Monday, May 4, 2015

Hartwood, Tulum: New York in the Jungle

If are up on your social media, you likely know by now that Hartwood is one of THOSE places: the trendy bordering on snooty kind that make you stand in line to get a reservation (see the restaurant website for instructions). Whether this is worth it or not is highly subjective. How do you personally walk the line between the annoyance of waiting and the pleasure of eating? Are you able to reconcile the indignity of supplication with the romance of firelight?

My rule of thumb is that I am willing to invest an hour of my time for superlative food. Right now, this level of investment will get you a table at Hartwood at a reasonable time -- we were offered a table at 6:30 or 9, or at 7:00 at the bar. Scoring a table at the coveted times between 7-8:30 will require a higher investment. As of April 2015, that is. I predict that this state of affairs will not hold much longer as Hartwood's popularity grows. So it is unlikely I will be returning, unless perhaps in the off-season.

Alright, so how was the food? (and if you are irritated it has taken me so long to get to this point, consider this a mirror of the experience itself). First -- the romance of the jungle setting as the light fades and the candles are lit makes this a special experience. Even a religious experience, as a priest-like figure passes by swinging a brass censer, its incense-like contents spewing smoke intended to repel mosquitoes. And now, finally, to the sacrament, uh, I mean, food. Much has been made of the fresh fruit cocktails, and they were okay. But I was more impressed with the almost exclusively Mexican wine list, and very happy with the rose I chose. Who knew Mexico had such good wine? Tuna ceviche and jicama salad appetizers were indescribably good. It is this sort of eating that warrants the pain of getting through the door. The otherworldly mood set by the priest-like figure was sustained by these divine dishes. Alas, we were brought back to the mundane with the overly-sweetened ribs which were our main course. Agave marinade sounded like a good idea but turned out to be cloying. Corn and coconut ice cream for desert did nothing to restore the ecstasy.

Still, overall it was worth the wait. The one complaint I have has nothing to do with the logistics, the disappointing entree, or even the somewhat pretentious waitstaff. Rather it was with the hurried pacing of the courses. I have complained about this in other reviews as well: fine dining establishments should allow their guests the pleasure of a langorous meal. Having paid the price of admission, being rushed is the real indignity.

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