GASTRONOMY: The art or activity of cooking and eating fine food; the art or science of good eating.
The art of eating well while cruising and of exploring the world’s eateries by sailboat.
La Ballena Blanca
For nearly two weeks, Neil and I walked passed the corner of Langosta and Tiburón almost daily. Each afternoon, we noticed a group of young men hard at work sanding and painting what would become the eye-catching centerpiece of La Ballena Blanca. The space rapidly morphed from a dusty, empty room to a fully operational restaurant with a host of charming touches. A week before we left Banderas Bay to continue our journey south, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle’s newest eatery opened its doors.During our first visit, Eva Robles, a bubbly early 20-something greeted us with a lively, welcoming wave. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she proudly described the menu options and shared with us the restaurant’s roots. La Ballena Blanca is a family business. The smiling cast of characters who operate the establishment is young, most under the age of 30. Together, they are carrying on recipes that belonged to the family’s patriarch, their grandfather.Arched windows are trimmed with brick and large, wooden shutters swing open, inviting passersby to catch a glance at the attractive interior. A vibrant mural of the restaurant’s namesake, a white sperm whale, is painted on the wall behind the bar.
Next to it, a silhouette of a gaff-rigged schooner adds richness to the scene and pays homage to seafaring traditions along the coast of Central Mexico. Overhead, sails are strung to create a shade canopy for patrons.
The bar, constructed from a refurbished speed boat hull, competes with the mural of the whale for the most attention-grabbing feature in the restaurant. Eva’s father had purchased the boat long ago with a plan of fixing it up. Years later, untouched and weathered by the sun, her cousins convinced him to allow them repurpose the vessel, which they hoped would become the bar in the restaurant they were envisioning.Along with tortilla chips, three tasty sauces are presented with each meal: a mild, semisweet cilantro sauce; a creamy chipotle sauce; and traditional pico de gallo. Pickled purple cabbage, a garnish we found unique to La Ballena Blanca, adds delicious color to the table.We enjoyed both the tacos camarón and the marlin-camarón burrito. Both were delicious, but the tacos were our favorite, hands down. Tortillas as dark as buckwheat flour are a signature element of La Ballena Blanca’s tacos. The shrimping in the region is excellent, and the young entrepreneurs purchase shellfish and other seafood daily from the fishermen at the panga docks, less than a five-minute walk from the restaurant.
The shrimp are deep-fried in a simple batter, which enabled the creamy chipotle sauce and other garnishes to bring the dish to life. Finished with salsas, purple cabbage, or sauces to your liking, the tacos are nothing short of scrumptious! For 25 pesos each (roughly $1.75 USD) the meal cannot be beat!We left La Ballena Blanca with Eva’s email and phone number, her sincere request to call her should we “need anything while in La Cruz”, and a plan to return for at least one more round of tacos camarón before we weighed anchor to continue south.