The latest iteration of Gitano Jungle Room, a Tulum-inspired tropical oasis, has graced New York just in time for spring break. So if you can’t make it down to the Mayan Riviera with the rest of the basic Bitches, rest assured you can find your brethren in SoHo at Gitano.
The original Gitano, which we’ve visited, is a true outdoor restaurant nestled into the Mayan jungle in the heart of Tulum beach in Mexico. It’s charming, elevated and oh-so-sexy, but like most of Tulum, a different vibe than Mexico as we know it.
The second iteration came in the form of an outdoor summer pop-up in lower Manhattan, where they worked to recreate the tropical oasis in a low-lying swamp. It was cute as hell, but came with some health code violations. And, once you braved the line of poorly dressed finance guys wrapping around the corner, you’d enter quite the scene, and leave covered in bug bites. That said, the aesthetic was highly Instagrammable.
Now, The Jungle Room returns inside the ground floor of the James Hotel, where David Burke Kitchen was once located. The dimly lit space is sexy, with candles, potted palms and a dark jungle aesthetic strikingly similar to the original Gitano. We made our way through the palm leaves to a table in the back, which bears more resemblance to David Burke Kitchen than the small bar near the front.
The cocktail menu is appropriately tropical, with mostly mezcal and tequila cocktails. The Garden Rose is the perfect beverage for the girly girl, with rose tequila, St. Germain, rosé, lemon, honey, and mezcal. It’s strong and well-balanced, as the lemon cuts through the sweetness to balance it out. I’ll be back to Gitano for this cocktail, paired with some tuna tostadas, throughout the summer season.
The Jungle Fever is another winner: a spicy, crisp little number crafted with Mezcal, cilantro, chili, and lime. It was simple, clean, and offered a tart combination of citrus and kick.
If you’re averse to tequila and mezcal, Gitano offers a few gin and vodka options for you. The Gypsy Mule is a pistachio-infused Belvedere vodka cocktail with honey, ginger, and lime. It was interesting without being too weird—and went down easy. The bartenders know how to make an elevated, craft jungle cocktail that won’t give you a headache the next day. Cocktails are the standard steep New York price of $18 and a pitcher will run you $120.
The menu is divided into small plates and large plates, with ceviches, tostadas, quesadillas, and grilled dishes like carne asada and crispy duckling barbacoa.
The tuna tostada, an open-faced, crispy corn tortilla with fresh tuna, avocado, diced radishes, and sesame, is the very same dish served in Tulum, and is absolutely exceptional. There’s just something about the simplicity and execution that can’t be beat.
Similarly clean, healthy, and mouth watering, the Tlayuda is another open-faced corn tortilla, covered with fresh sliced rainbow beats, edible flowers, sunflower seeds, and a creamy sauce. It broke apart easily for share-ability, and was satisfying but nutritious.
On our list for next time? The Oaxacan truffle quesadilla, grilled avocado, and a pitcher of tropical cocktails.
We’ll be back to The Jungle Room for the sexy vibes, tropical cocktails that transport you to beachy destinations, and healthy, inventive and shareable Mexican vibes.