Cocina Nueva in Zihuatanejo

La Casa Que Canta

Dining at La Casa Que Canta, that romantic cliffside resort overlooking the sailboats in Mexico's Zihuatanejo Bay, has always been special. But after a recent menu overhaul, it's decidedly not just the ambience that makes the experience divine. Hired on as consultant last December, Ercolino Crugnale, award-winning chef of Oceana and Mezcal in Scottsdale, Arizona, instituted a new mandate: authentic dishes that celebrate the flavors of Mexico with fresh local ingredients. Now, with head chef Juan Antonio Garcia Giles from Acapulco onboard, the restaurant has hit its stride. Simple but wonderful are the down-home sopa de tortilla, a tangy-spicy paseachila-chili-based soup topped with Oaxaca cheese and delicate tortilla chips; and the ensalada tropical, with the texture-flavor one-two punch of crunchy jicama and chunks of spectacularly sweet and juicy local grapefruit and oranges. Seafood bought from the fisherman who caught it a few hours before is given its due in dishes like shrimp sautéed in garlic sauce with a side of plantain-sweetened rice or red snapper grilled with meaty slices of portobello mushrooms and served in a traditional broth of pickled vegetables. Dinner, $60. Camon Escenico a Playa la Ropa, Zihuatanejo; 888-523-5050; fax 52-755-554-7900.