I do not consider myself a big fan of vegan cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that people choose to be either vegans or vegetarians – that’s entirely their choice and none of my business. The ideas of easing pressure on the environment and not hurting animals are both good, but I don’t think we will all save the planet by going vegan (nor do I view that as a very likely scenario). Furthermore, you could easily argue that much of the New Nordic cuisine is vegetarian or at least vegetable-heavy. Some of my favorite dishes in 2016 did not have any meat in them at all. Check out no. 22, 18, 14, 10, 3, and 2 on that list in particular. My aversion against vegan cooking has more to do with the fact that I’ve never been truly impressed by any restaurant which prides itself on serving strictly vegan cuisine. Often, the food is a pale imitation of the original source of inspiration. Simply put, the recipes are not good enough and many interesting flavors and textures are sacrificed. That’s until I set foot inside Restaurare in Tulum. I would easily rate it as one of the best restaurants in Tulum and a must-visit when you’re in the area. Interestingly, they also served the best cocktails on our trip.
Note: This restaurant has closed permanently.
Open-Air Jungle Hideaway
Once again, our visit was inspired by a Noma Mexico staffer who put a picture up on Instagram and made us curious to discover the place on our own. Restaurare is not an obvious choice. Although, it’s situated along the popular beach strip, it’s sort of tucked away as one of the first eateries you pass by shortly after Azulik. Like most places in Tulum, this is also an open-air restaurant. Owned by the couple Karla Madrazo and her partner Roberto Terrazas. A stone path led us into the jungle hideaway where candles hung from the trees in jars, and the wooden tables had ancient Mayan patterns painted on them. A friendly waiter came to take our order. We started off with cocktails, that turned out to be excellent. Refreshing and well-balanced.
Pibil Tacos, Coconut Ceviche & Local Mole
We ordered the pibil tacos, coconut ceviche, and local mole. Similar to cochinita pibil, which is made with pork, the one at Restaurare was cooked with bitter oranges and achiote. Except the pork was replaced by texturized soy. Tasting it, I’m pretty sure I would have guessed meat in a blind test. Both the authentic pibil seasoning and umami flavors were present in every succulent bite. Digging into the coconut ceviche, I actually forgot for a moment that it was vegan. I could have sworn it tasted like the softest slices of squid you could imagine. A spicy leche de tigre burned on our lips. Luckily, we had those tasty cocktails to wash it down with. The ceviche came with some crunchy and tasty sweet potato chips on the side. Next, the main course of local mole based on Roberto’s mother’s recipe which had 52 ingredients. Mushrooms, chilis, nuts, chocolate, and various spices were among them. It had a rich, deep, and complex flavor, with soft and crunchy textures in great harmony. We finished off with a delicious banana cake covered in a vegan dulce de leche. I may never have a vegan meal quite as tasty as this again.
What’s your favorite vegan restaurant in the world? Please share in a comment below.