The Iguana at Casa Kimberly
Everyone loves a lover, right? And in Puerto Vallarta certainly everyone loves the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton story. They certainly did have a wonderful love affair. I have read some of Burton’s diaries and that he was obsessed is an understatement. Their story here started with John Huston, miraculous director whose work embodies some of the finest American films ever made (e.g. The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Moby-Dick). He “discovered” Vallarta, cast Burton in The Night of the Iguana and sold him Casa Kimberly which Burton gave to Taylor in 1964. So the stage was set for the celebrated drinking, lovemaking (and fighting) that ensued. Now the casa is a beautiful boutique hotel, redolent of an Italian palazzo.
Enter through the portals past a sweet sculpture of the couple by famed local sculptor Jim Demetro who has contributed so much to Puerto Vallarta’s aesthetic. Then up the beautiful tiled stairs and past a very arresting painting of Liz, her famed violet eyes here rendered deep deep blue. Pose for a photograph on the little bridge (La Puente de Amor) that connects Casa Kimberly’s two casitas. And then the fun begins as you enter the dining room where the tables are starting to fill and guests are rushing about oohing and aahing over the palatial nature of their surroundings and the wondrous view.
The executive chef is also the chef at sister hotel Hacienda San Angel and he is a whiz at marrying his fare with Mexican staples such as squash blossoms, huitlachoche, and all manner of chiles. I adore gazpacho, what a perfect soup on a warm evening, here it is finished with a green apple julienne. The lobster tacos are fantastic, piled high with lovely tender lobster. I also recommend the salad of baked Portobello with chevre. As a Mexican pork lover I really enjoy the Chamorro de Puerco, it is a hearty dish though, I warn you! As is the Angus steak wrapped in hojas santa leaves or the large filet on the bone served with grilled cactus. All the fish dishes are delicious, sea bass served with hibiscus and chipotle, salmon a la parilla with a jalapeño cream, the ever-popular shrimp Diablo.
A friend enjoyed the grilled Cornish game hen served with chayote gratin and a tamarindo glaze. Everywhere are these Mexican flourishes which enhance but do not overwhelm the dishes. Now is a particularly good time to try The Iguana as now until June 10th they are in the midst of their restaurant week(s) offerings, a choice of one of three apps, entrees or desserts. Speaking of the latter they’ve a rompope flan, a crème brulee made with mamey fruit, goat cheese mousse with marinated strawberries. I am weak when it comes to chocolate – the tart made with two different chocolates with lots of berries atop is my favorite.
The 12 piece mariachi musicians, La Joya de Mexico, contribute to the nightly drama, it is almost a floorshow and very thrilling. After dinner you can choose from a dazzling array of mescals and tequilas for a nightcap and, if the Taylor/Burton magic has cast its spell on you, you could opt to stay in one of their luxurious suites. It will add a few more zeros to your cuenta but it might just be worth it!