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Date Night #5 - Oh Lala!

Over the course of our 26+ years together, we've been to countless restaurants - from the seediest of sidewalk street vendors, to the fanciest of fine dining establishments, and everything in between - yet very few have captured our hearts the way Oh Lala in Playa del Carmen has. We discovered it by chance several years ago when we were traveling with The Boys. We were shopping along 5th Avenue (which was MUCH different back then), when a storm swiftly rolled in and started pouring rain on us. We immediately sought shelter, and found ourselves under the covered patio of a tiny little restaurant called Oh Lala. While we weren't looking for a meal that night, we noted how cute the place looked, and vowed to come back. We honestly can't remember whether we went back that same trip, or if it was on a return visit, but we do recall that once we tried it we fell in love.

Oh Lala is a quaint restaurant with a small but diverse international menu that spans European, Indian, and Thai cuisines. It has moved since we originally discovered it, now serving as many as nine tables compared to its original five (or so) tables. The owners are George and Mikaela, and they are the sweetest couple! George (Jorge) was born in Medellin, Columbia, raised in the Netherlands, and trained as a French chef. Mikaela, who is originally from Portugal, hosts you with such warmth and charm that you feel as if you're her personal guests joining her and George for an intimate dinner in their home. Last year, when we were dining there with our friends Rich and Candace, we absolutely loved the green papaya salad that was one of the evening's specials. Candace asked Mikaela where she found such perfect papayas for the salad, and Mikaela blushed and asked how Candace knew to ask such a question. It turned out, George and Mikaela's neighbor had a papaya tree that was just bursting with papayas, and she just had to pick some to add to the evening's menu (of course with her neighbor's permission). That's exactly the type of restaurant this is... everything is fresh, and from the heart.

Our date night #5 was no exception! We had made reservations months in advance, and couldn't wait for the occasion! While every night is date night on vacation, we knew without question that this would be an 'official' date night. Our waiter for the evening was Manny (Manuel), and he was outstanding! While George and Mikaela weren't there (for reasons I'll get into shortly), they have done an amazing job hiring just the right people to maintain the ambiance and quality that makes us want to come back year after year.

Manny asked if we were celebrating anything special, and we said we were just enjoying 'date night'. We shared with him how we're on a mission to have 52 date nights in 2020, and that after being together for 26 years, it's important to make the time to celebrate ourselves as often as we can. We also told him about how we first discovered Oh Lala, and that we make it a point to come back every time we're in Riviera Maya. He seemed genuinely moved by our story, and went out of his way to make our evening as special as possible. We both had lovely meals, beginning with a delightful burrata salad (with arugula, sweet tomatoes, prosciutto, and burrata of course!) that we shared, and moving on to Thai dishes for each of us - a seafood panang curry for me, and a beef filet panang curry for David. Both were spectacular!

We were just beginning to wonder about what delights might be in store for dessert, when Manny, followed by the entire Oh Lala staff, came out from the kitchen with a dessert plate that said "Happy 26th Anniversary!" spelled out in chocolate! They were beaming with enthusiasm, and it was just the sweetest thing they could have possibly done! Manny said they did it not only because we were celebrating our anniversary (or close enough, anyway), but because we had chosen to spend it with them, and had been such loyal patrons for so many years. We hardly knew what to say! It was a very special moment for a very special evening... one that we will never forget!

After savoring the homemade cheesecake and gelato, and basking in the afterglow of a fabulous meal, we reluctantly bid our farewells and headed back to our resort. Before we left, we asked about George and Mikaela, and were told they were busy with the launch of their newest restaurant called Belmonte - a Portuguese restaurant they had just opened a few months ago. We vowed to stop by while in Mexico, and we did! But that's another story...

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