Renovation is expensive, especially when you’re renovating a high-end restaurant. Beyond the costs of renovation, every day your restaurant isn’t open you’re losing money.
For one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s infamous Noma restaurant, a planned renovation presented an opportunity. “We just wanted to come to Mexico,” Redzepi told Vogue.
And so they did.
With Noma’s Copenhagen location closed temporarily, Redzepi and his staff re-located to Tulum, Mexico – a tiny town along Mexico’s Caribbean coastline, where Redzepi, his staff, and a group of locals are serving 7,000 meals across the span of a month.
Each of those 7,000 meals comes with a $600 price tag attached (over $750 with tax and services included) – the absurdly high cost of a “hyper-local” tasting menu meal created by Redzepi and co. When the pop-up restaurant, known both as “Noma Mexico” and “Noma Tulum,” closes shop on May 28, it’ll have grossed over $4.2 million.
Not too shabby for a one-month pop-up restaurant in a remote region of Mexico! Here’s how they did it.
Noma Mexico opened reservations last December for its 7,000 potential spots. The reservations were snapped up in under two hours.
You don’t need to eat at Noma Mexico to know Tulum doesn’t have anything like it. The chef #RenéRedzepi transplanted most of his staff there while @nomacph, his restaurant in Copenhagen, prepares to move. He said he wanted #NomaMexico — photographed here by @adrianazehbrauskas — to be “the meal of the decade.” But does the pop-up restaurant make sense in #Tulum? As our critic @pete_wells read other critics’ reviews of the Mexico experiment, he had 2 thoughts: “The first, of course, was, ‘Holy banana peels, can I pull some strings and get in?’ This was quickly followed by, ‘What is the point?’” A review of a pop-up that sold out months ago struck him as “spectacularly useless.” But what he found even harder to grasp was the idea of a meal devoted to local traditions and ingredients that’s being prepared and consumed mostly by outsiders. Noma Mexico reaches the end of its 7-week run on Sunday, but @pete_wells isn’t going to eat there.
A few months later, on April 12, Noma Mexico opened its doors to diners. The pop-up only serves dinner, and only does that from Wednesday through Sunday each week.
Some of the ingredients that greet diners at the @nomacph pop-up restaurant in Tulum, Mexico. @pete_wells isn’t going to review it. #nomamexico “short-circuits my wiring as a critic. An actual review of a pop-up that sold out months ago strikes me as spectacularly useless. It would be as helpful as reviewing a wedding.” His story is through our profile link. (Photo: @adrianazehbrauskas)
People were <em>very</em> excited to try the new spin on Noma.
Total utter fan girl moment. Finished a 16 course dinner at the one and only #nomamexico leaving with a copy of the menu and a belly FULL of delicious food and wine. Thank you thank you for the best dinner of my life. #noma #reneredzepi #fangirl #sofull #sosweaty #sohot #tulum #mexico #degustation #matchingwines #iheartmexico #lifecomplete #sohappy #almostcried
The meal isn’t your standard menu-based experience: It’s an omakase-style setup, where you’re paying for a battery of dishes chosen by the chef. You’re putting yourself in their hands.
“Banana ceviche!! The banana is of a variation called Platano Manzano and paired with kelp oil. The latter is an ingredient that is often used in the kitchen of Noma. While filling embracing the exoticness of Mexican produce, the Noma team does carry their cooking DNA across the globe with them to Mexico.” 50 Best Tastemaker Perm (@theskinnybib) shares highlights from his trip to Tulum for the Noma Mexico pop-up. #NomaMexico @nomacph #restaurant @reneredzepinoma #chef #food #foodpics #Mexico #venacomer #travel #eat #50BestTastemaker
The dishes are based on local ingredients, cooking styles, and traditions. Redzepi worked with Traspatio Maya, a non-profit network of Mayan communities, to source ingredients.
So, what gives with the insanely high price? $600 per person is, ya know, a lot of money for a single meal. Part of the price is paying for the pedigree of René Redzepi’s Noma, and part of it is paying for the ingredients and location, and another part of it is that every dish is hand-crafted.
In so many words, you’re paying for the expertise of some of the world’s most impressive cooks.
And that means gorgeous dishes made with ingredients you’ve almost certainly never eaten.
It also means outrageously delicious dishes with ingredients you’re maybe more familiar with, like this “just-cooked octopus.”
To call this meal at noma life changing might be an understatement. Here is the “just cooked octopus with dzikilpak”. One of my favorite courses of the serving and easily one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Melt in your mouth ???? incredibly complex sauce. #nomamexico #ohalsowegotengaged #thebestisyettocome
Noma Mexico is located in Tulum, a tiny Mexican town on the Caribbean coast. The restaurant sits between the jungle and the sea, outside in the open.
IT’S HERE. Our one-on-one interview with Noma chef and creator Rene Redzepi is live now! Be inspired by his passion for creativity and community, and hear the incredible story behind #NomaMexico, in his words. #downloadnow #linkinbio #noma @reneredzepinoma (Captured by @jasonloucas with @sanchezrosio)
Though there’s a canopy, Redzepi warned would-be diners back in December 2016 that eating at Noma Mexico wouldn’t be your typical dining experience.
- Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
“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,” he wrote.