaurant (Chelsea Ritschel)
The braised short rib at Muna Restaurant at Nobu Los Cabos (Chelsea Ritschel)
The braised short rib at Muna Restaurant at Nobu Los Cabos (Chelsea Ritschel)
Each course was beautiful and delicious (Chelsea Ritschel)
Each course was beautiful and delicious (Chelsea Ritschel)

The rest of the menu was exciting too, as a hot appetiser course consisted of one of the most unique pairings I’d ever encountered, a glazed eel and foie gras brioche bite with pickled apricot. It set the tone for the rest of the courses, which included shrimp and lobster and perfectly prepared short rib.

Jazamango

I also visited the farm-to-table Jazamango, where I dined on chocolate clams topped with jerky beef, kampachi fish tostadas with pickled onions, which were a highlight of the meal, and a beautifully presented ceviche topped with sliced cucumbers and flower petals.

We had some of the freshest oysters at Jazamango (Chelsea Ritschel)
We had some of the freshest oysters at Jazamango (Chelsea Ritschel)
The tostadas were a highlight of the meal (Chelsea Ritschel)
The tostadas were a highlight of the meal (Chelsea Ritschel)
We also enjoyed Los Cabos’ chocolate clams during lunch at Jazamango (Chelsea Ritschel)
We also enjoyed Los Cabos’ chocolate clams during lunch at Jazamango (Chelsea Ritschel)

Although I wasn’t able to eat it due to my dairy allergy, the restaurant concluded the meal with a beautiful dessert of cake made to resemble a bright red strawberry sitting atop a pile of dirt.

The dessert at Jazamango was a work of art (Chelsea Ritschel)
The dessert at Jazamango was a work of art (Chelsea Ritschel)

Don Sanchez

My favourite meal took place at Chef Edgar Román’s gorgeous Don Sanchez, located in the heart of San José del Cabo. The brick-lined entry way makes way to an open-air, spacious restaurant, where every detail is perfectly thought out.

When it came to the food, I found a significant portion of the menu dedicated to vegan food. According to Chef Edgar, he implemented the change when his daughter became vegan, and it’s become a standout staple of the eatery ever since.

The softshell crab tacos at Don Sanchez were a highlight of the meal (Chelsea Ritschel)
The softshell crab tacos at Don Sanchez were a highlight of the meal (Chelsea Ritschel)

Of the endless courses, there were multiple highlights. However, what stood out the most were the soft shell crab tacos, the catch of the day in potato crust, which managed to be as beautiful as it was delicious, and the duck breast with roasted carrots.

The duck was one of our favourite dishes of the night at Don Sanchez (Chelsea Ritschel)
The duck was one of our favourite dishes of the night at Don Sanchez (Chelsea Ritschel)
Don Sanchez also serves many seafood dishes, and vegan options (Chelsea Ritschel)
Don Sanchez also serves many seafood dishes, and vegan options (Chelsea Ritschel)

The vegan courses were also impeccably executed, with a course of roasted beets and charred cauliflower shining just as much as the meat-based components. Dessert also wowed, with Chef Edgar uniquely pairing foie gras and chocolate.

Dessert consisted of chocolate and foie gras (Chelsea Ritschel)
Dessert consisted of chocolate and foie gras (Chelsea Ritschel)

Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection

I spent one evening of the trip dining outside at Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection, helmed by Chef Juan Pablo Loza, where guests are greeted to a stunning view of the sea during daylight. Although I arrived past sunset, the view was still spectacular, and the duck breast, birria tacos, and whole grilled fish were perfectly cooked.

The birria tacos at Chileno Bay stood out as a highlight of the trip (Chelsea Ritschel)
The birria tacos at Chileno Bay stood out as a highlight of the trip (Chelsea Ritschel)
 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)
 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)
 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

Lumbre

I also enjoyed a meal at Lumbre, located in the heart of San José del Cabo, and headed by Chef César Pita. There, I indulged in multiple memorable courses, including pork belly baos, which were a highlight of my trip, baby street corn, and steak in the beautiful, dimly lit space.

