Written by Stephanie Carmon
Wednesday evening August 15th, I ventured out of the Centro towards the north end of town to Oliva Patio restaurant for the Sapore di Mare, flavor of the sea, menu and wine tasting. I am a fan of Italian/Mexican Chef Stefano Marcelletti who has three restaurants in Merida: Oliva Kitchen, Oliva Enoteca, Oliva Patio and just opened another in Baja California: Oliva al Mare. His restaurants are a fine dining Italian culinary experience. I frequent Oliva Enoteca; it is about a 10-minute walk from my house and a favorite dinner spot for pretty much anyone living in Centro. However, I had only been to Oliva Patio once before, about a year and a half ago, with a large group of friends where I clearly remember enjoying grilled octopus and a carefree amount of vino tinto. We stayed late into the night, losing ourselves in the light of the flickering candles and absorbed in our animated—and modestly scandalous—conversation. It was a memorable night, one of those where while reminiscing you can hear Dean Martin playing in the background music of your imagination. Needless to say, being invited back for Wednesday night’s menu tasting was a real treat and an event I didn’t want to miss.
My friend and I got there around 7:30 pm, a bit early for Yucatecan dine out standards, so we were the first ones to enjoy the menu tasting. Other guests started trickling in around 8:30-9pm. The interior and patio is an elegant and contemporary masterpiece designed by architect Genner Gabriel Loria Salazar. In the indoor dining area, there is a large window separating the kitchen from the dining room giving the diners the delight of watching the chefs and kitchen staff in action. The evening featured a five-course seafood menu and wine pairing elaborated by Chef Marcelletti as well as guest Chef Moises Ruiz from Guadalajara. The menu was alluring and didn’t disappoint.
The first course was Sliced Horse Mackerel, Jalepeño, Cilantro, Avocado, Garlic Chips. This was a delightful raw dish, fresh tasting and subtle bursts of flavor. The garlic chips added a crispy texture that made this dish perfect.
The wine pairing: Pino Grigio from Villa San Martino which is fruity, balanced with notes of pear and almonds.
The second course was Grilled Octopus, Guajillo Chile, Sprout Salad, Shallot Vinaigrette, Radish. One of my favorites is grilled octopus, so it is always a pleasure to eat this succulent creature of the sea and the salad and vinaigrette added just a touch of zestiness to the slightly smoky flavor of the grill.
The wine pairing: Ros ‘Alba –Pierpaolo Pecorari –Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The third course was Gnocchi, Mussels from Baja California, Tomato, Kalamata, Pecorino Cheese. I am not sure how the chefs knew, but gnocchi is my comfort food and mussels remind me of home back in Northern California. There was a bit of spiciness added making this dish was divine.
I chose to pair this with: Primitivo de Salento “Elfo” –Apollonio –Puglia, Italia 2016.
The fourth course was Totoaba fish sustainably farmed, Celeriac, Corn, Gremolata. This was the main course and was a combination of deep flavors and colors on the plate. The totoaba was moist and absorbed the piquant flavor of the gremolata. Very enjoyable.
I chose to pair this with Pino Nero–Schreckbichl Colterenzio –Alto Adige, Italia 2017.
Served for dessert was Caramelized Peach, Mascarpone Cream, Vanilla, Hazelnut, Cookie. The picture doesn’t quite do it justice. It was incredible and a perfect end to an unforgettable meal.
The evening was a completely enjoyable experience both culinary and socially. The great thing about going to a menu tasting is that everyone gets to indulge in the same flavors and it is perfectly okay to turn to the next table and with just one look you both know you are relishing the meal and experience. It’s a collective feast, a night to meet new people and utterly please the senses.