One Enchanted Evening
24 January 2018 | Barra de Navidad
Gail, a restaurant guest, and George roasting Marshmallows
January 22, 2018
It all began when our friends, Walt and Shelly from SV/Dune, said they were leaving the marina soon and we should go out for dinner. "Great." I said. "How about I make reservations at Barra Galeria de Arte and Restaurant? We have been wanting to take Gail there."
Barra Galeria de Arte and Restaurant is just what it says; both an art gallery and a restaurant. One must make reservations because it is very popular. In fact, an evening spent there is more like an event rather than an ordinary dinner out.
I initially made the reservation for five people. Then it swelled to seven, then eight, and then back to seven. On the afternoon of our dinner, I passed Nancy from SV/Aldabra who asked if she could join us. "Sure. We actually have a reservation for eight now, but only seven people. You'll be number eight."
"I'm not certain, but I think Dolce might join us, and maybe Catatude. Do you think that would be alright?" She asked.
"Sure." I said, not really sure at all. "They can probably accommodate us."
This is how it goes with cruisers in Barra. We start our day with boat chores and when it gets too hot, we find our way to the pool. One person talks to the next who talks to the next and soon we have a party of twelve. It's a very friendly community.
Around 5:30, we called the water taxi and headed over to Barra proper. It is about a five-minute ride in a panga. The lagoon is surrounded by mountains with palms trees lining the shore. Palapas stand behind them. The sun was low in the sky and the wind through my hair felt refreshing after the heat of the day. It was a delightful way to start the evening.
We all gathered on the rooftop of the Alondra Hotel. It has become a daily ritual where the cruisers congregate to watch the sunset. The bar serves drinks, but no food and is sparsely decorated, if at all. The décor is the view. The sunsets over the Pacific Ocean are stunning and everyone gathers around to wait for the green flash. (No luck for me, so far.) I find the evenings even more beautiful. As the sun goes down, the lights come up and the streets begin to come alive with people venturing out into the cool night air.
We left Hotel Alondra, walked two blocks and turned left on the avenue called Mazatlán. It is much like any other street in Barra. The road is narrow and lined with concrete pavers. On either side are low-lying, multi-colored buildings with small tiendas selling everything from fishing gear to clothing to toys to groceries. Their wares are neatly displayed and flow over onto the sidewalks so potential customers are sure not to miss them. Laundry hangs from second-floor balconies. Dogs roam the street while roosters pick at the trash. Music rings loud from cars as they pass by. What makes this street different, though, is the restaurant. In daylight, you might pass it, but at night, you can't miss it. Painted a bright orange with potted plants on the porch ledge, it is what lies beyond the open doors that pulls you in.
After a short walk through a hallway, the entrance reveals a beautifully landscaped palm garden. It is the center focus of the restaurant. To one side, they have created a small beach setting, complete with a bonfire and four beach chairs. Tables are scattered about under the stars. Candlelight flickers from every corner. In the center of the garden is a large bird cage where cockatiels and finches sing along with the soft music piped in on the speakers. In the very back sits a lounge area with a wooden tequila-tasting bar. A very old Tamarindo tree reaches high into the sky.
On either side of the entrance hallway are two small rooms. The one to the right is called "Rosa" and is set-up for customers. The walls are covered with local artists' paintings. The other is the "Galeria." It is filled with photography by the owner, Robert. He has all kinds of photos, but it is his portraits that I find most captivating. Robert has an eye for the human soul and reveals it in his art.
The restaurant/gallery is owned by Robert and Rosy. I believe he is Canadian (not really sure about that) and she is Mexican. The photography is his. She is the chef. The building has been in Rosy's family for generations. In fact, Rosy was born in the Galeria room. This is her home and there is no other place she would rather be. Some of her recipes have been handed down from her grandmother. To that, Rosy has added her own artistry. Only two meals are offered per evening. One is always a variation of a chile relleno and the other is usually a meat dish. The food is exquisite and we have never been disappointed.
When we enter, we are immediately enchanted by the setting. Robert comes over and welcomes us. He shows us to our table. Suddenly our eight becomes nine as our yoga instructor, Sandra, joins us. Meanwhile, Mark wanders back to the lounge and finds a lone sailor sitting with his dog. He invites Dave and Bernie to join us. Now we are ten.
After the drinks are served, we are offered a complimentary appetizer. Tonight, it is two fried tomatoes with a cilantro sauce. I ordered the chile relleno with chicken. Jay ordered the barbecued ribs. The platters come with fresh steamed vegetables and rice. Dessert is chocolate cake. I decline and Jay accepts. I surrendered and took a bite. And then another. And another. We are then served a complimentary shot of tequila. Robert joins us and makes a toast. He has been a constant presence to the customers throughout the evening, chatting and making sure all our needs have been met. The very last surprise is marshmallows on sticks. We are invited to sit around the beach fire and roast them. A fitting ending for a perfect evening.
I have wondered what it is, exactly, that pulls us in to the restaurant. Could it be the soft glow and flickering of fire? Or, maybe it is more than that. Maybe it is the spiritual energy of Rosy's ancestors that lures us in.