After a champagne-soaked final night at his groundbreaking Copenhagen restaurant, chef René Redzepi is about to welcome guests to his latest endeavor, Noma Mexico. While the world waits for Noma 2.0, Redzepi, former Noma pastry chef Rosio Sanchez (who now runs the essential Copenhagen taqueria Hija de Sanchez), brand-new Noma business partner Ali Sonko, and plenty of cooks have headed to the beachside city of Tulum, where they are finally ready to welcome the public to the latest iteration of their famed tasting menu.
It’s a lot to take in, so here now, 20 questions that explain Noma Mexico:
1. What is it?
Briefly, this is third-ever full-scale Noma pop-up, wherein Redzepi and company decamp to a new city, set up shop, and open a restaurant for a predetermined amount of time. The idea is to bring the Noma ethos of hyper-locality (you know, like, what some, maybe, might call “a sense of time and place”) to tasting menu dining in different regions. The team learns about new ingredients and culinary styles while also delighting big meal trophy hunters around the world.
The first-ever full Noma pop-up was in Tokyo in 2015, followed by another in Sydney the next year. (Redzepi did a 10-day residency in London in 2012). Tulum is by far the least-populated city to ever host a Noma pop-up; for American diners, it is also the closest Redzepi has been geographically. To make the pop-up happen, Noma partnered with American Express and Colibri Boutique Hotels.
2. Where is it?
The website describes the location as “nestled between the jungle and the Caribbean Sea in Tulum.” Tulum is located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula’s coast line, an area known as the Riviera Maya. Noma Mexico is located on Carretera Tulum a Boca Paila, km 81.
3. How much does it cost?
The price for the tasting menu and beverage pairing is $600 USD per person, plus 16 percent local tax, and a nine percent service charge. Assuming no additional charges, that puts a meal for two at $1,500.
4. When does it open?
Officially, the pop-up opens tomorrow, April 12, but Redzepi and the team have been hosting preview dinners.
5. When does it end?
The last day of the pop-up is May 28.
6. Is it too late to get tickets?
7. Does that mean I have zero chance of getting in?
Not exactly. Per Redzepi buddy and Momofuku chef-founder David Chang’s Instagram missive from Mexico (lightly edited for spelling and grammar): “Pro tip: Noma is offering a walk-in only bar menu separate from the sold-out, reservation-only tasting menu. So if you are in Tulum and sans reservations, queue up for the bar.”
(If that doesn’t work, and you find yourself wandering the beaches of Tulum looking for a bite to eat, Eater’s got you covered with 18 other fantastic Tulum restaurants.)
8. What does Noma Mexico look like?
It looks like a jungle-treehouse-fort-restaurant-beach-shack, very of a piece with style of the most famous Tulum dining destination, Hartwood.
This is Noma:
This is Hartwood:
9. What kind of kitchen does Redzepi even have in the jungle?
The answer is a tricked-out one. He’s got a Vesuvio grill oven, a stainless and carbon steel beauty that burns charcoal and, per the company, “gives off a smoky aroma to the food, thus bringing out its full flavor.”
As at many other Tulum restaurants, live fire cooking is the star here. Just look at this killer set-up, which has adjustable grills that allow Redzepi to subject the food to varying degrees of heat.
Plus, there’s some indoor-ish prep space:
10. Which local ingredients is Redzepi crushing hardest on?
All Instagram signs point to him being a kid in a candy store. Highlights include: 49-pound jackfruit, shockingly pretty octopus, “the best mangos ever,” fresh cacao fruit, and giant melon clam, which Redzepi dubs the “best clam ever.”
11. Is he incorporating traditional Mexican techniques?
He’s exploring the techniques. Check out this video about corn pibinal:
But Redzepi told CN Traveler: “We won’t be cooking a traditional Mexican meal with a Scandinavian twist. We cannot cook as well as the people here who have been doing it forever, but we will be inspired from it.”
12. What about tortillas?
Believe it. Redzepi has an entire tortilla team.
13. What was David Chang’s favorite bite from the preview?
He says: “I think the oyster pork taco will be best thing I will taste all year.”
14. What else has Redzepi been serving?
15. What else has Redzepi said about the menu?
He told Vogue to expect spice: “It is the first time that I’ve ever worked with spice, and the first time that Noma has ever been influenced by it. Scandinavian food is essentially based on fat and sugars with hits of umami through our fermentations. Discovering spice is like uncovering a sixth flavor. It works in the same way as umami. I would say spice is better than MSG. So it’s basically all over the menu.”
16. What about the coffee situation?
Coffee legend Tim Wendelboe is on it. Per Sprudge, “Wendelboe’s coffee—100% sourced from Chiapas” will be served, made from beans roasted in Mexico. Wendelboe tells Sprudge there will be several coffee drinks including:
- “Warm filter coffee”
- “Drinks with ice, using hot coffees that we cool down before adding syrups” as in one drink with “sour orange, honey, and a filter coffee that’s cooled down, served in a glass”
- A cold espresso drink
17. How long is the meal?
The Noma Mexico website puts the meal at two and a half hours. Or $4 per minute, before tax and service!
18. Pause: What’s going on with Noma Copenhagen anyway?
19. So is Noma Mexico just a fancy dinner in a scenic setting or what?
It is hard to ignore the wealth gap between diners who can afford to visit the restaurant and the place the restaurant exists.
Redzepi is trying to grapple with this, however, launching a “scholarship fund” to bring Mexican culinary students to his Copenhagen home base for internships. Plus he plans to serve free lunches to culinary students for the pop-up’s final two weeks. The average daily wage in Mexico is $15.
Redzepi’s past pop-ups earned rave reviews, and certainly Noma Mexico looks like it will deliver a delicious meal. Whether that delicious meal is worth the travel and expense remains to be seen.
20. Anything else to know?
Visitors are already actively using the Noma Mexico Instagram geotag. Unless you got one of the coveted tickets, that’s probably your best bet for following along. Scored a ticket? Drop your thoughts on the meal you had in the comments below.
• Noma Mexico [Official site]