NOTE: This is from our archives when we did bifocal reviews for Destino Los Cabos!
By Gordon Richiusa & Barbara Richiusa
Culinary Profile and Bifocal Review
The beautiful French Riviera has long been viewed as the place for fine dining where great chefs are trained. Now you can experience food in the grand tradition of the great French chefs, right here in the Mexican Riviera of Los Cabos at one of three French Riviera restaurants or Cafes.
If you are looking for something light but delicious The French Riviera Bakery in San Jose or the Boutique in San Lucas are a must!
Each cup of regular or decaf coffee is individually fresh-brewed. Your eyes will light up like a kid in a candy store when you see the magnificent selection of fresh breads and pastries or you can make a selection from a modest menu of breakfast or lunch items. Where else can you be in Mexico and feel you are in a café in Paris? In San Jose you can view the team of pastry chefs as they lovingly prepare the treats for both cafes and many other businesses on the Cape.
The “secret weapon” of the French Riviera armada is the award winning chef, Jacques Chretien. Jacques oversees everything from preparation to presentation in exactly the same way he has astonished royalty and celebrities around the globe.
If your nature makes you want to take it to the limit and savor the ultimate in French cuisine then the French Riviera Restaurant, found on the Transpenisular is sure to satisfy.
Jacques and Sophie Chretien came to Los Cabos by way of Pierre Cardin’s Maxim’s in Mexico City. After fulfilling a two year contract as the executive chef with the exclusive Esperanza Resort, tantalizing the palette’s of the celebrity elite, Sophie “loved the climate” and the two decided to open their first of three eateries in San Jose. “My desire was to have a bakery where people could go and experience something different, but Jacques expertise was in fine dining. He is a member of the Maitres Cuisiners de France (the Master Chefs of France). This is an exclusive, invitation only society, which is an earned privilege. He wanted to open the restaurant where he could offer the high quality and fresh products to his guests, without their having to go to Paris or some of the exclusive resorts.” They now have about forty employees. Some who came all the way from France with them, but the bulk of the remainder are locals. The addition of a third café in Cabo San Lucas now makes these great products available to people at both ends of the corridor as well as both ends of the financial spectrum.
Chef Jacques says of their accomplishment, “ My hope is to make the Bakery and the Boutique similar, eventually. However, if you come to Los Cabos and you don’t go at least once to the French Riviera Restaurant, you don’t know the full experience of Cabo.” When he speaks proudly of his food, he speaks from experience as his biography reads like the who’s who of culinary art. He is a member of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs—the cream of the crop of chefs, wine experts and food connoisseurs. He has lived in France and managed some of the best French restaurants impressing this same elite society of food and wine experts. When the movie Troy was shooting along the Corridor, his cafés and restaurant were a constant supplier to the likes of Jennifer, Brad and the rest of the cast and crew. When elite events or weddings are being planned here in Los Cabos, it is Chef Jacques who is trusted with the food and wine selections. It is for reasons such as these that The Baja Traveller named his restaurant, “the best French restaurant in Los Cabos.” And, why in May, Jacques will go to Paramount Studios in Hollywood to participate in the Wine Masters event. Locally, he has also established his expertise with wine, as he helped to make the “Le Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Event a great success.
Jacques, Sophie and their staff contribute in other ways to the local culture and economy by such activities as making a gigantic Strawberry Tart to benefit the Red Cross here in Los Cabos to offering cooking classes for kids.
If you decide to experience the finest dining in the area, look for the French Riviera sign on the highway at km #6 in the Plaza Del Rey. You will have three menus to choose from, with multiple selections in each category. “We offer a good value, good quality three or four course meal for $49 or $59. Then there is the Chef’s Choice, 7 course meal for $150 per person, which includes 6 different wines.” Before you balk at the cost, remember that this is a dining experience not just a meal. This kind of experience is for those who want to take the time to taste their food, fitting into the relaxed pace of the area. You will be served smaller portions, with very distinct flavors and the servers (and perhaps the chef himself) will narrate each setting, selection and service. Our meal lasted for over three hours!
On the night we dined, our menu included a variety of appetizers, a light salad, an asparagus and scallop soup, oyster-stuffed pastries, frog legs, chicken stuffed with caviar, a pre-dessert, a dessert and post dessert! The wine cellar boasts more than 150 varieties of wines from Mexico, California and France to name a few. And, the pre-dinner margarita (made with an aged tequila) was equally impressive.
What is it that makes French food so special? According to Chef Jacques, “It is a more real food. It is very simple like the French people. By that I mean, if you eat Chinese food, or some other kinds of food—which I also love to eat—you get a lot of flavors all mixed together. You don’t really know what is in there. With French food, filet mignon for instance, there is one food that is featured and maybe surrounded by a couple of other things. You know what you are eating with each course. If you are in Paris, or another city in France, it is the same way. There is one central building or landmark, like the Eiffel Tower and everyone congregates around it. Los Cabos is an International town that is very much like a French town, very different from other towns you might find in Mexico. Our guests are about 60% from the U.S. and Canada, 20% from Mexico and 20% from other places, such as Europe. We came here by way of Mexico City, and for one thing there are not as many people here, so you don’t have as many problems. People are very friendly and the Arcos is a landmark just like those you find in France, where people congregate and meet.” The two cultures blend well.
Food and service of this caliber often requires months of advance reservations, and will likely be much more difficult to accomplish in the near future. Our advice is to take advantage of this relatively new opportunity and come to enjoy this experience now.
Barbara summed it up this way, “I’m well traveled and never have I had a dining experience like this. I used to wonder what all the fuss was about, when I saw celebrities and dignitaries praising the dining experience offered by incredible French Cuisine. I wanted to know what could possibly make the food so good. Well, now I know. “