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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.


                        1. I ate lunch there today and had the Tamales Colados ($8.50 for three - "Steamed soft corn dough in our traditional achiote sauce stuffed with chicken..."). If "normal" tamales tend to be heavy or dense, these were light and the word "ethereal" came to mind. It's the masa I'm talking about, very soft and almost translucent. I've never had anything like this and it was very good, including the chicken and sauce. Also, did I mention before that the salsa they serve with chips is very very good?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Mick Ruthven

                            I need an excuse to go to San Rafael this weekend...I think I can come up with one :)

                            1. re: Mick Ruthven

                              I had the same tamales for dinner. I like wet tamales like that which in my limited knowledge is the Central American prep. These were done expertly. Sometimes they can just be soggy, bland and disgusting. For all its virtues, that's how they turn out at El Tazumal. These were perfect ... light and flavorful.

                              The achiote sauce was like pureed fresh tomatoes ... tasty but not spicy.

                              Love the salsa too. Not at all spicy but sort of tangy. I asked and they said it was just tomatoes, onions and habaneros ... I don't know.

                              I also had one of the desserts - dulce pobal caballero - bread soaked in brown sugar sauce. Sort of a Mexican bread pudding.

                              The other was queso napolitano which they said was similar to flan. The other two desserts were ice cream and regular flan.

                              Only thing I didn't like was the jamaica aqua fresca which was merely cherry colored and didn't have a strong flavor.

                              This was really a nicer restaurant than I expected and the people were very nice.

                              My only thought is they should serve singles of the appetizers. They seem to be set up for family style eating with three or four of each app. I would more likely buy a single appetizer and a main dish if the appetizers were by the piece.

                              I brought two tamales home and put them away. The cat seemed to like the tamales very much too. My intent was to give her a little piece of chicken and to let her lick the sauce off the banana leaves. Lucky wasn't having any of that. She grabbed the banana leaf in her mouth and took off and then growled at me fiercely when I tried to retrieve it.

                              Rat's I was on 16th & Mission today and considered stopping by Yucatasia and picking up some Cochinita Pibil to try that dish at all the yucatan restaurants. Didn't notice the new place.

                              Cool place to check out is Jasmine Market, a small Persian market across from El Rey Pakal.

                            2. Ok, I got a take-out of the Queso Relleno - Holland cheese stuffed with ground pork, raisins, green olives, capers, hard boiled eggs served with thick sauce & tomato sauce

                              I just had a taste while it was warm because I was distracted by lunch at Mezzo Mezzo. Will report more when I have it for lunch tommorrow.

                              I've always wanted to try this and since it was a weekend dish and I wasn't sure when I'd be in San Rafael again on the weekend, I picked it up to go.

                              It seemed mainly like a ground pork patty with pieces of egg, a long piece of cheese on the side and lots of a tomato-based sauce. I didn't see evidence of raisins yet. It was tasty ... what's not to like about juicy ground pork? The good thing is they put three containers of that great salsa with the bag of chips. I love that salsa.

                              Anyway, the reason I'm pre-posting is I found out you can order any of their appetizers as singles. Just tell them you would like a single tamale, salbute, empanada ...etc.

                              The server said that they just were used to serving families in their part of the world, but are happy to serve singles. Everytime I'm in there there's always some of their family sitting around chewing the tamales, so to speak. Very homey. They had pretty good business in there this afternoon. Quite a few Mexican families.

                              1. I finally ate that Queso Relleno - Holland cheese stuffed with ground pork, raisins, green olives, capers, hard boiled eggs served with thick sauce & tomato sauce.

                                Here's a picture from the web of what it looks like prior to serving

                                And this is pretty much what it looked like cut up for serving;

                                The only thing is they forgot the garnishes ... so no raisins or egg slices which would have been really nice, I think.

                                Looking around the web for more info on this dish, there happens to be a restaurant in Merida called El Rey Pakal. What is kind of cool is that if you click on the menu and click on each items, you can pretty much see what all these Mayan dishes look like.

                                A few recipes for an idea of ingrediants

                                It was tasty enough ... ground pork filling with finley chopped olive and I think egg in it ... with the slice of Edam cheese covered in mild salsa roja, sort of like cream of tomato soup. It probably would have been tastier in the restaurant ... two days ago ... but it held up well and I enjoyed it. Something different.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rworange

                                  I know I have seen small wheels of Edam, I wonder if we can talk them into using them instead of the standard Edam wheel.

