In case you haven’t been paying attention to the culinary world lately, this is the third pop-up concept of Copenhagen-based world famous restaurant: Noma Mexico is open for service from April 12th – May 28th 2017 in Tulum, just behind the beachfront Hotel La Zebra. We were there on the opening night to tell you why you should make your way to Tulum in the next 6 weeks.
WHERE THE JUNGLE MEETS THE SEA
Chef René Redzepi took the full team to Japan and Australia before, but this time the scope is a bit different. Nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the jungle in Tulum a whole new restaurant was built from scratch. A 32 meter long kitchen set up, several open fire cooking spots installed, 145 staff members flown in and accommodated. Not to forget the 4 essential local chefs from the little community of Yaxunah including a specially requested comal, to ensure the traditional and best way of making tortillas.
Redzepi has more than once declared his love for Mexican food and this time the Pop Up is a collaboration between him and Rosio Sanchez, former sous chef at Noma and founder of Hija de Sanchez (Taco spot in Copenhagen, that I already wrote about here). Sanchez, who has Mexican roots herself and Redzepi spent the last 6 months traveling all over Mexico, exploring the history and ingredients of local cuisine.
THE FOOD AT NOMA MEXICO
There is a distinct use of spices throughout the menu, which is new to the team at Noma because Scandinavian food at home is mainly based on fermentations, sugar and fat. 14 courses were served at the usual swift pace, with outstanding service and included:
- Four seasonal bites: Flor de Mayo and ginger, piñuela and tamarind, spring cactus with ant paste, giant kelp and mussels michelada (Delicious starter: especially the spring cactus tasted just like a sweet dark red berry with slight acid notes from the ant paste)
- Melon Clam from the Sea of Cortez (Served with beach herbs and mandarin, this was definitely one of my favorite dishes and probably the best clam I’ve ever had – see below)
- Salbute with dried tomatoes and chapulines (Mexican grasshoppers. I couldn’t really make out what they were, or how they taste exactly but I loved how this dished was prepared)
- Cold masa broth with lime and all the flowers of the moment (This was an amazingly refreshing and beautiful dish)
- Young coconut and caviar (Also very tasty, although I’m still wondering how caviar came on the menu…)
- Tropical Fruit and chile de árbol (This dish killed it for me. It’s so easy, yet such a massive taste explosion! I’ve never had mangoes this intense and sweet tasting before. There was another fruit called Anona, combined with lime juice and a slight level of spiciness through chili oil – OK wow I’m still tripping – see below)
- Banana Ceviche (With paste of grilled banana skin and sea weed salt)
- Chaya taco with fresh Bahia Falsa oyster (This taco was served in a kale-like leaf from the region, Chef Dave Chang declared it already the best dish of 2017 on his Instagram here, need I say more?)
- Whole grilled pumpkin (With kelp and avocado fudge, the first warm course of the menu – see below)
- Tostada with ant eggs and beans (alternative: pecan nuts. This was definitely the most entertaining part of the menu. I could hear conversations about this dish in particular the next day on the beach, and seriously it was surprisingly delicious. Creamy texture, just like beans – see below)
- Just cooked Octopus with “dzikilpak” (that’s a roasted local pumpkin seed paste, the Octopus was tender as expected, though I didn’t really enjoy this dish in particular… I guess I like my seafood grilled with a splash of lemon only)
- Cerdo Pelón and fresh milled corn from Yaxunah (Tacos Noma style served with banana al pastor, slices of citrus and fresh coriander)
- Dessert of grilled avocado and matey seeds (one of the most beautiful dishes – see below)
- Chocolate from native Jaguar cacao and Mixe chile (Chilies cooked in honey and stuffed with chocolate sorbet)
YES, I WOULD NOMA AGAIN
That said, this was a truly special experience to me. Incomparable to the one in Copenhagen last summer. I was blown away by what they’ve created in the middle of the Mexican jungle. The way they’ve managed to translate Scandinavian Noma aesthetics to a Hippie place like Tulum: from design details like glass- and tableware to the whole architecture of the bar. The creative flavor combinations and warm family like service, all this made it the best culinary experience I’ve had in my life yet.
The whole team is so obviously stoked about the fact they’re working in paradise for the next weeks, it’s simply contagious! The following days I caught several team members taking a dip in the ocean before going to work across the street. That alone must be the best motivation to sweat the rest of the day through in front of open fire ovens at an already hot average of 30* Celsius temperature (they are really wearing nike sweatbands around their heads in the kitchen).
Regular table bookings sold out within an hour. Now, for those of you who are still hoping to make this happen, there is a small chance that Noma will be allowing walk-ins in the next couple of days with an exclusive bar menu. So, I suggest you check Noma’s Instagram here and René’s here daily, it’s really worth following the stories too: lots of insights on how things are set up behind the scenes in the kitchen.
So, if you have the means to go, you should definitely make the trip! If you’re lucky enough and you do already have a reservation, take this note and do show up on time. On the second night already, James (one of the new partners at Noma) said they have had some problems with guest showing up late. I know the beach vibe let’s us all hang loose but this is a once in a lifetime thing and you wouldn’t want to miss out on any second! I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to take part and can’t wait for everything new at Noma 2.0 in Copenhagen!
Update from may 3rd:
Noma Mexico is now serving the promised bar menu. There will be 5 courses for 100$ including drinks. 90$ of that will be donated to the Mundo Maya Foundation, supporting sustainable social and economic development of Mayan communities.
More details on how to nomamex here:
- We welcome guests to line up each day at 12pm out in front of the restaurant on the wooden boardwalk
- The first 12 present in line will buy their ticket, and will then come back at 5:45pm for the start of service
- Please note that each person can only buy one seat
- Bar service runs between 5:45pm and 7:15pm each evening; the serving starts promptly at 5:45pm for all 12 guests
Photos: Jessie Schoeller, Jason Loucas Photography, @reneredzepinoma, @the_jenius