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Restaurants & Bars 7

Almost like Home: Chichen Itza at Mercado la Paloma

Dommy! | Jun 6, 200503:32 PM

I’m just going to come out and say it. I love this restaurant. But does it replicate my experience of home in the Yucatan? NO. My home in Merida is right next to it a little ‘mini mart’ where we buy our bottles of Mexican coke (Or my favorite, Sidral). Around the corner we pick up fresh made tortillas. And around the block is the bakery. We drop off our dinner (Much too hot to bake in your own home in Merida), pick up sweet breads for breakfasts, rolls for lunch and when we return later to pick up the finished Cochinita and an Hojaldra for dessert. And as a sign of the times, there is now a little internet café right in the middle of it all… heh…

NOTHING, here in the U.S. can replicate this. So it would be unfair to compare Chichen Itza. But, they try damn hard and prepare excellent versions of the food Yucatan is famous for. And lucky for me and eight other hounds, we got a chance to try almost all of them this Sunday!

Upon arrival to Mercado la Paloma, I already had some Yucatecan treats ready for the hounds. I had bought Charritos! The official snack of the Yucatan (The package proudly proclaims being 100% Yucatecan!). Little fried pillows of flour, lightly dusted with lime, salt and chile powder. These are the perfect ‘botana’, Yucatecan drinking snack. Sadly, no booze is sold at Mercado la Paloma, but I enjoyed them with the Mamey Liquado from the Oaxacalifornia stand (This stand has the most amazing selection of tropical fruit liquados and ice cream. They also serve Oaxacan food as well…)

Then we all decended on Chichen Itza and began ordering…

I will mention the best dish first, so ya’ll don’t forget. Repeat after me… WHEN I GO TO CHICHEN ITZA, I WILL ORDER THE PANUCHO. A fresh made tortilla, stuffed with black bean puree, fried and then served with shredded turkey, lettuce, a small slice of avocado and marinated onions. Absolutely Heavenly… $1.95

Salbutes ($1.65), I admit, theirs are better than mine! A fried masa cake. Kinda like a sope, but a million times lighter. The same toppings as the Panucho, although doesn’t have that same amazing flavor impact, it’s still a wonderful treat.

Kibis ($2.95 for three), this dish is the perfect example of Yucatecan cuisine. As a major port of since Colonial times, Yucatecan food has been influenced, by Spanish, dutch and middle eastern traders. This dish is similar to one you’d find in Middle Eastern restaurants (Kibbeh), ground meat and bulgar mixed and then fried into a pancake. Served with Cabbage and marinated onions… YUM!

Tamal Colado ($2.95), Another very unique dish of the Yucatan, in this tamale. the masa is strained, it comes out almost gelanious. The filling is rich with sauce and chicken. Another total must order

Vaporcito ($1.75), The typical tamale of the Yucatan, covered in a tomato sauce that includes onion, garlic and habanero. This sauce at Chichen Itza is very thin, almost watery, but still VERY flavorful.

Brazo de Reyna ($3.65), One of my favorite dishes in the Yucatan, a HUGE tamale roll is made and then baked. When finished, it is sliced, so you get a twirl of pumpkin seeds, hard boiled egg and chaya. This rendition is a little smaller, it’s also missing the chaya. But covered in the tamale sauce and served with a small mound of rice, it comes out pretty tasty…

Cochinita Pibil ($6.25 Platter, $3.75 Torta). Okay, you already know to get your Panucho. Perhaps share a tamal colado with your dining partner, but do not MISS the Cochinita here. One of the best renditions in the city, I highly recommend getting it in the Torta. The saucey roasted pork just blends with all the bread and fillings, that no wonder this is the one dish everyone knows from the Yucatan…

Poc Chuc ($6.25), although the Cochinita got a lot of love at our table, there will be some that argue that this was the best pork dish. The Yucatecan version of Al Pastor. Charbroiled marinated pork chops, the flavor was intensely porky and smoked. Homer Simpson would LOVE this dish…

Papazul ($6.25), the yucatecan take on the Enchilada. Stuffed with hard boiled eggs and smothered in that tasty tamale tomato sauce. Not a favorite, but like the Brazo de Reyna, very tasty.

From the Taqueria Vista Hermosa stand, a big bowl of Pozole ($5.50). This rich pork and hominy soup, painted red with chile and other spices was almost perfect. Insanely rich and spiced, it took all three lemon wedges that came with it to tone it down. Also in the condidments was diced onions, radishes and dried red chiles for those truly wanting to breathe fire. The only thing that didn’t make it perfect was that the condiment plate had no cabbage. Lettuce instead! ACK!!

Others also ordered the Citrus Jicama Salad and Pollo Asado, but I didn’t get a chance to try them… TOO stuffed!!

And for desserts…

Platanos con Crema ($1.95), proof that the Yucatecans know how to do it better… ;) Bananas pan fried with a light dusting of sugar and cinnamon. Then, Mexican table cream is poured on top. This dessert is amazingly flavorful, super rich, and a tad heavy. And once you have them this way, you will forever be tempted to ask for some cream to go with your plantains at cuban restaurants like I do (...Just to piss them off… heh…)

Caballeros Pobres, two soft doughy fritters (Kinda like a cross between bread pudding and French toast) served with raisins and honey water. VERY sweet, but refreshing. Also, a Chocolate Tamale, which was VERY much like a soufflé! It totally worked! Finally, the other treat I had brought for the group, an Hojaldra ($6.50, for 8 large slices) from my favorite bakery, La Flor de Yucatan. This is a pizza sized pastry, filled in the middle with yellow cheese and ham. It’s basically a flat stuffed croissant, but the best one you’ve ever had… :)

Upon ending the meal, we got thanked by the server at Chichen Itza and he told us some very exciting news! Chichen Itza is opening up it’s first REAL restaurant near McArthur Park! No opening date yet, but I will be looking forward to it… ESPECIALLY if they get a beer license which will make enjoying those Panuchos even more heavenly…


Mercado la Paloma:

Chichen Itza Website:

Flor de Yucatan


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