 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)
 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)
 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

Where to eat if you want casual dining

Barbacoa En Que El 40

For brunch one day, I visited Barbacoa En Que El 40, a somewhat off-the-beaten-path destination in San José del Cabo run by a father and his two children. There, nestled in an open-air restaurant attached to the family’s home, the trio was cooking an array of stewed meats atop open flames. In addition to a number of flavourful tacos, I enjoyed homemade Italian-inspired pasta, a relic of both Catholic Italian missionaries to the country and an Italian diaspora in Mexico during the late 19th century.

Barbacoa En Que El 40 is run by a father and his two children (Chelsea Ritschel)
Barbacoa En Que El 40 is run by a father and his two children (Chelsea Ritschel)

Homemade salsa, warm corn tortillas nestled in a kitchen dish towel, and garnishments of cilantro and thinly diced onion all made this a welcome stop on my culinary tour.

Food is slow-cooked over a fire (Chelsea Ritschel)
Food is slow-cooked over a fire (Chelsea Ritschel)
The tacos were accompanied by fresh onion and cilantro (Chelsea Ritschel)
The tacos were accompanied by fresh onion and cilantro (Chelsea Ritschel)
We also enjoyed homemade corn tortillas (Chelsea Ritschel)
We also enjoyed homemade corn tortillas (Chelsea Ritschel)
The slow-cooked meat at Barbacoa En Que El 40 (Chelsea Ritschel)
The slow-cooked meat at Barbacoa En Que El 40 (Chelsea Ritschel)

Nicksan

As a true culinary melting pot, Los Cabos encompasses a multitude of flavours, foods and cooking techniques you may not expect in the coastal city. My second dinner took place at Japanese restaurant Nicksan, where Chef Angel Carbajal has been expertly melding Japanese food and culinary techniques with traditional Mexican flavours for more than 25 years.

Nicksan has been feeding customers for more than 25 years (Chelsea Ritschel)
Nicksan has been feeding customers for more than 25 years (Chelsea Ritschel)

Although sushi may not be what you’d expect to eat in Los Cabos, it makes sense when you consider the access to the fresh fish in the nearby Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez.

When I walked in, I was greeted at the door by a customer who’d just finished their meal and who gleefully informed me, on what I imagine was a sake-fuelled rant, that I’d be enjoying the best sushi of my life. From Pacific Ocean yellowfin tuna belly tostado to the Japanese yellowtail sashimi, perfectly dressed with curry oil and ponzu sauce, I was pleasantly surprised.

The colours and flavours of each course were bright (Chelsea Ritschel)
The colours and flavours of each course were bright (Chelsea Ritschel)
Nicksan is located on a bustling street of shops and restaurants (Chelsea Ritschel)
Nicksan is located on a bustling street of shops and restaurants (Chelsea Ritschel)

The location of Nicksan is also appealing, as it is nestled on a bustling street of restaurants and shops that were busy even despite the time of year and my 8.45pm reservation.

Sliced lemon was the perfect accompaniment to the sushi (Chelsea Ritschel)
Sliced lemon was the perfect accompaniment to the sushi (Chelsea Ritschel)

La Garita

La Garita is a restaurant just north of Todos Santos. It’s worth noting that Los Cabos is a large city only navigated by car, which means a restaurant tour of the destination can require numerous hours of driving, so renting a car is a must unless you want to pay for taxis. La Garita was an hour and a half by car from Nobu Los Cabos, but it was worth the visit.

Upon entering La Garita, you can tell immediately that it’s a beloved staple in the community. When my group and I arrived at 10am on a random Monday in October, we were seated at one of the only tables free.

