Restaurant : Tulum

I stumbled into this special restaurant, ironically, waiting for a table at another place in this cool shopping strip on Oak Lawn. Tulum took my breathe away. Bravo to the design team lead by Val Karns and Liz Ruiz!!! AND there are NO TV’s to distract you from the creativity and beauty. There is a brilliant projection by visual artist Gregory Colbert in the fun lounge area.

Karns is chief at Firebird Restaurant Group which also owns El Fenix, Meso Maya, La Ventana, and Tortaco. But this restaurant is a separate “pet project” just between Karns and his wife, Valerie. She describes the restaurant as “an expression of pure and natural offerings that enhance and inspire the experience of dining.” Nonetheless, the menu is overseen by Firebird corporate chef Nico Sanchez, and incorporates Mexican elements but not be a Mexican restaurant.

The restaurant is divided into two main spaces — the bar, and the dining area. Guests enter into the restaurant via the bar, a long rectangular room that boasts shelves lined with bottles of liquor. The bar offers plenty of seating for drinking-only patrons, plus space for diners waiting for a table in the main dining room. A painted-fabric wallpaper of patterned banana leaves guides the eye to Tulum’s dark thatched roof, and back down again to the woven wicker chairs. Fluffy, almost cloud-like lanterns hang low over the center of the bar.

Unlike the cool and tropical feeling of the bar area, the dining room feels almost cave-like. Plastered in smooth sandstone colored walls, with almost no windows to speak of, but plenty of light scatters down from above, through thick wicker baskets repurposed as lighting fixtures that hang above every table. Seating is close, but not uncomfortably so, and the open air kitchen allows a touch of dinner and a show, as the chefs bounce from station to station.

Mention our Scott Carlson Enewsletter to manager Chris Chang for a special gift from the kitchen. Expires Febuary 13.

Tulum Experience

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