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Jan 19, 2007 03:42 AM

El Rey Pakal

Stopped by this new Yucatan restaurant located in Montecito Plaza in San Rafael for a late lunch today. Had a great plateful of Cochinita Pibil served with some very fresh, hand-made corn tortillas. Unfortunately I was alone, so no chance to explore what looks like a very deep menu further than that. If the Cochinita Pibil is any indication, I will be back for more.

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  1. Wow, great catch. Looking forward to future reports. San Rafael is so cool. Here's the exact address

    227 3rd Avenue
    San Rafael, CA 94901

    1. Well, that place slipped in when I wasn't looking. I'll have to check it out next time I go to TJ's. Wonder if they have Mayan favorite - papadzul (egg enchiladas with squash seed sauce).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sharuf

        Well, it is the Bay Area, so they are probably accomodating local tastes with the known and familiar ... however, hope you ask and encourage them.

        Looking foward to your report.

      2. I made it here today on my way back from San Francisco. It's pretty easy to miss at this point, as there's no signage up on the mall walls indicating the restaurant's presence (the nearby Puentez Taqueria is wayyy more visible.)

        The interior is nice, a nice beige-yellow dotted with paintings of Mayan landscapes and posters of various Yucatan landmarks on the walls.

        I was told that they've only been open 8 days, so the service is still a little ragged in terms of greeting people (folks either seated themselves or walked halfway into the place, like I did, before being noticed.) However, once I was seated, the wait staff (it's definitely a family operation) were very attentive, friendly and helpful with my questions.

        Like wineguy mentioned, the menu is fairly deep with Yucatecan selections. I noticed many of the people seemed to be ordering off the appetizer menu, as big platters of varying antojitos (almost all $8.50 ea/3-4 per order) were brought out on a regular basis. Included in the selections are:

        Polcanes - Corn dough stuffed with lime beans & crushed pumpkin seeds topped with pickled red onions
        Panuchos - Homemade fried tortillas stuffed with black bean puree, topped with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled red onions, and avocado
        Salbutes - Fried tortillas topped with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled red onions and avocado
        Empenadas - Corn dough stuffed with ground pork, beef, cheese or potatoes. Served with tomato sauce and sprinkled cheese
        Codzitos - Fried taquitos stuffed with chicken topped with tomato sauce and sprinkled cheese
        Tacos/Torta de Cochinta Pibil - roasted pork in traditional achiote sauce served with homemade tortillas/french bread
        Tamales/Tamales Colados - Steamed soft corn dough stuffed with chicken and wrapped in banana leaves. The regular tamales come with tomato sauce, while the colados comes with achiote sauce.
        Brazo de Reina - Steamed spinach corn dough stuffed with boiled eggs, crushed pumpkin seeds and tomato sauce.
        They also have a Delicias Rey Kapal option where you can get a sampling of various appetizers (2 ea. small sized Tamales, Panuchos, Salbutes, Codzitos, Empenadas, and Polcanes) for $15.50

        Entrees range roughly from $10 - $16. These include:

        Pavo Uido - Ground pork with hard boiled eggs, capers, served with sliced onions.
        Empanizado de Puerco - Pork steak sprinkled in bread crumbs, served with black bean puree and salad
        Frijol con Puerco - Pork stewed with black beans, Yucatec style
        Poc-Chuc - Charbroiled pork marinated in Yucatec spices, with black bean puree, grilled onions and hand-ground salsa
        Escabeche de Pollo - Hot marinated chicken in a special Mayan seasoning, served with chopped red onions
        Relleno Blanco de Pollo - Chicken in white sauce, seasoned with green olives and raisins, and served with pickled red onions
        Pescado A La Parrilla - Grilled fish with vegetables and rice (fish of the day will vary with the season)
        Camarones A La Parrilla De Rio - Grilled shrimp served with roasted potatoes and rice
        Carne Asada - Grilled arrachera steak, served with salsa, rice, and black bean puree, guacamole and sour cream

        I ended up with the Relleno Negro De Pollo ($12; chicken in black chimole sauce, Yucatec style). The menu said it would come with pickled red onion, but mine came with what looked a sampling of the Pavo Uido ($6.95; ground pork with hard boiled eggs & capers.) The chicken was a tad on the dry side unfortunately, but the chimole sauce helped moisten it up. Not earthshaking, but good overall. The Pavo Uido was an interesting take on what essentially is meatloaf, but probably not something I'd order separately in the future.

        Saturdays & Sundays they offer other specialties, including:

        Queso Relleno - Holland cheese stuffed with ground pork, raisins, green olives, capers, hard boiled eggs served with thick sauce & tomato sauce.
        Chocolomo - Beef soup with vegetables
        Mondongo - Traditional tripe soup in Yucatec seasoning
        Puchero - Chicken, pork and beef soup with vegetables, served with pickled red radish.

        The home-made tortillas they serve are very good, as well as the salsa, which is the best I've had in awhile.

        There are desserts available, but my take-home menu doesn't have them listed unfortunately.