The feast that followed was like nothing I’d ever had, with the table soon covered in plates filled to the brim with chorizo, burritos of shredded beef, sweet and savoury empanadas, tamales, various stewed meats and their accompanying corn tortillas, and fresh coffee. The meal wasn’t complete without the refried beans and various homemade salsas, which I slathered on nearly every bite, despite the at-times nearly unbearable spice levels.

Each salsa at La Garita was homemade (Chelsea Ritschel)
Each salsa at La Garita was homemade (Chelsea Ritschel)
The empanadas were one of the best items on the menu at La Garita (Chelsea Ritschel)
The empanadas were one of the best items on the menu at La Garita (Chelsea Ritschel)
Each plate was piled high with beans (Chelsea Ritschel)
Each plate was piled high with beans (Chelsea Ritschel)
Shredded beef burritos rounded out the meal (Chelsea Ritschel)
Shredded beef burritos rounded out the meal (Chelsea Ritschel)

La Lupita

La Lupita is lively and fun taco restaurant, where I indulged in a pork belly taco and a fried scallop taco covered in carrot slaw. The tacos weren’t the best I’d had in Los Cabos, where competition is fierce, but the live music and the guacamole made it an enjoyable visit, and worth a trip.

 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

Cooking class at Acre Resort

After days spent enjoying food from some of the best chefs in Los Cabos, I tried my hand at the craft with a cooking class at Acre Resort. When I arrived, my group and I were shown to a beautiful outdoor seating area, where we were introduced to our instructor Chef Roberto Arturo Rivero Posada.

Chef Arturo was knowledgeable and competent, telling us about the origins of each ingredient and educating us about the city’s dedication to sustainable fish farming.

We learned how to prepare Mexican ceviche (Chelsea Ritschel)
We learned how to prepare Mexican ceviche (Chelsea Ritschel)
We were also instructed how to create mole tacos (Chelsea Ritschel)
We were also instructed how to create mole tacos (Chelsea Ritschel)
The final result of our cooking attempts (Chelsea Ritschel)
The final result of our cooking attempts (Chelsea Ritschel)

Our ceviche turned out enjoyable enough, as it’s nearly impossible to mess up the raw fish dish, while our molé tacos left some to be desired due to the mere minutes we’d spent making what is usually a time-intensive dish.

Still, I’d recommend the class for the experience and for the chance to visit the beautiful resort.

In addition to a plethora of amazing food, Los Cabos also boasts a number of fun outdoor activities, allowing visitors to take advantage of everything from its mountains to its sea.

High Tide Jeep Tours

One of the highlights of my trip was a jeep tour to Santiago with High Tide Jeep Tours. Although I’d initially assumed the trip would be an off-roading, no doors sort of jeep tour, I was instead picked up outside the hotel by a driver in a wrangler, with all the doors attached. Still, the driver managed to make the nearly two-hour drive fun by giving me access to the AUX cord and swerving quickly around the dirt roads as we made our way to the Cascada Sol De Mayo waterfall.

We were able to swim in the pool under the Cascada Sol De Mayo waterfall (Chelsea Ritschel)
We were able to swim in the pool under the Cascada Sol De Mayo waterfall (Chelsea Ritschel)

To get to the waterfall, and what turned out to be a private swimming oasis, you must first climb down a steep cliff-face, with just a few ropes nailed into the rocks to help. My nerves were settled only because of the ease at which my guide, wearing just flip flops, navigated the terrain.

After the steep descent, you’re greeted with a gorgeous view of a waterfall and a natural pool surrounded by the Sierra Laguna mountains. The mild temperature of the water was the perfect way to cool off after the surprise workout, and I spent an hour swimming in the otherwise empty pool.

We finished our jeep tour enjoying tacos at Los Agaves in Miraflores (Chelsea Ritschel)
We finished our jeep tour enjoying tacos at Los Agaves in Miraflores (Chelsea Ritschel)
A dessert of fruit at Los Agaves (Chelsea Ritschel)
A dessert of fruit at Los Agaves (Chelsea Ritschel)

The outing concluded with a deliciously simple lunch of grilled fish tacos and mango margaritas at Los Agaves in Miraflores.

