Playa Del Carmen – Passion by Martín Berasategui

With such a hilarious Michael Jackson show in the day prior, we couldn’t pass up seeing the Aladdin show playing in the Paradisus La Perla theater. We had an 8:00 reservation for dinner and Aladdin started at 7:30 so we were only able to catch the first 30 minutes of the nostalgia generating performance! Between the costumes, the semi-coordinated dancing and lip syncing, all the music from my favorite Disney movie, and two glasses of wine, we were very entertained.

After we got our Aladdin fix, it was time for dinner at the world-renowned restaurant, Passion by Martín Berasategui. Berasategui has several Michelin Stars from other restaurants and launched a fancy resultant at our hotel. Even though this dinner was not included in our all-inclusive, we decided to give it a go – and boy were we glad!

We got dressed up and entered the fanciest restaurant on the grounds. Our white-gloved waiter greeted us and presented us with a selection of waters from across the world. I have never been offered a water selection… it was so lux. We decided on bottled water from Playa Del Carmen and it was poured over a rose petal in our water glasses.

We were then presented with two amuse-bouches dishes first that were totally to-die-for! The first featured balsamic watermelon, beef and caper tartar over a wonton crisp, parmesan cheese puffs, a grapefruit puree, and another puff of some kind. It was an off-the-menu surprise of a first course into an excellent meal.

The second amuse-bouche was a light calamari salad with a lemon drizzle.

After we finished with the first two courses, our tasting menu began. Our waiter set down a marble block with 5 different butters that were to be paired with a different bread over the next 5 courses. I have to say, the butter was one of my favorite dishes of the meal! From truffle, to citrus zest, to Italian herb, the butters were so creamy and paired so well with each bread variety that I had no butter left by the end of the meal. I was in calorie heaven! Our first butter was accompanied by thin slices of tri tip steak over foie gras royal.

Next up was organic egg yolk with liquid salad, red tubers and smoked cheese. I typically do not like any type of egg unless it is scrambled, but when this infused, red egg yolk was popped and mixed with the other flavors, the egg was taken to an entirely different flavor level.

Next up was a dashi and mushroom broth over liquid cheese spheres with dewlap and crispy quinoa. The broth was poured over the dish and added an interesting mushroom flavor. Additionally, there have only been two different instances in my life where I have eaten and tolerated raw tomatoes. Note, I love sun-dried tomatoes, ketchup, pasta sauce, and salsa, but I just cannot stand raw tomatoes! Outside of the tomato dish at Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, this is the only other time I have eaten tomatoes and not died inside – it was that good!

The 4th course was totoba with false shiitake mushroom risotto and creamy rice. It was good but was probably the least remarkable dish of the night. I did like the crispy skin on the fish though.

Our waiter delivered our 5th course of picanha with truffled tubers and olives and then rolled over a cart of salts. We picked some salt flavors and then added a dash to each bite of the steak as we enjoyed the dish. I tried a volcanic  and grasshopper salts and, wouldn’t you know, they were both delicious.

After a quick palette cleanser, my favorite dish of the night of lemon ice cream with basil essence, green bean and almond was served. The lemon was actually a cold, white chocolate shell that contained an incredible lemony cream inside. I cracked it open with my spoon and the cream picked up pieces of the dark chocolate crunch underneath, making for one of the most scrumptious bites of food I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. On the other side of the plate was mint infused ice. The cool sensation of the ice ,when enhanced by the lemon and chocolate still lingering from prior bites, was simple and exquisite. I would eat this every day of my life if I could.

The last dessert on the official menu was a chocolate Bailey’s ice cream with vanilla and coffee toffee and it was then followed up by a “chef’s treat” of other various mini-desserts and jellies. Needless to say, we were totally stuffed after a total of 11 dishes (plus all of those yummy butters and breads!).

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Bangkok – Day 2

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We woke up naturally at 5:30 AM since our body clocks were so out of whack. That actually worked out perfectly because we had enough time to visit the hotel’s breakfast buffet for a fantastic breakfast before we met Kiwi for our 7 AM tour pick up time.Breakfast at the So Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok Thailand

We hopped into the Jeep with our guide and driver and it took about an hour for us to turn off the highway for our first stop. Our nerves heightened as we drove under the highway, past some very sketchy looking food stands, to basically a small wooden train station dock. The area was so sparse and the train ride was not on our itinerary so Ryan and I were a bit worried as we got out of the car, but we trusted Kiwi and she promised that the experience we were about to have was worth it. Apparently, our driver was the lead coordinator of transportation for Tour with Tong and he suggested we make the extra stop since we had time. He was super nice to do so because the tour service usually charged extra for the train market tour stop. Anyways, we waited for about 15 minutes for the train to come and Kiwi directed us to the very end cart. She talked with the conductor and we got to sit in the conductor booth at the very end of the train. We thought we did that just for pictures, but it was for something much cooler!

