Tempting all senses at Zihuatanejo hilltop dining gem

“Es muy romantico,” opined Orlando as he playfully raised and lowered his eyebrows. He should know. The night before, the beachside waiter at The Tides resort in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, had taken his bride of six years to the hilltop restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. It brought tears to her eyes, he proudly reported.

Appropriately named Tentaciones (Temptations in English), the restaurant set high above the fishing village lived up to its name by tempting all senses to new levels of appreciation.

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Owner and manager Salvador Abarca opened the intimate restaurant and hotel four years ago and still personally delivers each dish with a smile equally as warm and inviting.

The view is the first thing to strike you as you enter the restaurant after navigating several flights of pebble-lined stairs. It literally stops you in your tracks to take it in. Then you quickly scramble for your camera to never forget it.

Walking past the home-style kitchen and lily ponds along a wooden deck path toward the setting sun, we settled into a comfy wicker loveseat next to the infinity pool that looks as if it extends directly into the sea. We sipped margaritas as we watched the perfect red circle dip behind the opposing mountain.

We watched the sky turn into a swirl of blue, red and pink before illuminating into a twinkling hillside of nightlife.

We chose our side-by-side seats at one of six tables lining the perimeter of the restaurant. In front of us, a bubbling trough of water reminded us of the sea not far below.

Our culinary adventure began with an Asian shrimp ceviche appetizer drizzled with a hint of chile-infused oil. The next course combined grilled tomatoes, mixed greens, parmesan cheese and toasted pecans tossed in a clove vinaigrette dressing. Petite rolls – one flavored with a hint of cinnamon and the other stuffed with cheese – complemented the salad perfectly.

A creamy avocado-green soup arrived with a reddish brown dot in its center. The roasted poblano pepper soup with white wine and cream provided just enough heat without being overpowering. About midway through the dish, we tried the centerpiece – an encapsulated seed perhaps – which burst with flavor.

Next up was the perfectly prepared seared Tuna steak. I had forgotten how much I love the texture of this hearty fish served over a spinach risotto next to a pool of coconut milk curry sauce.

The final course took me back to my childhood, reminding me of my mom’s poppy seed cake. Miniature in size, the brown molten cajeta cake had a cohesive gooey center that mixed well with the vanilla ice cream served atop its crown.

Savored with Kahlua and cream on the rocks and a cappuccino sealed the deal as an indelible culinary experience.

And to think, we likely would have never found this place without learning what a local considers a special treat for his wife. It always pays to find out not just what the locals suggest, but what they do.

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