La Palapa Belga (Cancún, Quintana Roo)

Our last review in Cancún was one of the more unusual places in the Hotel Zone, La Palapa Belga. First, it’s pretty well hidden; La Palapa Belga is not on the main drag (Ave Kulkulcan), or at one of the large resorts, but instead is located behind the Hotel Imperial Laguna, one of the Hotel Zone’s smaller boutique hotels. The signage is minimal, so you have to find the Hotel Imperial, wander through the lobby to the pool area behind it, and then head for the grass-roofed palapa, with a very nice outdoor terrace looking over the lagoon (complete with crocodiles). The second unique bit is is the cuisine; as the name implies, La Palapa Belga serves… Belgian food. Yup, Belgian food. That makes it one of the more unique spots around Cancún.

The open-air nature of La Palapa Belga is nice. Unlike the places on the main strip on the lagoon that look towards downtown Cancún, the terrace here looks across at several of the new hotels, so you get a nice view of the resort lights reflecting off the lagoon. And you get the occasional crocodile swimming along, looking for handouts.

For our appetizers, we got both a beef tartare and the champiñones au gratin. The latter came out first, roasted mushrooms with roquefort cheese. These were roasted just to the right level of tenderness, the particular roquefort providing a bit of bit but not overwhelming the mushroom, and just enough oil, salt and pepper to season it.

Next up is was one of the dishes that I always associate with Belgium, and expect at most Belgian places: a good Beef Tartare (“Cannibal”, as they call it in Belgium). La Palapa Belga didn’t disappoint: a nicely tender, lightly-seasoned raw steak, served up with toasted bread and pickles. This was exactly what I expected and hoped for, and a very pleasant surprise for being in a Mexican resort area.

For the main course, I got the special, the Jambono. This is basically a roasted hind leg served up with peppers, onions, and a baked potato. The roasting here was exquisite: the meat tender, with the skin nicely crisped, the fat reducing and spreading through the tender meat. While rather a lot of food (Carol and I could have reasonably split this instead of each getting one), this was very enjoyable.

Finally, dessert was another of my favorite French classics, the crème brûlée. This was a classic rendition: a smooth and creamy custard without any chalkiness, with strong vanilla notes. Topped with a nice sugar crust with just enough crack to it (and that’s half the enjoyment of a crème brûlée, that initial crack with a spoon). Overall, this was a great way to wrap up the meal.

In the end, La Palapa Belga is truly one of Cancún’s hidden gems: it’s a great (but hidden) outdoor dining spot, the cuisine fills a unique niche for the Hotel Zone, and the food was both fantastic and exactly tickled some of my Belgian cravings. I’d definitely make this one of my dinner choices on a future visit.

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