The Maeklong Train Market is literally a market on the train tracks. All of the tents fold back to make way for the train that comes through every 30 minutes, and then immediately go back into place for the sellers to keep selling their produce which literally sits in the train tracks! We got such a cool view of the train speeding by the market and all of the tents going back into place by sitting at the back of the train!

We ended up getting off of the train at the market so we could walk through. You could buy almost any type of meat, seafood, vegetable, or fruit imaginable in the market. The market was basically a single file line in each direction since it was so narrow and Ryan almost got pick pocketed being in such close proximity to all of the people around! He was also way too tall and had to duck. We only walked about a block within the market before it became to claustrophobic for us to go through anymore. Still a really neat thing to experience!

We walked through the streets, found our driver, and took off to Damnoen Saduak floating market. It was about another 30 minutes in the car before we arrived and we parked within the market. Kiwi knew tons of people at the locations we stopped at, and brought us to a certain market stand where we would get the best prices on merchandise. The lady who owned the shop said she had been working with Tong from our tour service for over 20 years and encouraged us to go see if we found better prices on the river for anything she sold. We decided to do so and walked down to our market boat.

We had a little old lady as our paddler but boy was she strong – we had some serious speed going through the market! Both sides of the market were lined with shops and there were tons of boats selling all types of food. Kiwi knew all of the best tasting food vendors and encouraged us to try spring rolls, coconut ice cream, and mango sticky rice. The spring rolls were delicious and the ice cream was so decadent! We saved the rice for the next car ride and keep floating through. I was super glad both of us had hats as the sun was very strong and it was hot and muggy. We paddled through a bunch of canals and saw one with some interesting art. After quite a bit of haggling on my part, Ryan and I ended up buying a very pretty canvas painting of an elephant for our apartment. Kiwi was impressed (?) by my haggling skills and kept laughing as I tried to drive the price lower. While the guy would go to my “highest price” of 1,100 BHT, I ended up caving at 1,200 BTH – a whole $3 difference! He rolled up the painting so we could travel home with it and we took off through the market for some more browsing.

We didn’t end up seeing anything better than what was at Kiwi’s friend’s booth, so we stopped there to get some tea cups and a tank top. They gave us a very fair price and were really nice. With our goodies in hand, we hopped back in the car and indulged in our sticky rice on the way to the speed boat that was to take us to see the monkeys. Let me tell you, mango sticky rice is AMAZING! It is basically like a desert and I could have eaten bowls and bowls of it. We also stopped off got some Thai Tea at Kiwi’s insistence which was also delicious. I wish we had more of these things in the States!

We made one last stop before getting to the speed boat for some fruit for the monkeys. The bananas at the fruit stand were too ripe, so we got 4 huge bags of this potato looking fruit that the shop owner hacked up into pieces for us. Our driver also got us some coconuts to drink, one was a raw coconut and the other had been grilled. The grilled coconut milk was much sweeter and we both like the raw milk a bit more.

Anyways, we finally arrived at this very colorful housing area to transfer to our boat and use the loo. For most places in Thailand, you have to bring your own toilet paper and the majority of toilets, especially for men, are just holes in the ground. While I was able to find actual toilets to use, it made for an interesting experience for Ryan….

We hopped in the boat and took off to down the river. The description of the tour was not very robust online (literally just said “monkey island”) so we did not know what to expect. We saw some very large water monitors right off the bat and thousands of crabs lining all of the beaches. It was low-tide so there were mudskippers cruising through the muddy beaches and some were 6-inches long. We left the inlet into the ocean and all of the beaches were lined with sticks which indicated each cockle shell farmer’s land. The farmers also had these really high huts to sleep in at night to watch their property and make sure no other farmer infringed on their shells.

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We stopped at one of the high huts to drop off our lunch and then headed out further into the ocean. The lines of stick fences went on for miles and we eventually got to a section of higher sticks that held oysters. It was super cool! There were mini crabs all over the oysters during the low tide and we held some that really tickled!