                                2. With all the talk of Cochinita Pibil... I had to stop at El Rey Pakal on the way to Downtown SF.... what a great little shopping center... if all the diverse ethnic restaurants there are as decent as this place.... you have one of the most chow worthy shopping centers anywhere in the U.S.

                                  To the food:

                                  > Tacos de Cochinita Pibil (Antojito)

                                  Following the maxim that the most important course in Mexico is the soup, El Rey Pakal serves all their Antojitos with a little bowl of chicken-vegetable soup. The broth was very nice... subtle, yellow-orangeish not sure what was in it but it was very pleasant. The vegetables, mostly calabacitas with a few broccoli florets & others, were very tasty, tender but not too overcooked. However, the chicken was very tough, in cubes (instead of the usual shredded)... somehow reminded me of canned snake meat...just avoid it.

                                  The order comes with four tacos that are very, very good. They are at least as good as Sanborn's and if you can add just a tiny bit of Habanero salsa that tips them over. The pork was perfectly tender (although I did have one or two dry bites), and the flavor combination is just so unique & hard to describe.... there is something almost sensual & floral with the earthy, fluffy tortillas... the achiote & citrus marinated onions. Very good.

                                  > Frijoles Colados side dish

                                  Well done. This dish is revelatory for those who have never had Yucatan style beans... they are strained into a thin "soup" and flavored with the fennel-like Hoja Santa, as well as something blackened, a bit of garlic and maybe even some citrus... for a very intriguing combination.

                                  > Negra Pino

                                  I asked if they had Chayagra (the traditional regional agua fresca made from greens that grown in the Yucatan's forests)... they didn't have it, so the waiter recomended a Pino. Not knowing what it was... I of course said sure. Then he asked which kind....what do you have... he read of a list... I asked for his recommendation... and he brought me a Negra Pino.

                                  Pino is a regional soda brand of the Yucatan. Negra seems to be flavored with sap from the bubble gum tree (Chicozapote). There were some less exotic flavors like mandarin & apple cider... but the other one that caught my attention was Cebada Pino... Barley.

                                  Now to the cultural side....

                                  The waiter spoke Spanish with a heavy mayan accent so I had to get the scoop! He is from the town of Peto (Peshteoh) - 100 miles southeast from Merida on the highway to Chetumal - ... and he lives in San Rafael which has a growing community of Petenses.

                                  Trying to get an understanding if his town... I told him about all the places I had visited in the Yucatan and his main feedback was about how beutiful the churches are in Valladolid & other towns I visited. He also informed me that Peto had a beutiful church... but when I asked about nearby Mayan ruins he just went quite... this told me alot. In heavily indigenous places like Yucatan, Chiapas & Oaxaca... you tend to get three types of people:

                                  (1) Those who are passionate about changing names & spelling of towns from the Spanishified to their original names...and promoting their ancient heritage & traditions.

                                  (2) Those who are adamant about highlighting their catholic devotion, and adoption of Spanish traditions.

                                  (3) Those who prefer to modernize... practice Yoga, talk about European fashions etc.,

                                  I started to get the impression this town was heavily #2. This is significant because it tells you alot about their approach to the cuisine... its usually less exotic, ignores many traditional ingredients that might have been associated with offerings to particularly damned deities etc., That certainly seems to be the case with El Rey Pakal... the menu definitely has a slight Creole bend to it, rather than an Indigenist bend to it.

                                  Based on information from the Mexican government:

                                  > Peto has 21,000 inhabitants, with 13,000 that speak maya-yucatec or kekchi.
                                  > Peto was connected to Merida by railway in 1900... and flourished in the 1930s as a provider of sap from the Chicozapote for the booming Gum industry.
                                  > Peto is relatively developed for this part of the country with 3 high schools, running water in 90% of homes & electricity in 87% of homes.
                                  > Local arqueological sites include Calotmul, TixualahtĂșn & Xoy

                                  Peto's Sources of Income:

                                  > Agriculture... Corn, Beans & Watermelon, Cattle, Pigs & Chickens
                                  > Tourism... there are a few Cenotes & Arqueological Sites plus Municipal Seat & stopping point among Mayan routes (people will often walk to distant towns to visit relatives using the ancient Sacbes.... Mayan raised paths)
                                  > Commerce... regional markets & prepared foods

                                  According the government's characterization of Peto's regional culinary tradition, these are the dishes missing from El Rey Pakal's menu:

                                  > Frijol con Puerco (Frijoles Colados with Salt Park)
                                  > Chaya with Eggs
                                  > Deer in Pipian Sauce
                                  > Papadzules (Tortillas covered in Pumpkin Seed sauce, with chopped hardboiled eggs)
                                  > Mucbil Pollo (Mayan "Chicken Pot Pie" made with corn dough)

                                  Dessert should include marzapan made from pepitas, and a variety of candied fruits & vegetables.

