Dining at The Kitchen Table in Tulum is an “inside-out” gastronomic experience.
Nestled in an emerald, jewel-box of trees, the restaurant is located on the “jungle side” of Boca Paila Beach Road near Tulum National Park. It was built using wood native to the region.
“My passion is restaurants,” said Inacio Lamas, the Chef-Patron (a French, culinary term that means “chef-owner”) of The Kitchen Table. “It is my profession.”
A Portuguese native, Lamas finished culinary school in 1997 in Lisbon and spent the ensuing years cooking in some of the world’s best restaurants. However, it was co-founding a glamping resort in Portugal in 2012 that changed everything for Lamas.
“It was the first time I was in an environment that made me change the course of my cooking style,” he said. “I was used to five-star and Michelin Star restaurants. I was not used to rustic, more down-to-earth cooking. I love it.”
Lamas sold his share of the glamping resort and opened in 2015 The Kitchen Table. The restaurant’s ethos is guided by a philosophy he calls “roots cooking”.
Natural fire is the primary source of preparation. Solar panels power up the energy used for its music and lighting. Cavernous ovens and industrial stoves provide the fire to cook the food.
Unlike most restaurants where the cooking staff is tucked away, the staff at The Kitchen Table slice, dice, roll, shape, flambe, boil, and sauté fresh, local ingredients in full view of the customers. Lamas said it was an “honest” approach to cooking that allows customers to share in the experience.
“I like to make the experience as ‘inside-out’ as possible,” Lamas said. “People like to see people focused and doing something interesting. That’s why they watch sports. At the end of the day, it’s also a more visual experience because everything is there for you to see.”
Kitchen Table’s menu is a combination of local ingredients and Portuguese cooking techniques.
Restaurant staff purchases fresh ingredients from local suppliers each day. Fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients are stored on site in ice-boxes. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get some ingredients depending on the season and supplier.
The menu’s signature dishes include Vegetable Tempura tacos; Quesadilla de cuitlacoche con flor de calabaza; Ahi tuna steak; Arrachera Angus; and fresh lobster when it’s in season.
Portuguese cooking techniques, Lamas explained, are a “mish-mash” of influences from the former empire’s colonies in Africa, the Americas, India, and Indonesia that have been used since the 16th century.
“It is simple food,” he said. “We don’t use many sauces.”
Not to be missed are the Grilled Deviled Avocado, Roasted Red Peppers, Costilla de Cerdo, Pan-roasted Octopus; and the Chocolate Ginger Ganache.
The Grilled Deviled Avocado is served with a chunky chipotle sauce, which gives it a kick. Texture is everything with this dish. The staff plays up the texture in its presentation in which the avocado comes in a large, wooden bowl and are perched on a bed of rock salt. It also comes with a side of chips. This makes a great appetizer alone or to share with the table.
The Roasted Red Peppers are another great appetizer to start your Kitchen Table food adventure. The cooks preserve the sweetness of the Mexican red peppers and serve it with flatbread to provide contrast in taste and texture.
Carnivores will love the “Costilla de cerdo” or pork ribs served with swiss chard. Pork is indigenous to the Riviera Maya. Lamas gives it an international twist by using preparing the ribs with salt, pepper, and “beurre noisette”. Loosely translated as “brown butter”, this a French technique which melts unsalted butter until the milk solids reach a “toasty hazelnut color” and gives it a nutty flavor.
The Pan-roasted Octopus is made using a Portuguese technique that is normally used in clams. In Lamas’ approach, the octopus is put in garlic and olive oil and refreshed with white wine. He lets it release the juice and sprinkle with fresh coriander at the end.
The Chocolate Ginger Ganache is a perfect dessert for those who have a taste for something sweet, but not too sweet. Bits of ginger give the dessert vibrancy that counters the rich, creaminess of the chocolate ganache.
Reservations are strongly recommended for the Kitchen Table’s two, nightly seatings at 6:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. You can reserve your table up to one week in advance. Leave your credit cards at home. Cash and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are the only acceptable forms of payment.
Parking is hard to find on Tulum’s famed beach road, especially during high season (November through February).
Contact Paulina, our concierge, to help you reserve your spot at The Kitchen Table.