A taste of the Mediterranean in Mexico
If you’ve ever been to Cancun, you know there’s a nearly endless list of things to capture the eye — and many have absolutely nothing to do with dazzling sunsets or dainty swimsuits. Just look at the sheer amount of restaurants around the resort town, for example. The number is dizzying. At The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun alone, the culinary options range from the laid-back Caribe Bar & Grill to the loftier Club Grill. No matter the atmosphere, though, every restaurant on the property handles its cuisine with poise and precision. And nowhere does this statement ring more true than at Fantino, the hotel’s Mediterranean-tinged, fine-dining establishment.
A 363-room hotel with marble floors, original art and a stunning birds of paradise floral arrangement — and that’s just in the main lobby — The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun has a certain sophistication that cannot be denied. Fantino fits right into the hotel’s decorative scheme with marble all about the foyer and spectacular hand-painted frescoes in the main dining room.
With Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” softly playing from above (or the pianist keying away on the baby grand), you almost feel as if you’ve been transported to another time when you sit down for a meal here. Elegant draperies and a dapperly attired waitstaff fill the area, much like the soft clamor of voices from other tables. If you close your eyes and let your mind drift for a second, you could be at a dinner parlor in 1940s Venice. Of course, when you open them and look out of the window onto the sun-drenched courtyard, you realize you’re still in Mexico.
Chef Andreas Schatzschneider’s aim with every plate is simple elegance. The German-bred chef fulfills said goal with a menu rife with complex-sounding entrées, like Maine lobster lasagna with a bean ragout and brandy cream, or chicken piccata with creamy risotto. He deftly marries European techniques with Mexican tastes to create a meal you won’t soon forget. If the sea bass with bell pepper, purslane and grilled citrus is on the tasting menu when you dine at Fantino, don’t be surprised if you remember every last morsel of the entrée at the pool the next day. And to think, all of that occurs before a heavenly dessert cart full of chocolates, macarons and fruit tarts even makes its way to your table at the Cancun restaurant.
Great meals begin with great service. The confidence that chef Schatzschneider displays in the kitchen passes to the team he has manning the dining room. The Fantino staff is smart without being snarky. Waiters warmly describe daily specials as if they’re talking about their own child’s solo at the school recital. A sommelier names off syrahs and Rieslings that pair perfectly with sautéed trout or herb-crusted lamb loin. Even down to the wide-smiled bread concierge who periodically wheels over to you with a selection of loaves and olive oils, there’s a sense of pride for everyone working here, and that happiness has a way of sprinkling itself into every Fantino meal.