Some of the best food in Tulum is Thai.
Thailand and Tulum share a similar climate and growing conditions. Both Thai and Mexican dishes feature vibrant combinations of sweet, savory, salty, sour, and umami.
Creating authentic Thai dishes using local, Mexican ingredients requires ingenuity and patience, courage and skill, and imagination and invention. It requires Chef Dim Geefay, the consulting chef at Mezzanine, a restaurant and boutique hotel in Tulum.
Mezzanine is located on the beach side of Boca Paila (Beach Road) near Tulum National Park.
Transporting the Magic of Thai Recipes to Tulum
A native of Thailand, Chef Geefay is one of six children who grew up in Bangkok.
Geefay has experimented with local ingredients to adopt the Thai recipes she learned in her mother’s kitchen. This process usually involves encouraging the local kitchen staff to see existing ingredients in new ways, persuading local suppliers to harvest produce differently, and appropriate substitutions of ingredients.
For example, Geefay trained the staff how to make fresh coconut milk using the coconuts in Tulum’s ubiquitous palm trees. Fresh coconut milk is now used in all of Mezzanine’s curry dishes – Red or Green Curry, Massaman Curry, Sweet Potato Yellow Curry, Phanaeng, and Pineapple and Mango Curry.
A similar shift in mindset happened with the use of lemongrass. Mayans traditionally use lemongrass for tea. Geefay saw its potential as a key ingredient used to make Mezzanine’s Tom Yum, Tom Kha, and Riverboat Noodle soups.
Green papaya, for example, is found on nearly every street corner in Thailand. Papaya plants grow in Mexico, but Geefay said local suppliers didn’t sell it. She convinced local growers to provide green papaya, as well as fresh green and yellow mango.
She uses jicama, which is relatively sweet, but underused, ingredient in Mexican cooking, to replace water chestnuts in traditional Thai dishes. On the Mezzanine menu, jicama has pride of place in Mezzanine’s Thai Queen and Spinach and Jicama salads.
Geefay swapped fish sauce for tamarind sauce and uses piloncillo, a raw form of dehydrated sugar cane, instead of coconut sugar for Mezzanine’s popular Pad Thai.
“I try to balance it so that people will still have an authentic Thai experience, but using as many local ingredients as we can,” Geefay said.
Explore Thai Favorites with a Stunning View of the Caribbean
With its expansive view of the Caribbean Ocean, savory dishes, and upbeat atmosphere, Mezzanine is a true jewel of Tulum Beach’s restaurant scene.
Mezzanine offers a serene sanctuary of sea and sand in what can sometimes be an overprice and pretentious gastronomic scene. Below are my recommendations for drinks and dishes.
Caveat — I haven’t tried the curry dishes yet, so there are no recommendations for those. Given the quality of the other dishes, I am sure you can’t go wrong.
Sweet Siesta (non-alcoholic) is a lovely and refreshing blend of apple juice, cranberry, lemongrass, ginger & lime. A great alternative to orange juice in the morning.
Daily 2-for-1 Margarita Special is from 1 to 4 p.m. every day. I seriously used to plan my weekends around the specials. Margaritas in Mexico can range from watery to eye-watering. Mezzanine’s are a perfect blend of tequila, lime juice, triple sec, and fresh, local ingredients. Among my favorites are the frozen Mango Margarita and the Cucumber Margarita on the rocks. One round will definitely set you straight for the afternoon.
Vegetarian Spring Rolls are a crispy pasta roll stuffed with shiitake, tofu, carrot & mung bean noodles with cabbage & jícama. It is served with mango-mint chutney & Thai sweet chili sauce, which are fun for dipping.
Chicken Satay includes four grilled chicken skewers with peanut sauce and a cucumber salad. I sometimes order with a side of white rice for a light snack.
Rice & Noodles
All rice & noodle dishes come with a choice of meat – chicken, beef, or shrimp. They are customized to your level of spiciness with “one chile” as the least spicy and “three chile” as the spiciest. A non-spicy version may be available. Just ask your server.
Pad Thai is one of Mezzanine’s most popular dishes. It features wok-tossed, rice noodles with tofu, bean sprouts, cabbage, chives, roasted peanuts and chili peppers in tamarind sauce.
Phad Krapao is a wok-seared meat of your choice with holy basil & peppers on a Jasmin rice bed.
It is served with carrot and cucumber salad with a fried egg side. I seriously ate this dish once a week for months because it was simple enough to satisfy my need for a meat and starch, but with a slight kick.
Som Tam is a sweet variation on the rice dishes. It features fried marinated beef strips in oyster sauce with green papaya salad in chili lime dressing with tomatoes and roasted peanuts. It is served with coconut rice.
Shrimp with Cashews has become my favorite among Mezzanine’s signature dishes because it includes an exquisite combination of a Thai recipe and local ingredients. It includes wok-seared jumbo shrimp in a yellow sauce with cashews, mango & chili de árbol over a Jasmin rice bed.
What You Need to Know
Mezzanine in Tulum provides an authentic Thai food experience using fresh, local ingredients. It is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Three seating levels each offer stunning views of white sands and glittering turquoise waters. Parking is somewhat difficult on Boca Paila (Beach Road). You may have to park on the side of the road and walk to the restaurant unless you are a hotel guest. For reservations or more information, contact Mezzanine at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (Mexican phone number) +52-1-984-131-1596
All photos courtesy of Mezzanine, except the Shrimp and Cashews photo taken by the author.