We are so lucky to be just four hours from the crazy amazing waters of the Caribbean. We don’t make the drive very often but when we do it is with gusto and great dedication to pleasure. Laying supine in a beach chair, staring at the sky and taking intermittent dips in the ocean is high on our priority list but people watching on 5th Avenue is the main event in Playa, where we were last week. There are beautiful people and sunburnt vacationers. Older couples strolling arm in arm. Babies in their ruffled hats and diapers. It’s so optimistic. So diverse. It’s just lovely to look at all the different faces, all smiling, content from sun and sand and tequila.
Our other purpose is strictly gastronomic. We crave great seafood, snacks and sandwiches we can’t get here such as the awesome turkey sandwich at La Cueva del Chango, and Italian, the esteemed cuisine in Continental Playa. We also always once go out to dinner. Like your parents used to, wearing lipstick and fancy shoes, driven by an ardent desire for well-crafted cocktails and a good steak. We’re always searching for that elusive fantastic meal and most often are slightly disappointed. Not so on Friday night, when a little internet research combined with our powers of discernment and deduction took us straight to Wicky’s, where we dined and were definitely happy.
Not all but many, dare I say most restaurants in Playa have ambiance, a quality that is lacking here in Merida. When you arrive at Wicky’s you are graciously greeted and swept into the dining room by an automatic door, a very cute hostess and a well-choreographed swarm of waiters. The dining room is darkened, the bar handsome and stocked and a piano player is tickling the ivories lightly – it’s just what you expect from a classic steak house/supper club/sophisticated surf and turfy beachfront scene. I immediately ordered a martini with Ketel One and Malcolm had a scotch old enough to order its own scotch. Perfect. We perused the menu and knew we had chosen well. A fine dining experience had begun.
The shrimp were plump and flavorful. Malcolm started with Shrimp a la Playa, stuffed with cheese and jalapeno and wrapped in bacon. The dish could have been a disaster, overwrought and overcooked, but it wasn’t. Not quite elegant, but so delicious I wanted to crawl under the cover of bacon and dream of Oaxaca for one thousand years. I can’t say no to an iceberg wedge when I’m having steak, and oh yes, did I have steak. The salad was crisp and simple, reminiscent of another time. Which is sort of Wicky’s gimmick. An anachronism wrapped in a riddle. It exists somewhere between the late 50′s, early 80′s and a vaguely Utopian Future. At this point I must mention the magician.
I jokingly pointed to the swarthy fellow with a leather bound book, whom we assumed was the sommelier, and said, “Look, they have a magician!” And suddenly what we thought was the wine list was in flames and he swiftly appeared at our table. He introduced himself in a charmingly accented English, performed card tricks and clever sleight of hand that amused even our jaded L.A. dining companions and then, like a shadow, he was gone. He did not expect any type of compensation, other than delight and awe and his presence cemented our respect for how well this restaurant combined substance and illusion. I will henceforth return to the story of the food.
There were steaks all around and each of them was beautiful. We ordered asparagus and mushrooms for the table which were served almost imperceptibly over your right shoulder. The vegetables complemented the aged Angus beef, which went well with the wine, which was Penfolds. I had the 8 oz filet and Malcolm the rib eye which was so damn tasty we asked for a doggie bag, which accompanied us to every bar we stopped at on our vodka-soaked crawl back to the condo and then with us in the truck across the peninsula on Sunday so that it could become a glorious steak sandwich last night. If I am being honest with you dear readers, and you know I almost never am, I felt the steak was just a touch better at the Ruth’s Chris in Cancun, but this is the sort of problem we are so fortunate to detect. I ate every juicy morsel and then I wept a little.
The service is lovely there. The attention to detail was impressive to us, and probably seamless to an American tourist. Our friends were well pleased and so were we. We walked out into the chilly night stuffed but feeling light and transformed. We did not have room for dessert, but when we return I am without a doubt ordering my favorite – bananas foster with Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream. Actually, there are many interesting options for postprandial enjoyment. Don’t run but walk like a lady to Wicky’s when you are next in Playa del Carmen, order a very clean martini and bask in the glow a superb dinner. This is a truly outstanding restaurant in perhaps the coolest little vacation spot in all of sunny Mexico.
Wicky’s is located at 10th and the beach. Prices are reasonable.