                                  Drinks should include a coconut atole (colled pozol), Mayan style hot chocolate (of course), and the regional wines & liquers made from honey, pine sap & anise.


                                  One final note... the restaurant proudly features the State of Yucatan Seal... as well as the jerseys of Merida's baseball team but stopped short of hoisting the Yucatan flag. Upon learning that I am from Mexico City... the owner (a robust, unhappy type) showed me his contempt for Mexicans in several ways. The most notorious by criticizing the Mexican soccer team & their coach Hugo Sanchez - North America's greatest soccer player in the 20th Century... and a Mexico City native in an attempt to bait me into an argument (this is typical in Yucatecan culture).

                                  On final note... there were only two other parties there for lunch... both spoke in an indigenous language.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    Thanks for the great information. I really want to try that Barley soda. I was going to be jealous that I didn't get the soup with my tamales, but I guess based on your description that was a good thing. Again don't forget they will make a single appetizer if you ask ... don't need to order all four.

                                    I think I did my bit for El Rey Pakal. I was eating at Apadana, the new Persian restaurant in San Rafael (good) and the table next to me who seemed to be into good food were saying there was no good Mexican restaurants in the area. After appoligizing for evesdropping, I gave a pitch for El Rey Pakal. They sounded interested, so maybe a little more business and the word will spread. Not as effective as Chowhound, but every bit helps.

                                    Thank heavens I didn't have the menu still in my purse or I would have given them that. Then I would have known I've gone over the top and in need of joining CA .. Chowhound's Annonymous ... so I could tone down my habit.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Actually the soup was good if you don't eat the chicken.

                                  2. BalamQuitze, thanks for the tip on the specials. Those sound wonderful

                                    You know, I think the specials are the thing to order. Was there again on Friday and the shrimp on a sizzling platter looked delicious ... but I'm a sucker for any dish on a sizzling platter.

                                    We had Brazo de Reina - Steamed spinach corn dough stuffed with boiled eggs, crushed pumpkin seeds and tomato sauce.

                                    It is a foot long tamale, so to speak, wrapped around sliced boiled eggs. The spinach and pumpkin seed might have been the herby looking stuff inside the tamale. It was a little bland for my taste. It was served on a banana leaf.

                                    You can ask them for habenero sauce and they will bring out a little that will punch things up.

                                    The Poc-Chuc was thin slices of pork that were on the dry sauce. The bean puree seemed a little like refried beans in texture ... only black. Perhaps I didn't take enough advantage of the house-ground salsa on the side of the dish. I wasn't paying too much attention to the food ... shame on me.

                                    I tell you if there are beans in the frijol con puerco, I missed them. It was a soupy stew with nice fall-apart tender pieces of pork. Scooping the little dish of condiments in ... ok, I know there was chopped onion, blanking on the rest except the whole habenero which we left pristine on the plate. This was better a dash of habenero sauce and/or a squirt of lime.

                                    Is this the same as the Frijoles Colados? We couldn't find that on the menu and ordered the only thing with frijol on the menu.

                                    Desserts may not be a strong point here. The triangular slice of queso napolitano with syrup on it was very flan-like but lighter. I prefer flan in general. Haven't tried the flan here.

                                    My Google skills fail me, but we had two sodas. The Pino was a dark Coke colored soda that had a bubble-gum flavor to it, sort of like Inka Cola but fruitier and not as obnoxious to me ... still once was fine.

                                    The barley drink in a taller bottle was a different brand Crystel cebada ... this tasted pretty much like a generic soda with no particular flavor, sort of a little like cream soda. This was ok and didn't have that bubble gum flavor I don't like. I'd give the other flavor of Cristel a try.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: rworange

                                      This is somewhat what the black beans should look like but this has pico de gallo but it shouldnt. and its served in a bowl not a plate. or at least thats how I was tought to eat them.


                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Here's the photo of the brazo de reina and the garnish plate for the frijol con puerco.

                                        The brazo tasted bland, warmed over and stale. Maybe lunch is a better time to order this type of item.

                                        The poc-chuc was decidedly dry. I found the salsa disappointing, and our server (owner?) explained that the customers find Yucatan spicing too hot to use here. While a whole habanero chili and some habanero sauce were provided, that's not the same and creating a salsa with those flavors integrated into the balance.