Enjoy a night out in Cabo San Lucas

Because it is Los Cabos after all, we headed to the heart of Cabo San Lucas for a night of partying and oversized sugary drinks.

My first stop was Slim’s Elbo Room, a bar that billed itself as the smallest bar in the world, and which was covered entirely by signed dollar bills. After a quick beer, mainly for the opportunity to say I’d visited, I walked over to the highly recommended Squid Roe, where I indulged in a medicine-flavoured cocktail filled with various spirits. When my group arrived at 11.44pm, we were quickly ushered in by a loud group of bouncers, who were eager to entice any visitors wandering past the bar.

 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

Once inside, it took a few moments to adjust to the blaring club music, the glittering disco ball, and the countless signs covering every inch of the three-floor bar. Since my visit took place during Los Cabos’ off season, and on a Wednesday night, the immense bar wasn’t filled with tourists like it typically is, but it was still fun to see the garish nightlife staple.

Pelican Cabo Charters 

There’s perhaps no better way to recover from a night out than on a yacht tour, which is what I did the next morning.

My fellow guests and I arrived early to the dock, at which point we were led aboard an immense ship. Although pricey, as charters can cost $1,700 for two hours, the outing was worth it, as we were joined by multiple crew members who expertly steered us towards the Arch of Cabo San Lucas, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez.

 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)
 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

After a brief photo opportunity, we turned back slightly and then dropped anchor so that we could enjoy swimming, paddleboarding, and lounging on a huge raft unfurled and attached to the back of the boat.

 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

I hadn’t expected much when it came to food aboard the Isla Pelicana, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the freshly made guacamole, hamachi crudo, and shrimp and steak tacos. The drinks were also perfectly mixed, and the crew made sure to keep my glass filled.

Mezcal tasting at La Silvestre Mezcaleria

I concluded my trip with a mezcal tasting at La Silvestre Mezcaleria in San José del Cabo, which happened to be bustling with people enjoying stalls of vendors in the art district. During the tasting, I was shown how to expertly enjoy mezcal, an alcoholic staple of Mexican culture that is primarily made in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

 (Chelsea Ritschel)
(Chelsea Ritschel)

According to my bartender, proper technique entails swishing the distilled smokey spirit, which comes from agave, around one’s mouth during the first sip. I also learned how to pair and enhance the spirit with flavours such as chocolate and green apple, depending on the ageing of the particular mezcal.

Despite the number of affordable, casual things to do in the Mexican city, luxury is not hard to come across in Los Cabos, especially at the Nobu Los Cabos residences, where we splurged to stay in the four-bedroom Kogane Penthouse. The resort also has more reasonably sized rooms, with a deluxe room starting at $425 a night.

The pool at the Nobu Los Cabos hotel was stunning (Chelsea Ritschel)
The pool at the Nobu Los Cabos hotel was stunning (Chelsea Ritschel)
The hot tub on the balcony of the Kogane Penthouse at Nobu Los Cabos (Chelsea Ritschel)
The hot tub on the balcony of the Kogane Penthouse at Nobu Los Cabos (Chelsea Ritschel)
Sunset from Kogane Penthouse at Nobu Los Cabos (Chelsea Ritschel)
Sunset from Kogane Penthouse at Nobu Los Cabos (Chelsea Ritschel)

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Los Cabos has emerged as a leading gastronomy destination due to the city’s dedication to highlighting its history and its position at the tip of the Baja California peninsula. The chefs in Los Cabos are also not afraid to try new techniques and flavours, and meld them with the flavours of their home, which means each menu is innovative and unique.

Whether it’s a fine-dining restaurant worthy of a Michelin star or a casual taqueria that’s been feeding the community for generations, Los Cabos and its restaurants encapsulate gastronomy, and make it the perfect place for food-lovers.