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Noma's Mexico Pop-Up Is Charging $600 a Head

Meanwhile, 46 percent of the country lives in poverty

René Redezpi Noma René Redzepi/Facebook

René Redzepi — foraging savant and the chef behind one of the world’s most-acclaimed dining rooms — is bringing Noma, his restaurant in Copenhagen, to Mexico for six weeks next year.

This marks Redzepi’s third full-scale Noma pop-up, and will be held after the original location of Noma serves its final meal. But, it’s the first Noma pop-up that won’t take place in a major city; the previous two were held in Tokyo and Sydney. Noma: Mexico will not be held in the country’s capital, Mexico City, but instead within the resort town of Tulum in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán Peninsula. The population of this beachside tourist hot spot hovers around 18,000.

As the New York Times notes, over the past few years Redzepi has fallen in love with Mexico. It’s easy to see why. In 2014 the chef even went on a “taco quest” through the vast country. On his first authentic tacos al pastor experience Redzepi remarked, "I couldn't believe it. My virginity was taken. In the best possible way."

So now, along with his former sous and pastry chef Rosio Sanchez (who now owns and operates Copenhagen’s taqueria Hija de Sanchez), Redzepi is bringing his avant garde cooking and the entire Noma team to this place that he says he dreams about, Mexico. Curiously, Redzepi is planning to charge $600 USD per dinner at Noma: Tulum, including beverages but excluding tax (16%) and gratuity (9%).

Some related facts:

• The average daily wage per person in Mexico is $15.
• The average meal costs less than $4, especially now that Mexico’s peso has hit an all time low against the dollar.
• Mexico’s poverty rate lies just around 46 percent.
• In Mexico City, where many of the country’s wealthiest citizens live, several fine dining restaurants offer similarly elegant prix fixe menus. None of them charge much more than $100 per person.

Also of note: Noma: Tokyo cost diners around $340 per person; Noma: Sydney was around the same price. Both prices excluded beverages, tax, and tip. Beverage pairings were available for an additional $150 (an approximate price because of fluctuating exchange rates).

In a letter to fans on the restaurant’s website, Redzepi explains that he considers Mexico to be his “adopted home,” where he’s found “one of the most exciting cuisines” he’s ever tasted. Mexican cuisine has inspired his whole team in Copenhagen: “It is safe to say that there is already a touch of influence from Mexico in the food at noma.”

The dining room for this pop-up will be “on the cleared edge of the jungle,” according to the Times, and Redzepi and Sanchez plan to hire “at least four local cooks to produce fresh tortillas in an outdoor kitchen outfitted with grills and two comals, cast-iron griddles.” In his letter to fans he writes, “[e]xposed to the climate, it will be hot, steaming and unpredictable. Billowing smoke and the orange glow of flames will define us as all cooking will take place over the fire.” Servers will leave formal suits and shoes back in Denmark, and instead wear a uniform of beach shorts, shirts, and flip flops.

Redzepi did not offer details in the letter explaining the price of the pop-up or why he picked Tulum, as opposed to some of the country’s more obvious gastronomic capitals. Noma’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment after the close of the normal business day in Copenhagen. Read the letter in full, below.

Reservations for Noma: Tulum go on sale on Tuesday, December 6 at 10 a.m. EST. The restaurant will be open for dinner from Wednesday through Sunday each week from April 12 until May 28, 2017.

Dear friends,

We’re going to Mexico :D

2017 is going to mark a very special year for noma. We will be moving to our new location, which is all in the works, the last drawings are being finished up; planning is well underway. But before that happens, we are going to do one more residency, and this location is a very special one to me – Mexico.

I consider it to be my adopted home, one filled with almost a decade of cherished memories from vacations with my family. The place that I dream about. Home to one of the most exciting cuisines I have ever tasted: as old as time and yet so relevant. Full of ingredients I never knew existed. This cooking inspires the team and I constantly here in Copenhagen. It is safe to say that there is already a touch of influence from Mexico in the food at noma.

An addition to our residency this time will be our dear friend and former sous chef at noma, Rosio Sanchez together with her taqueria Hija de Sanchez. The creativity of the menu will be a joint endeavor. As one of the most talented chefs we know, and with Mexican roots herself, she will be a great guide for us as we delve into this culture and learn from it.

For the last 6 months, Rosio, a small team and I have been traveling all throughout the country from Merida to Ensenada, from Oaxaca to Guadalajara, and everywhere in between. We searched to find that special chile, to understand the seafood, to taste just a few of the infinite variations of mole, and to find inspiration in the vast and wonderful culture. We encountered some of the most kind and hospitable people to be found anywhere in the world. These were once in a lifetime experiences, which we will transform into a series of dishes and ultimately our menu at our restaurant in Mexico.

The outdoor open-air restaurant will sit nestled between the jungle and the Caribbean Sea in Tulum. Exposed to the climate, it will be hot, steaming and unpredictable. Billowing smoke and the orange glow of flames will define us as all cooking will take place over the fire. It will be wild like the Mexican landscape as we share our interpretation of the tastes from one of the most beautiful countries we’ve come to know.

See you under the canopy,

Best, René Redzepi & Rosio Sanchez

All Noma Coverage [E]
The 18 Essential Tulum Restaurants [E]