                                        My favorite was the frijoles con puerco. Very subtle seasoning that felt refined and homey at the same time.

                                        The queso napolitano was not good at all. Rubbery, shot through with bubbles.

                                        Wish I could say the food was better, as the folks were lovely.

                                      2. My husband and I brought my daughter here for dinner last Saturday after I had eaten a yummy lunch there post-Trader Joe's the other day.

                                        It's great! And the staff is really nice. The food's a little on the fatty side though. But oh so good. We had been hoping for the venison with pumpkin seds sauce, but they sold out. Still, it was awesome.

                                        1. So I finally made it to this restaurant today. I have been so looking forward to it because I am so tired of the same-ol-same-ol Mexican food. This was a nice change. It was impossible to find parking in the parking lot so we parked around back. No parking spaces back there so we made up our own! Ay ay ay.
                                          Our waitress was very friendly. In my mind I couldn't help thinking this was the old Afgani restaurant; I tried to get over it. This is what we ate:

                                          Panuchos-Homemade fried tortillas stuffed with black bean puree, topped with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled red onions, and avocado. Three tostada sized tortillas served will a little bowl of pasta soup. These were really quite good. The homeade fried tortillas had a great crunch. I just wish they put more pickled red onions on it; would have given a tad bit extra zing.

                                          Brazo de Reina - Steamed spinach corn dough stuffed with boiled eggs, crushed pumpkin seeds and tomato sauce. Almost looks like a meatloaf only not as high with tomato sauce on top. This seemed too hard and overcooked. Nothing special about the flavors. The crush pumpkin seeds sounded good, but in reality didn't fare out that well.

                                          Escabeche de Pollo - Hot marinated chicken in a special Mayan seasoning, served with chopped red onions. This was also just okay. It was shreaded chicken in a broth; wasn't sure if I should eat it like a soup or put it in a tortilla.

                                          Ceviche tostada- just so so.

                                          It seems that most of their food was just a la cart. After we had all this food I realized we had absolutely no veggies or beans or rice and this really bumbed me out (I'm a greens girl). I will go back to do some more exploratory eating and when I go I will definetely order the Panuchos again.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ItaloChick

                                            I like pickled red onions will have to try the panuchos. I wasn't crazy about the Brazo de Reina either. Hoping to try some of the specials.

                                          2. The wife, baby & I stopped at Montecito Center this weekend... since Papillon didn't seem to appetizing we hit El Rey Pakal... again it was fairly empty (Sunday Lunch)... there was just 10 other diners there, so the place looked like a ghost town. This place is in trouble... I have only ever seen Yucatecans in there... and I don't there are very many to keep this place in biz.

                                            We split an appetizers platter... quite enjoyable. The wife liked the Panuchos & Tamales best. We also split the day's special... Venison in Pipian... stay as far away from this dish as possible. The Venison itself was decent enough, slow cooked, tender & slightly gamey. But the sauce was absolutely terrible. It had the texture of canned gravy or Campbell's soup (before you heat it through).... it was overwhelmingly bland (even more tasteless than canned gravy) and had a slight bit of an annoying chemical type flavor.

                                            The tortillas were fantastic again... but the beans were not as good as last time. This time they were a bit tastey, had some fruity chile... I am guessing habanero... but none of that intriguing herb & smokey/burnt flavor it had last time.

                                            Hey Balam... if you are close to the ownership here are some suggestions for them:

                                            > Offer 3 or 4 course comida corrida... a small botana/antojito, followed by soup, a moderate size entree & a small dessert. Have them suggest a beer, wine or balche to go with it. I bet this would increase their revenue & the popularity of the place.

                                            > If they are going to serve a Special... they need to make sure its Special and not disgusting. They are great on Antojitos... but I am getting the feeling that there is less attention on the Entrees.

                                            > They have way too many Antojitos & Entrees on the menu... you can't do everything well like that. They should trim the menu a little bit, and just offer true daily specials.

                                            > There are too many meat & masa items on the menu & not enough vegetables. Also, its the Yucatan... I would expect more fruity dishes & items, no?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                              Let me add that they REALLY need to be clear on the menu that the appetizers can be ordered as a single item. The prices look high and unless you ask you don't know that singles can be ordered.

