Fire To Table Simplicity At Arca
“ Where should I eat in Tulum?”
Aside from asking where to say, that’s quite possibly one of the most loaded questions a traveler can ask.
Like any food enthusiast, I put in the time and did the research. However, you know you have a problem when you have more restaurants to try than meals to eat! Of course, it’s a great problem to have and only means there are return trips in my future.
Arca is by far one of the most popular, sought out restaurants in Tulum. Rightfully so, chef Jose Luis Hinostroza has spent time in the kitchens of Alinea, El Celler de Can Roca and Noma, all of which are are some of the best restaurants in the world. Not only was I seduced by the lush surroundings and the carefree vibe, but I was excited to experience the culinary stylings of a chef who had been influenced by these innovative minds and whose dishes exhibit a broad palate of cultural influences.
For those with type-a tendencies, Arca offers reservations between 6-7 pm. If you are unable to snag a table during that time, guests are seated on a first come first serve basis. We were fortunate enough to grab one of the first reservations of the evening.
The decor of Arca was visually appealing and quite unique. If there was such a thing as jungle meets California chic, this would be it. Nestled among the lush foliage, guests are seated at one of the long-sleek wooden tables, while cocktails are carefully mixed at the beautiful black and white geometric tiled bar. If you have a thing for tiled floors, this one will have you swooning!
Once we were seated, our server dropped off the cocktail and dinner menus for the evening. Arca splits its menu into two sections: Flora and Fauna. Guests can find vegetarian dishes like the Sweet Potato Empanada and Sourdough Bread under the Flora section and items like the Soft-Shelled Crab and Bone Marrow can be found under the Fauna section.
In order to have a proper experience, you must order from both.
As I sipped my cocktail and perused the beautifully curated menu, I couldn’t help but bask in the moment. I was sitting in the middle of the jungle about to experience a sample of the most amazing cuisine Tulum has to offer. I couldn’t help but notice other guests reveling in the carefree moments and enjoying the explosion of flavors in front of them. I quickly came to recognize that Arca isn’t just a restaurant that nourishes your body but one that feeds your spirit.
Known for its dynamic menu and seasonal ingredients, Arca’s dishes are always changing. If there’s a dish that catches your eye, I’d recommend ordering it as you never know when it may reappear.
We were faced with quite the quandary. There were so many dishes that piqued our curiosity that we didn’t know where to begin. Thus, we relied HEAVILY on our server for guidance. Even though he tried to steer us away from ordering the bread, quite frankly we were starving and it sounded delicious. Remember the bread and butter from Lazy Bear ( last seen here) while this wasn’t quite the same, it was a close second.
Arca’s menu is locally sourced and dishes can change by the moment based on the availability of ingredients. We experienced that first hand when we placed an order from the Roasted Sweet Potato Empanadas only to find out that they were strictly mushroom that evening. To be honest, I couldn’t be happier as I always love a solid mushroom dish.
Our next dish of Grilled Avocado served as a lovely transition between the Flora and Fauna dishes of the menu. I really enjoyed the textures of this dish particularly the crispiness of the chaya leaves and roasted pumpkin seeds with the softness of the avocado.
The Soft-Shelled Crab Tempura Taco is one dish that always entices guests at Arca. Chaya leaves are used instead of tortillas and the salsa is the perfect compliment to the crab. I found the crab to be a bit on the greasy side, but the impeccable flavors made up for that.
I am not one to seek out seafood, but when in Tulum, right? One of the can’t miss dishes of the evening was the Coconut Oil Pan Fried Fish Filet. Fish has never tasted so good. From the coconut and jicama slaw to the flavorful sauce smothering the fish, each bite was unforgettable.
During my reconnaissance, one dish that regularly popped up was the Suckling Pig. Not only was it one of Arca’s well-known dishes, but guests could not stop talking about it. Of course, we had to order it. Living in Nashville, I’ve consumed my fair share of barbecue, but I’ve never had pork that melted in my mouth like this. It was filled with flavor and absolutely dreamy. The chayote salad was splendid as it balanced out the richness of the pork. Of all the dishes of the evening, I would have ordered a second round of this.
Even though I simply could not eat one more ounce, our server stopped by and shared the desserts for the evening. I thought to myself, even if I only took one bite, it was better to experience it than to be left wondering. While he rambled off several different options for the evening, the one that caught my attention was the one I knew nothing about, Mayme. He described it almost as a sweet potato but different ( same but different, right?) but with flavors of honey and almond. Intrigued, I said , “let’s order it!”
When it arrived at the table, I couldn’t help think it looked like a sweet potato and avocado had an odd baby. It was as he described, very sweet potato-esque with sweet notes of honey. Even though I was completely and utterly stuffed, we devoured the entire thing.
Arca has a distinct appreciation for this jungle paradise they call home and it’s presented in each dish and cocktail brought to your table. From start to finish, my experience was marvelous and one of my favorite experiences during my trip. I arrived with high expectations given the chef’s resume and was not disappointed. Enjoy this fire to table simplicity and ensure Arca is at the top of your list while in Tulum.
Tariff: Dishes range from 120-880 pesos. While the restaurant explicitly states that they are cash cnly, our server indicated that they indeed took credit cards which was such a blessing because we were running low on pesos!
Can’t Miss: If I were do to repeat this meal, I must have the Empanada, Suckling Pig Roulade and the Coconut Oil Pan Fried Fish. Each dish left me wanting one more bite.
Potential Pass: While the Soft Shelled Crab Tacos are a crowd favorite, I did find them to be a bit on the greasy side. I’m thrilled that I had a chance to experience them, but one time was enough.
Until Next Time!