Sometimes new taste sensations enter your eating world and everything is thrown into relief. Eating at Lol Tun two times did just that.
Until about a year ago, Id not the foggiest idea about yucatecan food. You knowfrom the Yucatan, the southeastern peninsula of mexico. Theres been a fair amount of yucatecan immigrants to SF over the last few years; in fact, most of the kitchen staff at my work are yucatecos. Theres got to be somewhere for the yucatecos to eat, right?
As far as my sources go, Lol Tun is it, aside from a few home-oriented pseudo-restaurants. In keeping w/the we must serve accessible, familiar food to pay the bills motif of many an ethnic restaurant, Lol Tun serves fairly standard Mexican and Salvadorean food in addition to their Yucatecan specialities. Wanting something new, I stuck to the specialities.
eating solo, I tried a few different things having no idea what was in store. I started off w/a salbute ($1.50). at that price, I suspected that it must be something appetite-whetting. It sure was. Prosaically, Id liken it to a tostada. It consisted of a deep-fried fresh corn tortilla, topped w/shredded lettuce, cabbage and chicken, slivered red onions, and a wedge of avocado. A green salsa arrived too. The salbute was just what you might imagine all those disparate flavors and textires might add up to. The salsa was deeply charred and moderately spicy. A fantastic counterpoint to the fresh crispness of the salbute.
Shortly after I started to consume said salbute, my poc chuc arrived. Slices of pork and onions, both charred thoroughly were served w/a red salsa this time. The poc chuc wasnt as tasty as I had hoped it might be, though it was savory w/the charred/smoky notes. i discovered later that poc chuc is purported to be one of the yucatan's most famous dishes. The salsa was great once again. Only slightly charred, it was quite spicy and had a smokiness underlying the burnt acridness of the char. To wash these items down I had a sandia (watermelon) and horchata agua fresca.; both were delicious.
this one was the real kicker. I dragged one of the cooks w/me to guide me thru the menu. All the things we ordered were listed on the menu; they were astonishing. relleno negro Id heard about from other yucatecos at work. It was, like the name suggests, black. The relleno (stuffed) part Im not so sure about. Turned out to be a bowl of inky broth full of shredded turkey and sliced red onions. On the side of the bowl was a meat loaf of sorts, filled w/chunks of egg. Reminded me of beef jerky, w/the same salty, smoky, sweet flavors. The blackness of the broth came from chiles that had been burnt slowly. It was intoxicating and addictive. I slurped the broth, mopping up the drops w/the provided tortillas. My cohort ordered escabeche entutido. I anticipated something w/fish. Oh no. more turkey, but in a tangy broth w/more red onions and another slab of meatloaf. I tried a panucho too. Similar to the salbute w/the tortilla being a bit more crispy.
the restaurant itself is quite charming in an unexpected way. there are fake roses draped all over. in enormous cascades over the walls and in vases on the tables. there's an enormous painting of lol tun (which, it turns out is the name of a cave in the yucatan). all this manages to be endearing instead of kitschy or tacky.
Its refreshing trying something wholly new. Especially something which seems familiar; it's clearly mexican food, but w/an altogether different and specific regional execution.
Folsom b'twn 19th and 20th
San Francisco, CA
(couldn't track down the exact address and phone number)