        The waitress was very appreciative when I mentioned it was great that they were serving their style of Mexican food and that I'd definitely be coming back to try more of their menu. With the general lack of Yucatecan places in the Bay Area in general, I'd say this place is definitely worth exploring if you're in the area.

        7 Replies
        1. re: josquared

          So! They don't have a sign up yet. I circled through the shopping center a couple of times looking for it and thought I was going nuts because I couldn't find it (hadn't memorized the address #). Are they back in that corner with the taqueria, H&R Block, and Cheap Pete's?

          1. re: Sharuf

            Yep, that would be it. Thankfully I remembered the number, because you have to get pretty close to the entrance of the restaurant before you notice the "El Rey Pakal" painted on the window.

            1. re: Sharuf

              Yes, they took the space that was Bamyan Afghan Restaurant.

            2. re: josquared

              I'm putting this place on my list of restaurants to try when we are in that area this summer.
              But, I wonder how "Pavo Uido - Ground pork with hard boiled eggs, capers, served with sliced onions." ended up as pork, when "pavo" is turkey?

              1. re: Anonimo

                Yeah, you're right - something to ask the folks who own the place the next time out for sure

                Just to be complete, I noticed I left a few items off the entrees menu:

                Pollo Rey Pakal - Roasted half-chicken, served with rice, black bean puree, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream
                Platillo Vegetariano - Vegetable skewers, served with rice and black bean puree (you can add meat to the skewers for extra)

                They also have a couple of fajita dishes; a grilled meat & shrimp platter (Platillo El Rey Pakal; serves 2) accompanied by black bean puree, guac, pico de gallo and sour cream; as well as the Cochinita Pibil that the OP liked a lot.

                1. re: Anonimo

                  I have an explanation for that. If you translate Pavo Uido to English it says Escaped Turkey thats why its not turkey. Someone said it was like meat loaf but its more like stuffing for Thanksgiving turkey. Story has it that the they couldn't afford to buy turkey for dinner all they had was pork meat for the stuffing, hence the name "pavo uido" or missing turkey.

                  1. re: BalamQuitze

                    Ahhh, okay...makes sense now. Thanks for looking into that, Balam

              2. I stopped there for lunch today, alone, and had the Empanadas appetizer, $8.50 for an order of three plus a bowl of "chicken noodle soup" which was really a quite good chicken broth with a few veggies. I liked the empanadas, different from anything I've had before, simple, fresh, and very good. I had no room to try anything else. This place calls out for four people to go and share food to get a chance to taste more things. Excellent salsa (after I added some salt). Very friendly staff. The owner said there was only one other Yucatan restaurant in the Bay Area, in SF.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                  Well, ... there's three and a quarter that I know of ... and Zuni even briefly once had a dish from the Yucatan

                  Plantanos across the street from Tartine has a Yucatan dish or two. So there's your quarter restaurant.

                  Probably the restaurant he is thinking of is Mi Lindo Yucatan

                  Lesser known ... except on Chowhound is Yucatasia

                  Even lesser known is El Yucateco. I did a report on the place but it seems gone. All I can find is this report.

                  Oh yeah, Tommy's on Geary is supposed to have some Yucatan dishes

                  Huh. Anyone know if Lol Tun is still in business in SF?

                  Not a restaurant, but some food from the Yucata at the Sebastopol farmers market.

                  Of course given that San Rafael has these odd little clusters of ethinic restaurants like three Persian and three Cuban/Puerto Rican ... he could mean there's another place in San Rafael. It wouldn't surprise me at this point.

                  1. re: rworange

                    >he could mean there's another place in San Rafael.<

                    No, he said his was the only one in Marin and that there was one other in SF.

                    There's a genuine friendliness in the place, as well as the unique and interesting food, that makes me want to go back and try many things.

                    1. re: Mick Ruthven

                      Sounds great so far. I'm going to try to get over there as soon as possilble. Trying to figure out what to try. Really appreciated josqaured typing up a lot of the menu so I can plan a little.

                    2. re: rworange

                      Spotted another one, El Maya Yucatan on Mission @ 16th in San Francisco. Maybe we'll hear from some one who's tried it.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Just a note to the above list ... RIP El Yucateco.

                        I got into a conversation with a table next to me at a San Rafeal Persian restaurant. They were saying there was no good Mexican food in San Rafael ... so of course I apoligized to evesdropping and told them about El Rey Pakal.

                        As part of the conversation, one of the party who works around the block from El Yucateco said it closed a few weeks ago. Like he said, it was a lousy location and there was too much, uh, street commerce near the restaurant.

                        1. re: rworange

                          There's a bunch of Yucatecan places in SF. There's at least one more on Mission between 16th and 18th (in addition to El Maya and Yucatasia).

                          Cabbies Burgers
                          393 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                          El Maya Yucatan
                          2022 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Lol Tun Restaurant
                          2341 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Mi Lindo Yucatan
                          401 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                          Mi Lindo Yucatan
                          4042 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                          2164 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          Poc Chuc
                          2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      2. Heads up for a bunrab short report. Just reminds me I want to go back and try more things.