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Our next stop was to an inlet to find some monkeys. As soon as we started driving into the small river inlet, Kiwi and our boat driver made us start howling to call out the monkeys. It was so weird and I felt awkward making those noises until hordes of monkeys started to line the shores! There were lots of mom monkeys with babies on their back, medium monkeys, and then the big alpha-males that were quite aggressive if another went for their food. We threw the potato-like fruit out to them and then closer in the water to draw them nearer. Eventually, we set the fruit right on the side of the boat and the monkeys would hop up next to us on the boat! I even handed them fruit! The monkeys were super muddy and they would jump off the boat quickly and their tails flung mud all over us. I was covered! It was so gross but we were having too much fun to stop. At one point, an alpha-male monkey jumped on the boat and tried to take off with Ryan’s bag of fruit, Ryan tried to grab it back and the monkey almost tried to fight him! Eekk! We let him have it, he hopped off, and our driver used a stick to ward off the bigger monkeys from jumping on board and causing trouble. From then on, a lot of mom and baby monkeys hung out with us on the boat – so cute! Eventually, we ran out of food and had to leave, but it was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

We got out of the jetty and headed back to the hut to eat lunch. After washing up, we had quite a spread of grilled crab, curry, baked fish, veggies, and more. It was quite a delicious lunch with an outstanding view! We didn’t eat too much since we had a large dinner coming our way and so the staff ate the rest of what we didn’t touch.

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After lunch it was sadly time to head back. We had about a 1.5-hour drive back to Bangkok and it was a good time to rest up before the night’s activities. We stopped at an ATM to pay Kiwi and our driver and I almost left my debit card in the ATM – ahh! Thankfully Kiwi alerted me and I grabbed it. We said our good-byes at the hotel and headed up for a much shower. I have to say, we could not have booked with a better service than with Tour with Tong and our guide Kiwi!

Due to the monkey mud, it was time for a much needed shower before our dinner at Gaggan! I first heard about Gaggan through an episode of Chef’s Table, a Netflix original series that documents top chefs throughout the world. Gaggan and his restaurant were voted the best in Asian in 2015 and his elevated take on Indian food was not to be missed while we were staying in Bangkok, especially since it was right across the park from our hotel! We headed off to our 6 PM reservation and were surprised to be taken upstairs under the atrium to a mini-kitchen. We were picked at random with some other diners from all over the world to test Gaggan’s new concept where the sous chef and team prep the dishes in front of us! What a treat and so unexpected! We started the night with a delicious Thai-jito and got to know some of the chefs. One was an American from Miami and was so delighted to talk football with a fellow American football fanatic, Ryan. We had a great banter back and forth as the 18 courses started to flow.

The first 1o courses came out in a rapid fire style, one quickly after another, and the Indian flavor profiles exploded onto the scene almost immediately after each item was placed in our mouths. Not only that, but the plating was amazing.

The wine started to flow as we got into the main courses, consisting of increadable flavors, textures, and the most tender lamb chop I have ever eaten ….

During the desert courses, Gaggan himself joined us upstairs and let us try this new dish he was preparing for his new menu that replaced what we had in the very next week! We tried this amazing chicken stock soup type cracker that was out of this world. Gaggan talked with all of the guests and was quite a character, just like his fellow chefs.

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After we had our fill, we said goodbye to our new chef friends and some of the other diners we made friends with throughout the experience. This definitely went down as one of the best dinners I have ever had!

We went back to the hotel and, while I had every intention of visiting another night market, sleep called my name and our 6 AM wake up for our flight to Chiang Mai the next morning dictated that some Zzz’s were in order.

Sushi Bayashi, Trinity Groves

Sushi Bayashi, Trinity Groves

I love sushi, but unfortunately, my boyfriend does not. To get around that, I always suggest getting sushi when catching up with my friends or doing girls nights to get my fix. Fortunately, I was lucky the other night when one of my friends replied  “yes!” to meeting at Sushi Bayashi in the Dallas Trinity Groves area.

Sushi Bayashi in the Dallas Trinity Groves

We started with some happy hour sake since their happy hour is from 5-7 everyday, even on the weekends! Love that. And after perusing the menu of tempting entrees, we decided on three rolls:

  • A spicy tuna roll – this roll was yummy but a typical tuna roll. If you are into the basics, this roll is not a bad option.
  • A coconut crusted soft shell crab roll – Soft shell crab is, by far, one of my favorite Japanese dishes and, mixing those flavors with coconut and a peanut dipping sauce, is a culinary feat. I will be day dreaming about this roll until I go back for more!
  • An eel roll with basil cream and eel sauce drizzle – You must try this roll! My dinning companion had never had eel and couldn’t get enough of this roll, so naturally, we had a chopstick fight to determine winner of the last few pieces. The picture of this roll, featured below, does not to it justice (got to love ambiance lighting that doesn’t bode well for picture taking), so feel free to order it, take a picture of your own, and post it below with how much you love this roll too!

Eel roll with basil drizzle

A few things to note –

  • The rolls range from $7-$24, a little more pricey than usual. Our specialty rolls were about $14 – $15 each but totally worth every penny.
  • The online menu is complete from the entrée side, but not for sushi. I heard great reviews about this place but was a little worried after looking online and not seeing many roll options. Rest assured, the sushi menu is much more flushed out when you are actually at Sushi Bayashi.

Overall, if you are a sushi lover like me, Sushi Bayashi is basically guaranteed to be a winner in your book too!