Puerto Vallarta’s Culinary Treasures: Café des Artistes and Tuna Blanca

Breakfast in Bed(stuy)

A few weeks ago, I spent a week on Mexico’s West Coast sitting by a pool reading Little Women, a cocktail in hand, getting way too much sun for my body’s own good. My family (parents, brother, aunts, and grandparents included) descended upon Puerto Vallarta to celebrate my brother’s graduation and relax with a much needed vacation for all included.

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Not a bad way to spend a vacation, amiright?

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While we had some good meals on the resort property at it’s many restaurants – everything from Spanish pinxto appetizers poolside to countless ceviches to classic Mexican dishes — no doubt the culinary highlights of the trip were at two well known Vallarta restaurants owned by Chef Thierry Blouet.

Chef Blouet was born in Puerto Rico but educated and trained in France and Mexico. He comes from a family of restaurateurs and hoteliers and currently is the chef and owner of Café des Artistes and Tuna Blanca.

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My parents are a big fan of Blouet’s restaurants and we had the pleasure of eating at both during the week. It was nice to leave the resort to travel into Downtown Puerto Vallarta for Cafe des Artistes and a tad farther to the sleepy beachside village of Punta Mita for Tuna Blanca respectively.
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Cafe des Artistes is a stunning restaurant. There’s several dining rooms but we sat outside in their jungle room which has various tables set at different heights surrounded by trees and flowers. We were led up to a secluded table on a higher level overlooking the rest of the restaurant. Throughout dinner, a violinist meandered through the restaurant taking requests accompanied by a piano player down below. It is a beautiful space!

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We started with Jalapeno Martinis (which are one of their specialities) and one of their Iberian Acorn Jabugo “Pata Negra” for the table. This toasted pecan bread accompanied with thinly sliced iberian jambon was heavenly and we devoured it quickly among the six of us.

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The rest of the meal was as delicious as these first bites. To start, I had the traditional prawn and pumpkin cream soup that has been a staple at the restaurant since its opening 24 years ago. I would have never thought to pair seafood with pumpkin but the flavors worked and it was a light, refreshing soup despite the heat dining al fresco.

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As my main dish, I had the short rib and beef petal duo which was paired with a potato terrine with bacon, a camembert and chipotle sauce, a roasted shallot and a cauliflower mousseline. It was a perfectly prepared dish and one of the best I’ve ever had. The potato terrine was divine with the succulent short rib. Getting a taste of all the components made for the perfect bite, I’m drooling just thinking about it!

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But the highlight of the meal had to be dessert. We were celebrating my parents’ anniversary and the waitstaff brought out an insane platter of desserts with a message of congratulations (having overheard us discussing the occasion).

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Desserts included a milk caramel creme brûlée, a chocolate napoleon, various macarons and sorbet with raspberries and strawberries, but the real standout was a chocolate pudding in a flower pot (complete with a fake flower and oreo crumbs as dessert).

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It was reminiscent of the children’s dessert dirt worm cake and was a hit not only because of its flavor but the presentation invoking both whimsy and nostalgia.

The ambiance paired with the knowledgeable, friendly and hospitable waitstaff and the incredible food made this an amazing evening dining al fresco.

A few nights later we went to Blouet’s second restaurant, Tuna Blanca in Punta Mita. The restaurant’s name comes from both a species of Mexican green prickly pear and also the great white tuna off the Marietas Islands. This inspiration speaks to the restaurants focus on fresh seafood and authentic Mexican techniques and ingredients. As with Cafe des Artistes, Tuna Blanca’s space is amazing. The back dining room is open air and set on the beach.

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For appetizers, I sampled both the signature Tuna Blanca Ceviche and the taco of confit suckling pig

The ceviche was incredibly fresh and flavorful with local fish, green kalamata olives, capers, cured onion, green prickly pear, served with avocado cream and corn crumble. I had eaten a lot of ceviche that whole week and this was by far the best!

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The taco of confit suckling pig was delightfully surprising. It was served with beans, avocado cream, sauce, pork rind, fried parsley, homemade “jocoque” and fresh cheese. You know just a few of my favorite things…This dish was right up my alley!

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For my entree I chose broiled octopus accompanied with an avocado custard, a tomato and pork rind sauce, a “potato cloud”, jerky crumble, and haricot beans. As with my entree at Cafe des Artistes, everything on the plate was amazing but when combined, the flavors and textures were out of this world! This was the best octopus dish I’ve probably ever had! It was so tender and almost buttery.

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Both meals were top notch — everything from the service to the atmosphere to the cuisine was amazing. Chef Blouet deserves all the recognition and praise he’s receiving. These restaurants are part of the pulse of Puerto Vallarta. He’s preparing incredibly conceptualized, beautifully plated dishes that speak to where he’s been (his training and up bringing) but also his love and passion for the environment around him.

If you’re ever in Puerto Vallarta, dining at either of these restaurants is a must!

Until next time!

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