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One&Only Palmilla's Agua Restaurant offers innovative ' Mexiterrean' cuisine

As part of its extensive $90 Million rebuilding and expansion in February 2004, One&Only Palmilla resort opened Agua, an open-air, palapa-style restaurant. Serving a richly flavorful hybrid of Mediterranean fare with native Mexican influences dubbed “Mexiterranean,” Agua is the creation of Executive Chef Larbi Dahrouch and offers a more casual alternative to Market, the resort’s signature restaurant overseen by renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

The Moroccan-born Dahrouch, a former protégé of the legendary French chef Jean-Louis Palladin, travelled throughout Mexico prior to the resort’s opening to discover authentic Mexican cuisine by sampling its diverse markets and food stands. As a result, Agua’s menu features classic Mediterranean fare with decidedly Mexican influences and ingredients throughout.

“We are thrilled to be able to have two such incredibly talented culinary talents at One&Only Palmilla, and offer guests two very different dining experiences while staying with us,” says Edward Steiner Senior, Vice President, Latin America and the Caribbean for One&Only Resorts. “The robust intensity of Agua’s cuisine and its casual ambiance provide the perfect complement to Jean-Georges’ signature style blended with traditional Mexican ingredients and contemporary décor.”

Agua is perched on a dramatic bluff overlooking the sea, adjacent to the resort’s spectacular new infinity-edge pool. The restaurant was designed by Adam D. Tihany, who also designed the resort’s Market restaurant. Adam D. Tihany is celebrated for his work at DANIEL, Le Cirque, Per Se and Jean Georges in NYC.

With vibrant red and yellow glass mosaic walls, blue and white patterned tiles accenting everything from a grand fireplace to the tables, and a cluster of colorful Moroccan lanterns hanging over the Agua bar and lounge, Tihany has channeled Dahrouch’s native North Africa to create this seaside eatery. There are also traditional Mexican touches such as custom-designed ceramic tableware from Guadalajara and a trickling fountain anchoring the restaurant’s courtyard terrace. Tihany also created a stunning glass-enclosed kitchen, allowing guests to watch Larbi and his team perform their culinary magic.

And magic it is, with appetizers such as a Roasted Medley of Vegetables “Tortita” with Picholine Olive Tapenade and Sautéed Foie Gras served with Blue Corn Polenta and a Red Wine Grenache Reduction. Entrées include signature dishes such as Tagine of Lamb served with Artichokes, Sundried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Raz Alhanout Sauce and Grilled Veal Chop served with Plátano Macho “Estofado” (stew) in a Black Mole Sauce. Pastry Chef Steve Lindsay has created the perfect finale to Dahrouch’s menu, including such favorites as Cajeta Crème Brule and Palanqueta (a Mexican peanut brittle). The finest local produce, fish and seafood and game are used throughout the menu, delivered daily by Dahrouch’s hand-picked roster of local purveyors.

Agua’s menu is complemented by a diverse wine list that showcases Mexico’s many undiscovered wines that make up 60% percent of the list. Our Wine Director, Manuel Arteaga has also included vintages from France, California, South America, New Zealand and Australia. Agua, appropriately, also offers a water menu with 19 different varieties of still and sparkling waters for its guests.
Agua seats 142 people in the main restaurant area and another 50 at the bar and lounge area. The restaurant is open Monday – Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are separate menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as two children’s menus, one for breakfast and one for lunch and dinner. There is an additional light fare menu and “antojito” (appetizer) menu available at Agua’s bar and lounge area and poolside.

Dahrouch began his culinary career at the age of 13 in France when he was an apprentice for the late French chef Jean-Louis Palladin in Gascony. He continued to work with Chef Palladin at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC as well as that city’s Citronelle restaurant with Chef Michel Richard. Dahrouch has also worked in kitchens throughout the world including Paris, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston.

In addition to One&Only Palmilla’s two restaurants, which are quickly gaining a devoted following, a strong commitment to the finest culinary experiences is evident at all One&Only Resorts, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Dune restaurant at the One&Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas and Alain Ducasse’s Spoon des Iles at the One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius.

September 2009
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