Both nouvelle and regional Mexican cuisine are hard to find on Cozumel, but chef Kris Wallenta is determined to fill that niche. His creativity starts with a twist on all names—Kinta for Quinta, Quekas for quesadillas, and so on. Though the names seem a bit gimmicky, the food reflects his sense of fun without sacrificing flavor. Melted Oaxaca cheese blends with poblano chili sauce and black huitlachoche (a fungus that grows on corn and is called the Mexican truffle by some) in the Quekas, and the Kamaron y Kallo estillo Kinta pairs grilled shrimp and scallops with tomato-corn salsa. The absolutely tummy-pleasing (and filling) Porky Pasilla is a blend of slow-roasted pork with pasilla chilies and crimini mushrooms, whose heat is tamed with fig marmalade. If you have any room left, share the Budin de Abuelita, Wallenta's take on the traditional tres leches cake—it's a bread pudding with bananas, chocolate, and cajeta (caramelized goat milk). The setting is equally sophisticated, with original abstract paintings and clever, colorful crosses and animals decorating vivid yellow and orange walls.

Wallenta has opened a second cheery spot called Kondesa Cozumel, named after one of Mexico City's chicest neighborhoods, at Av. 5 between calles 5 and 7S, 987/869-1086.