Jose Luis Hinostroza and Peter Sanchez, chef and bartender at Arca in Tulum (Mexico), guests at the cocktail bar Devis Shake in San Benedetto del Tronto (Ascoli Piceno)
Always Yes, Always More, Never Enough is inked on the back of Jose Luis Hinostroza's neck, a sort of general rule for life of the young Mexican American chef from Arca, the hottest restaurant in Tulum. For one evening, Italian guests were able to get a taste of it in bar Devis Shake in San Benedetto del Tronto where Hinostroza and Arca's head mixologist Peter Sanchez tried to bring a little bit of Arca, a little bit of Tulum to Marche.
One normally wouldn’t associate Tulum, this notorious resort town known for all night long DJ parties and celebrity sightings, with ground-breaking cuisine. But one needs to be reminded that it was precisely here, in the misty jungle of Tulum, where back in 2017 Noma had it’s arguably most successful and impactful pop-up. For seven weeks Rene Redzepi’s Yucatan residency was probably the most sought-out table in the world. And Hinostroza was at the helm of it.
Born in San Diego to Mexican parents he honed his cooking skills in gastronomic institutions like Alinea, Mugaritz, Maemo and yes, Noma. Just as he was about to move on, Redzepi asked him if he would lead the kitchen of his Tulum pop-up. The rest, as they say, is history. Hinostroza went – and stayed. Arca, with wooden tables under the palm trees, open kitchen, sultry, exotic ambiance and natural wine list, matches Hinostroza’s character and style.
And then there are the dishes. Soft shell crab tempura served on an hoja santa tortilla with pickled habanero salsa, serrano aioli and Chaya powder, an explosion of flavors, pungent, sour, with that comforting fatty fried element. At Devis Shake Hinostroza was using local protein so crab was replaced by squid, fried to the point the tentacles turned into crispy “chicharrons”. At Arca Hinostroza explores Mayan dishes and ingredients and one of the prime examples of that intriguing cuisine is “Dzikilpak”, a beautifully presented roasted pumpkin seed dip served with squash blossoms and tostadas to dip in.
Using hands and fingers is the way you go about with Hinostroza’s food, accentuated with Sanchez’ exquisite cocktails with stand-outs like “The Lost Martini”, a take on martini with mezcal base, combined with sake Nami Junmai, Tuna Distill, St Germain and Maya Lima bitters.
The back of Jose Luis Hinostroza
There’s a hint of spiciness in most of Hinostroza’s dishes. He also loves playing with acidity with prime example of it his out-of-this-world pungent sauce made of plantain vinegar, Chaya powder and Manzano salsa that accompanies seared prawns with plantain chips. “I like to push. Dishes that are almost too salty, almost too sour, almost to the limit, but not crossing it – it’s kind of also my rule in life,” laughs.
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A journalist specialising in food, wine and foreign policy, based in Ljubljana, she works for the Slovenian National Television, travels the world and contributes to various publications, both Slovenian and international. She is co-author with Ana Roš of the book 'Sun and Rain' (Phaidon) and of Slovenia’s gastronomic strategies for the five-year period of 2018-2023