“It’s just after the Pemex station on the left,” I said. We had just driven out of the main gate of Punta Mita and were on our way to the new Los Xitomates restaurant, which opened at the end of November.
Living off and on in Punta Mita for so many years now, we all know that there are plenty of dining options inside the gates and in town, but when something new opens, it feels like a gift, like it opened just for us.
The restaurant’s large white sign came up a few minutes after the gas station, and we turned into the beautifully lit driveway. We wound up the road, passed massive agave plants, Tarzan-worthy vines and were met at the top of the drive by a sprawling ranch house. “Are we in the right place?” my friend asked. “Yes, of course we were,” I said.
There was a man to help us park the car and he waved us toward the hacienda, and its massive, intricately carved door welcomed us as Luis Fitch, the restaurant’s owner and chef came out to greet us in person. “Bienvenidos!” he said. “Welcome to Los Xitomates.” We knew Luis from his successful restaurant in Vallarta in the early two thousands. It was one of our most favorite places to dine, so we were pleased to hear he had now opened here in Punta Mita, after his years of traveling in the Caribbean.
Xitomates, which means tomato, reflects the origin of this Aztec fruit, which is one of Mexico’s greatest contributions to the world’s gastronomy. Chef Luis Fitch is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of classic Mexican cooking with what he calls “Alta Cocina Mexicana.” He pays homage to its pre-Colombian roots, then combines elements brought to the New World during the Colonial period, up to today's most recent influences of Mediterranean, Continental, Caribbean and Asian cuisine.
“The ancients knew how to combine spices and ingredients,” said Fitch. “So I’ve taken the best of what they’ve done and combined in a new way of cooking. Good, modern cuisine doesn’t need to be fancy, but I love when a guest asks what is in a dish and it’s a combination they would never expect. That’s modern.”
Chef Fitch prides himself on using organic local produce (even from his on-site, home-grown garden which is slowly expanding), meats naturally raised in Northern Mexico and daily fresh-caught seafood, so the natural flavors of the ingredients shine through. In addition, the menu accommodates all tastes and preferences offering meat-free, vegetarian, dairy-free, vegan and gluten-free options.
The 60-seat restaurant is nestled in the region’s lower jungle. Wild banana and papaya trees, hibiscus (used for a traditional Mexican tea), and cascades of bougainvillea and vines are everywhere. “This location lives and breathes what Punta de Mita offers to the world,” said Fitch. “The oxygen from the jungle fuels our ecosystem, and being here is real experience. This is Mexico.”
While one might feel the comfort that they are in the home of their fabulous Mexican friends, the dining atmosphere is poised. Staff is highly trained and Italian linens don each table.
Once inside, the eye immediately goes to the expansive terrace and swimming pool (which will host lively Sunday brunches) and follows the jungle canopy down to the Pacific Ocean. “Our views are of the Bay and Puerto Vallarta in the distance are one of the reasons I chose this location,” said Fitch. “But I love the coziness of the jungle. You feel that there is nothing else around you. It’s just you, your friends and our food.”
Reflective of his former Puerto Vallarta restaurant, the interiors combine contemporary design with folk accents. Strong ironwork, hand-carved woods and Mexican art effortlessly comes together for an authentic cultural experience. The bar, located inside to the right of the entrance, features Fitch’s own Mezcal, which he is hand-distilling in Oaxaca, with a cocktail list based on the traditional alcoholic drink to accompany it. An array of Tequilas and expansive Mexican wine list rounds out the libation selections.
An expansive rooftop deck is also available for private dining and events. Eleven thatched-roof bungalows dot the surrounding landscape, with Fitch calls “Phase Two” (boutique hotel and spa).
Sample menu items include:
Chef Fitch has enjoyed years of acclaim and success with Los Xitomates in Puerto Vallarta, which he opened in 2002 and closed in 2011 to work on ventures in the Caribbean. He has also been awarded with several accolades including, the Five Star Diamond Award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences in New York, Academic from La Academie Culinaire de France, as 1st Generation of Mexico Master Chefs in 2013, is a member of the prestigious French gastronomic organization the La Chaine des Rotisseurs since 2004 and has been a guest chef multiple times at The James Beard House in New York.
Images courtesy of Los Xitomates.