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Dallas Mexican restaurant Tulum comes back from COVID-19 swinging

Dallas Mexican restaurant Tulum comes back from COVID-19 swinging

Salmon with molcajete sauce and roasted vegetables, now at Tulum. Photo courtesy of Tulum

Dallas restaurant Tulum, known for its upscale traditional Mexican food, has reopened following the COVID-19 closure with a splash: Namely, a new menu by José Meza, the acclaimed chef who previously worked at Jalisco Norte.

Tulum reopens at the Shops of Highland Park at 4216 Oak Lawn Ave. on November 4, following an eight-month closure, in a direction that's unique. While many restaurants are turning to comfort food, Tulum is going upscale and creative with seasonal ingredients and innovative combinations — just the thing if you've had it up to here with Nashville hot chicken and are craving a chef-driven experience.

Highlights include Yucatan pork cochinita pibil-style, and flat-iron steak that they cook sous vide-style for 72 hours, served with charred eggplant purée and Brussels sprouts. A separate happy hour menu features Mexican-inspired bites and specially-priced cocktails, such as the Meza margarita made with a coconut essence.

Meza says the menu is based in tradition and heritage. A native of Mexico, his career began in his teens when he worked at Michelin three-starred restaurant Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian, Spain. He cooked at Moxi at the Hotel Matilda, San Miguel de Allende; the St. Regis Punta Mita; and Ramona at Hotel Nizuc in Cancun. He also interned at Noma, the world-famous gastronomic mecca in Copenhagen.

"My mission is to exemplify just how memorable Mexican cuisine can be," he says. "Dishes can be completely different, but when you close your eyes, you immediately recognize their heritage."

The menu includes:

  • "Sikil pak," a Creole spin on a Mayan pumpkinseed dip with heirloom corn tostada
  • Avocado purée, like a super creamy guacamole with roasted ginger, radish, and pumpkin seeds 
  • Aguachile scallops, featuring raw scallops in a coconut-lemon grass aguachile with jicama
  • Vegan tartar, made from roasted beets, eggplant, dried tomato, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and capers
  • Caesar salad, a grilled Romaine heart with smoked anchovy salt, parmesan cheese, and garlic chips
  • Octopus in a zarandeado sauce with black bean purée, kohlrabi slaw, and toreado (blistered) onion 
  • Red snapper with green pipian sauce, topped with "shredded" broccoli

Desserts are notable including a sweet plantain tamale and an unusual ice cream sandwich with coconut cookies enclosing a filling of sweet corn ice cream.

Cocktails include an extra smoky Familia de agave margarita and "pasiflora 75," their version of a French 75 featuring a purple passionflower.

Tulum debuted in 2018 in the space formerly occupied by Madrina as an homage to Tulum, Mexico by restaurateur Mike Karns, head of Local Favorite (El Fenix, Snuffer's Restaurant & Bar, Village Burger Bar, Meso Maya, Taqueria La Ventana), who said that he and his wife Valerie loved to visit there. Very much a passion project.

In March 2020, Karns acquired Jalisco Norte, an upscale Mexican restaurant also on Oak Lawn Avenue that was founded by restaurateur Tim McEneny, who brought Meza to Dallas to serve as chef. One week later, COVID-19 shut everything down. Meza stayed with the restaurant and is now giving Tulum a twirl.

They're open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday, and reservations are recommended by calling 972-677-9747.

"At the end of the day, it's about doing what I love and letting people enjoy it," Meza says.