The King of Osso Buco promises me that I can have “Anything you want… if you just ask for it ahead of time”. While his popular Mediterranean/European restaurant on the Malecon in heart of Old Town is famous for Osso Buco and a French Onion Soup that is the j’oie de vie this side of Paris, Heinz Reinz also fields requests for Paella, Swiss Fondue and Cabbage Rolls. You have a craving for a dish from the old country; Heinz and his team will do their best to satisfy your wishes.
Sitting under an umbrella on the large ocean front patio of Coco Tropical, I was charmed by this long time resident of Mexico and a Puerto Vallarta food scene icon. Mr. Reize has an exemplary background as a chef, Executive Chef, Food and Beverage Manager and Hotel Manager all across this country he has called home for forty-two years. Working with the prestigious Hilton, Hyatt Regency and Krystal hotel chains Heinz started in Switzerland and traveled around the world cooking and managing kitchens from Holland to the US Virgin Islands and perhaps most interesting, as a chef during the Montreal 1967 World Expo. At one point Heinz prepared Beaver Tail Soup and flew to London to hand deliver it to the Queen of England. Heinz didn’t divulge but I can’t help but think he might have had blast during that assignment.
Living in Cancun, Acapulco and Ixtapa, for the past 21 years, Heinz Reize has called Puerto Vallarta home. Started with his long-time friend and associate Thierry Blouet and Silvan Müller, he is one of the original founders of the International Gourmet Festival held every November for the past 18 years in Puerto Vallarta, and he was once President of the Puerto Vallarta Hotel Association. Craving an opportunity to run on his own business, and realizing his heart was in the kitchen and not in hotel management, Heinz started Coco Tropical 16 years ago. He still employs the same Executive Chef, Jose Guadalupe Altamirano as on opening day and he has repeat customers that join him every day. Rumor has it there is one man who has come twice a day for the past 16 years for a drink at lunch and another at sunset.
The well-wishers and smiling waiters were enough to convince me that at the very least Heinz is a well-liked man who understands how to treat both his clients and his staff. He insists that his food maintain a level of quality without compromising on cost. He is accommodating and remains casual while offering an authentic European level of service and a fine dining experience. The menu is a mouthwatering list of classics including the famed Osso Buco and his Risotto, but it also includes some modern takes on traditional dishes. During my visit I had an incredible treat I haven’t enjoyed in years – escargot. These are served individually in little clay jugs and topped with a flaky pastry. Take off the pastry lid and turn out the garlic, butter and snail, allow a moment to let it cool and pop the whole thing in your mouth. Amazing. It’s cute and delicious. You will get a kick out of it. I also enjoyed an incredibly tender pepper steak, cooked perfectly, served with potato rosti, green beans and broccoli. The beef comes from Guadalajara and rivals any USA or Canadian beef. For dessert, and my mouth waters as I write this, I had the Chocolate Mousse, made just like Heinz’s mother used to make him as a boy. Que rico! It is smooth, rich and leaves you feeling luxurious.
You couldn’t ask for a better setting, facing the ocean, perfectly positioned for sunset viewing, Coco Tropical is open for lunch and dinner with two separate menus. The dinner menu is changed twice yearly and features many European dishes and a couple Mexican staples. Happy hour during high season sees 80-100 happy faces enjoying 2×1 on all national drinks and an early bird discount of 20% on all food. During low season the restaurant is open Monday to Saturday (closing for a couple months through July-September) and there are a number of dining specials to take advantage of including 30% off Osso Buco and Risotto dishes on Wednesdays, and 20% off all beef filets on Saturdays.
Starting on May 15th and running until May 30th, Coco Tropical will be participating in Restaurant Week with a set menu (with three options for each course) available for $189 pesos. The menu will feature the Seafood Trilogy, Osso Buco and Wiener Schnitzel off the dinner menu. Each course will be served with Rice and Salad. Dessert will include the Apple Fritter and Chocolate Mouse. Reservations are not necessary – no matter what they will find room for you.
Coco Tropical is located at Basillo Badillo – 101 along the Malecon. Phone (322) 222-5485 www.cocotropical.com the 19th Annual Festival Gourmet International runs from November 14-23 with over 30 invited chefs. www.festivalgourmet.com for more information.
By Madeline Milne