Today’s review is special, special in a sense that this is the first time I’ve revisited a restaurant to re-review it. I stand by everything I write, good and bad, but I also know when I need to re-evaluate what has happened and look at things for the bigger picture. Today I have a story to tell, it may sound moralistic, but in this bloody, chaotic, over-sexualized and almost surreal and nonsensical place we call 2016, it may be a dose of that “good news” we all yearn to hear every so often. So about two and a half years ago I lived in a condo in New Britain with my friend Pedro. Pedro’s girlfriend Naomi had a cousin who will remain nameless until the middle of the story for suspense purposes. This cousin came to the condo and cooked up some of the best Ahi I’ve ever had, she also made a mean sexy salad to go with it. On another occasion this same cousin came and made a pasta dish that was out of this world. This woman was attractive and was also a culinary whiz. Fast forward to last march, I reviewed Sayulita for brunch one Sunday morning and it was the perfect storm for a bad review. I was irritated, my pathetic lump of a girlfriend accompanied me at the time, it had just snowed a lot the night before, and I was just cranky. I ate at Sayulita, went home and wrote a scathing review and posted it to my at that time, Tumblr page, the review has since been removed.
Fast-forward again to this September, Pedro and Naomi’s wedding. I sauntered around the wedding making my way from table to table, all the while dodging the scornful laser eyes of another soul-less ex-lover. I knew I wouldn’t last long but right before I was about to pull an Irish goodbye and disappear into the vineyard that separated the actual reception from the parking lot I saw a STUNNING woman, in an orange dress no less! Who the fuck wears all orange to a wedding? It didn’t matter, this chick owned it and my stare was bordering on horny creepy. I approached my friend Elvira, Pedro’s cousin, and asked, “who’s the hot bitch in all orange?” Elvira answered, “Oh, she runs Sayulita, she knows exactly who you are and she hates you.” I snickered like a prick and replied “OMG SHUT UP!” Still not making the connection from the previous years, her identity eluded me and I remembered her only as an angry restaurant manager. I was beginning to get queasy, as I had been in the presence of someone I outwardly despise for over an hour, so I drove to Sliders and ate close to 36 hot wings in my Brooks Brothers suit.
A few months go by and my 38th birthday is steadily approaching. It fell on a Tuesday so I asked a couple friends of mine and Pedro if they would meet me at Millwrights the Monday before so we could check out Cook and The Bear. Pedro was into the idea and informed me that Naomi wanted to come and bring her cousin Lacey. “Oh Lacey! The hot tall girl that makes awesome tuna, yeah that’s cool bring her along” I replied. We all met and I sat down and we were bullshitting about something and I leaned into Pedro and said, “Lacey right? That’s her name? He replies, “Yeah dude, she works at Sayulita and she hates you.” “Wait what? THAT’S THE Lacey, same Lacey that made that banging tuna?” Pedro just replied with a nod. I felt a wave of confusion and disappointment wash over me. This was the girl in the orange dress from the wedding! The same woman I had welcomed into my house, I had gone and totally shit on her restaurant. At this very moment I knew I had to do something. I got the bartenders attention and ordered two different desserts. The seat next to Lacey was open so I made my way down. Asked if I could sit and reintroduced myself. Surprisingly Lacey received me cordially and we discussed our differences and my mistake. The two desserts I ordered arrived and on perfect cue I shoved them right in front of her and uttered, “dessert?” She smiled, I explained to her that even though I might have been a little off my review game that day, there were still items I ate that I was definitely not a fan of and she understood. She explained to me that when the first review was initially read it seemed like an attack, or a bashing. This was her baby and I spoke ill of it.
I thought of how I would feel if someone criticized my blog, schoolwork, profession or even a record or song I had released, I realized I had hurt her feelings. So, never to be one in the business of upsetting pretty girls, I immediately devised a plan where I would make amends. I agreed to take down the old review, return to Sayulita on my own dime and give it a second time around. I also offered to take Lacey to a super nice dinner sometime in the near future. For a woman who took last weekend off to fly out to French Laundry for a one off meal, I’d really have to get my gears turning. Long story short, I returned to Sayulita yesterday in the midst of storm Jonas and gorged myself to the point of feeling VERY unattractive, such is the life of a food fanatic, so, shall we?
