A dispatch from the world’s most-watched pop-up.
When you’re offered an opportunity to go to a René Redzepi restaurant, which happens about as often as a unicorn sighting, you don’t hesitate. You question nothing. Worms? Sure. Ant larvae? Yes, please. Grasshoppers? Bring them on. All three were on the menu Saturday at Noma Mexico for night four of Redzepi’s temporary restaurant in Tulum.
The intensity and precision of his Copenhagen kitchen and impeccable front-of-house hospitality made the trip with him from Denmark, but the open-air jungle setting, sand floors and swampy 80-degree temperatures seem to have mellowed everyone out a bit. And perhaps no one more than Redzepi whose almost daily Instagram stories are set to the sound of his infectious laugh and child-like wonderment over all of the new ingredients he now has access to.
Opening a restaurant is daunting and often soul crushing but the Noma team ups the ante by doing it in a new city each time (Tokyo in 2015, Sydney in 2016 and now Tulum) and, this year, in a place that had no existing infrastructure. They built the restaurant from the ground up including gas and power lines and spent months looking for local artisans to build the furniture and make the dinnerware.
The kitchen has what you might expect including multiple open fire grills, a Vesuvius grill oven and Mayan women milling masa to make tortillas. It also has the unexpected, which we saw during our after-dinner tour: a makeshift clothesline covered in bathing suits from a pre-shift swim (someone seems to favor Speedos), an advantage of being across the street from a beach, and a small gym in one corner cobbled together by some of the chefs (they are an impressively fit crew).
The infrastructure and weather challenges—rain was approaching when we visited so they had to move us to a covered area as a precaution—make the whole experience even more charming. What the Noma team has done is create the ultimate beach party, for the next seven weeks anyway, complete with lots of mezcal, reggae music and a menu that is deeply respectful of local traditions and flavors yet wildly innovative at the same time, as only they can do.