A new tasting menu at the Fairmont Mayakoba tests even the most adventurous of eaters.
The first time I ate an insect, it was a delicately fried ant, placed on top of a sliver of pineapple as part of a tasting menu at D.O.M. in Sao Paolo. I was squeamish, but being familiar with chef Alex Atala’s work, I had already embraced the fact that I’d be served bugs. I ate the whole thing in one bite, and will admit I didn’t taste much—the taste of the ant was mostly covered by the sweetness and acidity of the pineapple.
This experience was at the forefront of my mind when I agreed to try the new insect tasting menu at the Fairmont Mayakoba. I didn’t have much context, just that it would be three types of insects, each paired with beer or mezcal, but managed to talk a friend into joining me.
We met our lovely host at the Fairmont’s renovated La Laguna restaurant, which, along with the dining spots at the hotels, is now overseen by chef Richard Sandoval. After a brief explanation of the three types of Bruxo mezcal we’d be trying, plates with heaping piles of bugs were brought out. One dainty ant this was not.
We started with the jumil, otherwise known as a small stink bug. These were small and smoky, but between the crunchy shells and legs, it was pretty hard to escape the fact that we were definitely eating bugs. Thankfully, there were hot sauces, picked onions, and tortillas to accompany the meal, and as soon as we turned them into mini jumil tacos, they became much more palatable.
Next up were acocil, a crayfish that’s native to Mexico. These were my favorite of the bunch—they were meaty, and reminded me of the little dried shrimp you often see in Chinese food. I happily ate these alone (accompanied by the second mezcal, which was slightly sweeter to match the sweetness of the acocil).
The last of the trio was chapulin, or grasshopper—probably the most common insect found in Mexican food. These were served with pickled radishes, and had a great balance of meatiness and crunch.
Three tacos (and many sips of mezcal later), we were both pretty stuffed. Then they brought out the finale, a platter of fresh fruit—mango, peach, and lemon, with worm salt, grasshopper salt, and crushed chiles. This, to me, was the highlight of the meal. I loved dipping the fruit into the salt, and the ability to control how much salt I was eating.
As initially shocking as it was to see three big piles of bugs, this tasting menu was an ideal way to try a variety of insects—something that’s hard to come by at most high-end resorts. For the squeamish, turning the bugs into tacos is a fantastic way to trick your stomach. The menu is constantly changing—in the future, they may include other traditional maggots, leaf cutter ants, or ant eggs (all common in Mayan cuisine)—and absolutely worth leaving your comfort zone for.