Putting on the Ritz at the Club Grill in Cancún
How to handle a legend? That’s the challenge that chef de cuisine Andreas Schatzschneider faced when, in September 2009, he took over the Ritz-Carlton Cancún’s Club Grill (Retorno del Rey 36, Zona Hotelera, 998.881.0808, ritzcarlton.com/cancun), a local star with 10 straight years of AAA Five Diamond ratings. Instead of the leather bound room I imagined, with formally dressed waitstaff serving steaks to patrons in jackets and ties or laced with pearls and jewels, I discover a sophisticated but unfussy parlor with cranberry and beige settees opening to a dance floor where patrons can twirl to a trio playing classic jazz vocal tunes.
“We’re not a formal restaurant. We’re more like a jazz and supper club,” notes the chef. And the cuisine? “You can have the normal filet,” he says. “But you can also have something different. We have a smoked beef carpaccio with a garlic-parmesan mousse.”
The Club Grill delivers the standards that made it famous but also woos new devotees with an extended range. Schatzschneider adds his own style, focusing first on taste and then on producing contemporary dishes with surprising infusions and a dash of Mexican flair.
Schatzschneider augments the foie gras appetizer with caramelized pineapple, which adds a bit of sweetness for balance. And as the chef explains, even the classic French onion soup has a unique twist added to pique the palate — caramelized onions, parsley jelly, and Parmesan foam.
No stranger to creating memorable meals, Schatzschneider also serves as chef de cuisine for the Ritz-Carlton Cancún’s other AAA Five Diamond restaurant, the Mediterranean-inspired Fantino. And what about the pearls and jewels? Wear them if you want, but the real gems come from the kitchen.
Cooking School with a Twist
You can take the cuisine of Mexico back with you by enrolling in a two-hour workshop at the Ritz-Carlton’s $500,000 Culinary Center. At chef Rory Dunaway’s Grilling with Mexican Flair class, you’ll follow easy recipes for pico de gallo, guacamole, and tangy margaritas, discover the correct way to cut vegetables (who knew?), and learn the secrets to a successful marinade for cumin-dusted chicken. Then eat what you’ve cooked while sitting on the breezy terrace facing the sea. There are classes in desserts too.
Getting There: Continental offers nonstop service to Cancún from its hubs in Houston, New York/Newark, and Cleveland.
Five to Try
1. Fantino, Ritz-Carlton Cancún, Retorno del Rey No. 26 Zona Hotelera, 998.881.0808. ritzcarlton.com. Romance blooms amid the Mediterranean-inspired fare at the intimate 60-seat Fantino, the other AAA Five Diamond restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Cancún.
2. Laguna Grill, Bulevar Kukulkán 16.5, 998.885.0320. lagunagrill.com.mx. Highlights of the Latin American, Asian, and European fusion cuisine are the seafood items and the steaks.
3. La Habichuela, Margaritas 25, 998.884.3158, lahabichuela.com. A Cancún favorite for 30 years, La Habicheula garners praise for its garden setting and its seafood, especially the cocobichuela, a lobster and shrimp curry.
4. Lorenzillo’s, Bulevar Kukulkán Km.10.5, 998.883.1254, lorenzillos.com.mx. Rated as one of the best places for lobster in the city, Lorenzillo’s faces the lagoon.
5. Cambalanche, Bulevar Kukulkán Km. 9, 998.883.0902, grupocambalanche.com. The ribs and lamb cook over a wood fire while the steaks and sausages sizzle on a charcoal grille at this Argentinean steakhouse, one of six in a chain throughout Mexico.