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Open: Passion at Paradisus Palma Real

All-inclusive resorts conjure up thoughts of big buffet breakfasts, piña colada-filled days, and even bigger buffet dinners. But the food landscape is changing at luxury Paradisus Resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. World renowned, six Michelin-star chef Martin Berasategui recently launched his fourth restaurant, which is not only open to resort guests (for an extra cost), but also to locals.

Located just off the Mediterranean-inspired grand lobby of the Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana, amidst palatial fountains and stucco archways, Passion by Martin Berasategui, is a fine dining restaurant that juxtaposes the chef's Basque cooking philosophy and style with the local Caribbean ingredients. The dishes and tasting menu, where seafood plays a starring role, are designed for wine pairings, from Cava to Malbec.

“This is a completely different food experience with high Spanish cuisine,” says Rafael Torres, the managing director. “You don’t find all-inclusive resorts with this kind of restaurant; so very special and high end.”

Berasategui, whose eponymous restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain holds three Michelin stars, has helped elevate his native Basque cuisine to a new level while carving out a spot for himself on the international culinary stage in the process.  He recently opened restaurants at the Paradisus resorts in Punta Cana, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. 

The setting is formal, yet comfortable with whimsical metal and glass red-heart chandeliers. Lush chocolate tones are offset by white plush chairs.

Our meal began with a group welcome from our servers and sommelier explaining the evening’s program. After a couple of amuse-bouches, including some wonderfully fresh liqueur-injected fruits, we were off on our seven-course tasting menu. We started with a vibrant and bright salad of passion fruit jelly with vegetable hearts, orange, tapenade, nuts and seeds. Next, we savored Dominican pigeon peas stew with coriander, ginger, lobster and yautia cream. The attentive wait staff had their moves down. Each course was served with a synchronized, choreographed flourish.  It felt formal, yet fun.

Every dish treated us to complex yet subtle, layered flavors and was served in varying unique, all-white platters. Favorite courses were the black squid risotto and the red snapper in olive oil, green salad and red wine mustard.

The finale? Two dessert courses including a caramelized torrija (bread soaked in milk) with almond, coffee and ice cream; plus some house made chocolates. 

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