I arrived and guess who was outside shoveling and salting the stairs of the restaurant? I wanted to help but Lacey opened the door and greeted me with a “hello friend.” I walked into the bar and took a seat. I ate a lot, I’ve eaten tons before but for some reason I just kept eating. I dead lifted that morning and ate no lunch afterward so I knew I could so some damage, what I did was kind of crazy but whatever. I started with the salsa flight, what better way to set off a Mexican inspired restaurant review than to showcase all the different salsa. Out came a little metal bridge that held all the salsa ramekins. Traditional, verde, jalapeño hummus and mango habanero. Thinking back, they were all good, the mango was the hottest, but the hummus? They should package this and sell it in a small fridge up near the hostess station, I ate all of this. Next was the ceviche, I had this the last time I ate here and it was one of the things I really liked. I got it again and ate all of it. It is served on a bed of avocado with long plantains on the side. You can use the plantains to cut into the avocado and shovel it all in you mouth, exactly as I did. Next was a special they were doing. Smoked Chicken tostadas, this was pushed on my by my server after I had ordered what seemed to be too much. She told me that the kitchen had received a smoker for Christmas and Executive Chef Van Hurd had been using it and going crazy with it. I thought this was awesome so I obliged. They came to the table dressed in guacamole and what I believe to be crema fresca, radish, baby carrots and pomegranate.
I wasn’t full yet, out came my three tacos, Al Pastor, pork belly, and buttermilk chicken. The chicken went down first, this was a nice tender crisp piece of chicken, I’d love a sandwich with this chicken. Next the Al Pastor, now last time, I ripped on this one because it was tough. This time around the pork was marinated and it fell apart, this was really good, probably my favorite taco of the three. Finally the pork belly, Lacey wanted to fight me on this and we spoke of different variations of pork belly. This was not my favorite but I did eat more than half of it. Next, my server, without asking, brought me something absolutely magical. Sayulita makes their own horchata and it was the best horchata I’ve ever had, true nectar of the Aztec gods. Now for the big plate of the night, Lobster Enchiladas! This dish looked and tasted awesome and was stuffed with what seemed to be a full lobsters worth of meat. I inhaled it despite how full I was. It is served with rice and beans, which I picked at but I knew I had to let them be because there was still dessert. This was my favorite and from what I hear, is one of Sayulita’s most popular dishes.
Lacey then came to my table and asked me if I wanted anything non-alcoholic other than water, why not. She brought me a virgin version of their Winter Warmer. A nice gingery cranberry based mocktail with ginger sugar around the rim. I ordered an espresso and contemplated my blood sugar. Would this be one of those nights where I woke up to urinate and pass out and smash everything to bits in my bathroom? Not if I only got one dessert! I’ve had Sayulita’s flan before and it is top notch, but there had been an addition to the menu since I had last visited, the bread pudding it would be. I’m not going to front or even be bias or lie to you. This was the best bread pudding I have ever had. It was served with pepita brittle crumble and dried cherries drenched in a spicy Mexican chocolate sauce. When it arrived at the table what I thought was a dollop of whip cream on the top was actually ice cream, I got really excited for this, more than I should have been. It was a big portion and I ate ALL of it. I went to the bathroom, washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror for a bit. I was ashamed of myself, but I had to do it. I couldn’t return to Sayulita alone and get like three things, I needed to showcase this cuisine and do them proper.
There are some competitors in CT as far as “Mexican inspired” goes. Bar Taco in WeHa and Stamford, and Bodega in Fairfield and Norwalk. Here’s how today’s meal compared. Sayulita makes Bodega look like Chipotle, and it makes Bar Taco look like Taco Bell. Don’t get me wrong, Bodega was awesome when I went, but Sayulita’s charm, ambiance and menu offerings won out today. I asked one thing of Lacey, I explained to her that I always make a picture with the loaves on it for a rating. In this picture I wanted her holding a knife to my throat. She complained and made excuses and said she wasn’t ready and wasn’t dressed nice enough. I finally got her to do it but she hated the way she looked, I looked insane, and the pic was washed out anyway. So I went through her Facebook and found a stunning pic or that orange dress wearing beauty from the wedding. She is probably going to kill me for this, but I hereby give Sayulita…
So, when I write, I am honest. There is a difference though, if you can’t admit fault, and re-evaluate your past ideas, that is called being ignorant. If you want to move forward in anything you do you have to grow, and ignorance stunts your growth. Thank you to Lacey, Chef Van and the Sayulita staff for even letting me in the building to write this review. Go on a Friday or Saturday for dinner and experience it for yourself.