Written by Stephanie Carmon
One of the things that continues to amaze me about this town is the talented chefs and the up and coming culinary scene. Mexico is famous for its almost infinite variety of authentic dishes, ingredients, and colorful, spicy dishes. It’s been a treasure trove for the likes of chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Guy Fieri, and Mario Batali. Yucatan’s gastronomic history is excessively rich boasting one of Mexico’s most diverse kitchens with hundreds of indigenous spices making for droves of original and traditional dishes. It is truly is foodie heaven. As my curious mind ventures into the culinary world of Merida I have been lucky enough to meet many like-minded people and some fantastic chefs.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by my friend Marilia to Sanbravo Seafood and Steakhouse opened up on Prologacion Montejo in the north end of town. It has been open for less than a year and, because of its strategic location and stylish facade it draws the attention of the passersby. I have been to Sanbravo now four times. My latest visit was for a wine tasting and pairing which was a super fun night with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic sommelier and a food pairing that incredible. It is a large restaurant, modern and fashionable. Walking in you will see a glass wall decorated with bottles of the house wine: a cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo mix made especially for the restaurant by El Cielo Valle de Guadalupe. The bottles are stacked from the floor to the ceiling. The restaurant has two modern elegant dining rooms. The bar lining the back wall blends into the grey hues and candlelit ambiance of the main room. The other room, which can also be used for private events, has a huge screen which covers the whole wall. This was actually quite cool when used for the wine tasting event I attended. We were able to see a video of the vineyard as we were tasting the wine – very high tech.
Chef Christian Bravo
But Sanbravo presents more than just its trendy sophisticated ambiance. The food is exceptional and Chef Christian Bravo is at the top of his game. A native of Puebla, Bravo has had a passion for the kitchen since he was a young child helping his parents in their restaurant. In 2004 he entered culinary school, and kicked off his quite decorated career so far. He participated in the first season of NBC’s Top Chef Mexico and has worked in several different restaurants in Spain with one, two or three Michelin stars including Coque restaurant in Madrid and Las Golondrinas in Seville.
He returned to Mexico from Europe as the Chef for The Luxury Collections Starwood Hotel Company and became Executive Chef for Haciendas Temozon, Santa Rosa, San Jose, Puerta Campeche and Uayamon. In those haciendas he served big personalities such as former Mexican president Felipe Calderon and former US president George Bush, Sting, Carlos Slim among others. In 2016, he signed on as the consulting chef for the company Grupo Jigsa, at Silverfish which is a seafood restaurant in Montecristo, Merida. When Grupo Jigsa decided to open Crabster a seafood restaurant in the port town of Progreso he became Executive Chef there. Upon deciding to open another location in Merida Grupo Jigsa wanted to try something different: a seafood and steakhouse. And Sanbravo came into being. Chef Bravo headed up the culinary part of the project and they have created an excellent upscale 100% Yucatecan-owned seafood and steakhouse.
In Sanbravo the Chef’s concept is to give the foodies of this town a traditional surf and terf experience while keeping an emotional connection to the traditional flavors of Yucatan, namely the smokiness that distinguishes the local cuisine. The pairing he created for the wine tasting which included a succulent duck salbute, medium sirloin with a touch of smokiness and sweet potato and seared salmon with a creamy risotto, was definitely a highlight. He uses a vesuvio wood-fired oven for many cuts of the Black Angus meat he has flown in from Canada and the US. All the seafood and fish is from Mexico, many coming right from the shores of Yucatan to ensure freshness. And the internationally recognized Yucatecan octopus is a favorite seafood dish at Sanbravo, made with a touch of achiote and grilled to that perfect point between too soft and too chewy. Bravo’s attention to detail and his resolute approach to keeping his food rooted in tradition makes the dishes of this restaurant stand out.
The trend of mixology is big at Sanbravo and the mixologist comes by your table to explain the options of cocktails available. They take great pride in their cocktails and there are lots of variety. I have tried a couple of different ones, but my favorite is the house cocktail. It is gin based with hints of smokiness, a nice appetizer to set the stage for the food.
Bakery and Desserts
Chef Bravo also takes great pride in the in-house bakery which boasts all of the typical Yucatecan breads such as cheese rolls and the French bread baguettes all in miniature form. A wide variety of desserts, with a lovely presentation, are definitely worth the extra calories. To leave Sanbravo without indulging in at least a couple bites of a dessert here is missing your chance of utter momentary bliss. Seriously.
For a fine dining Yucatecan experience I would recommend Sanbravo. They will continue to have wine tasting and pairings once a month and December is always a festive time to pop in for the posadas. They will have a New Year’s menu that looks fantastic which will require a reservation.
For more information you can check them out here: