If you visit Tulum, there are some exceptional restaurants, like El Tábano! (The Horse Fly). Operated by a young couple who settled here looking for an alternative lifestyle, the place manages to be informal, artistic and sophisticated all at the same time.
The menu at El Tábano! more than compensates for its location on the wrong side of the road—the side away from the beach. Dishes that change from day to day are posted on the chalkboard beside a Dali-esque clock. Laura and I shared the cold tomato and papaya soup. She tried the vegetable lasagna made with tortillas instead of pasta; I enjoyed the mero (grouper) stuffed with tangerine segments. To drink, we were given fresh pineapple and pear juice blended with fresh ginger.
Food doesn’t get much more creative than that. El Tábano! has the same laid-back, friendly feel of most places along the Tulum coast. Owner Laura engaged us in conversation during much of our meal, while tending her eighteen-month-old son. A homey touch: the Veracruzana cook, working in her open air kitchen, performed frequent taste tests of her sauces by dripping her ladle into her palm and licking it—her palm, that is. A couple of other places worth noting: OM Tulum Hotel Cabanas and Beach Club contains a fine restaurant, where I consumed a delicious Greek octopus salad and Laura raved about her crab taquitos. Owned by a son of Laura’s San Miguel friend, Beatriz, Om is geared more toward young party-goers, but all is serene during lunchtime and the deck right on the beach makes a spectacular setting for some excellent dining. Finally, Posada Margherita, another hotel, offers a superb Italian restaurant. This place is definitely not your typical red-’n’-dead Italian restaurant. You can’t get pizza here, either. You don’t even get a menu. On arrival, we were seated in a lounge area and served a huge tray of antipasti (Niçoise olives, pistachio nuts, slices of Parmigiano Reggiano and three kinds of focaccia), while the restaurant owner sat with us to discuss what we might consider for our dinners. Laura chose homemade pasta in shrimp sauce. When I say homemade, I mean the owner asked the kitchen to begin mixing the flour and water and rolling out the pasta dough as soon as she had ordered. I ordered the unbelievably fresh huachinango (red snapper) poached in sea water, served in a sauce of large tomato chunks and capers. My serving was large enough for two, but I ate it all anyway, following it with the creamiest tiramisu I’d ever tasted. These restaurants are a little on the expensive side, but they’re worth every peso. For us, they took our beach vacation into the realm of the exquisite.