                                            2. Mrs. Wineguy and I had a terrific lunch here today. We started with an order of Polcanes. They came with a bowl of VERY FRESH broccoli soup that was rich and creamy as well as nicely seasoned. Also had an order of Tamales Colados that melted in our mouths!! For mains we had an order of that great Cochinita Pibil again. It is deeply flavored and served with minced, pickled red onion and thin, but tasty black beans. Also had an order of Relleno Negro de Pollo, which is very unusual and flavorful. The black mole smothers shredded chicken, while the Relleno is mixed with egg, capers and some unidentified ingredients that made this a rich and satisfying dish. Our mains were accompanied by those super-fresh hand-made tortillas that I was dreaming about. We finished with a small flan that was caramelly and refreshing.

                                              1. Pardon the Ressurection of this post which I consider to be one of ch's finest!

                                                I finally made it to this northern outpost of Yucateca cuisine. I spent the entire day wandering San Rafael (got to see the mission though) trying to find it [forgot to note address]; luck struck when I inquired after it at a carneceria. I was not very hungry today for lunch [stubborn oatmeal!] so I ordered my favorite - a panucho and a polcane - which I have never seen or tried.

                                                Panucho was spot on! I think it was even shredded turkey atop. Enjoyed seeing the flecks of carribean orange habanero dices among the red onion garnish. Lovely avocado and red pickled Jalapeno julienne. Perfectly crisp, and generous black bean filling.

                                                Although a tad dry -- I have to say I really enjoyed the Polocane - a round corn dough filled with 'ibes' [white beans] and ground pumpkin seed. I think this was so perfectly fried hence the dryness - but better than the alternative.

                                                Table salsa was not bad either. Will be back with an empty stomach!

                                                The waitress was a thoroughly kind individual and really nice to me. The

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: kare_raisu

                                                  Thanks for the update. Are you in the area for a while? El Rey Pakal has the more interesting stuff on the weekends. In SF Yucatasia in the Mission is worth a check out. My schedule is insane lately, but I'd organize some sort of chowdown possibly if you wanted to do that. Email me if you are interested. Can't promise anything ... but if the stars, planets and tacos align ...

                                                  Email address is on my "My Chow' page.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    I spent the time while waiting for my food checking out the menu. I think you are right that it is best to go on the weekends (Puchero even!) but the lunch menu is incredibly reasonable - around $6 for almost every antojito plate with soup or single order is priced at $2 each.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      RW -- a Chowhounding event at El Rey Pakal sounds good and I'd be up for that. Your "My Chow" email address is screwed up and unusable, however.

                                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                                        You just need to copy and paste the portion that's the email address. That field was intended for a web address and won't work as a live link.

                                                  2. http://www.marinij.com/ci_5914700?sou...

                                                    El Rey Pakal was written up by Marin IJ - waitress mentioned this.

                                                    1. Hey -
                                                      I was in the area today - stopped by for a late lunch. I asked for the two taco lunch with the relleno negro instead of the conchinita pibil, which they had no problem with executing. I was later even asked if I wanted the ground pork with egg as a filling or the shredded chicken - without me answering the waitress said - "I'll just bring you an extra taco with the relleno portion."

                                                      So My plate consisted of the three tacos and a Sopa de Lima. The tacos were great - only slightly less so than my only other reference for the RN which I had at LA's Flor de Yucatan bakery.

                                                      It was the Sopa de Lima which just completely knocked my socks off - what an amazing broth! Nice shreds of achiote tinged chicken and tortilla strips as well as fresh oregano and chiles dulce and jalapeno.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          no, it was offered as a side to every lunch dish - all priced at just $6. I was told that venedo - venison is a perennial special however.

                                                          1. re: kare_raisu

                                                            Execllent news... last I was there instead of Sopa de Lima they had Chicken Noodle soup with decent tomato broth but tough chicken chunks as the everday soup.

                                                        2. re: kare_raisu

                                                          Maybe its obvious... but the key to that broth's success is a relatively sweet variety of lime with bumpy, yellowish skin that is popular in the Yucatan.

                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                            I think I saw these available at Lola's the othernight. Must be available to them?

                                                        3. Reports have noted that the Brazo de Reina - Steamed spinach corn dough stuffed with boiled eggs, crushed pumpkin seeds and tomato sauce - is a bland dish. Now here's the food chemistry query...hot, bland...room temperature (from my take-out box) it's delicious and complex with flavors...each dancing on my tongue. Each bite was so enticing, I was reluctant to swallow...like every tiny taste bud on the tongue just jumped up to grab a morsel.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Cynsa

                                                            Thanks for the report. Could be they are refining and still working on dishes. They might be over the new restaurant opening adjustments.

                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              From what I have had here - everything is top notch in my book. Especially with such a diverse menu - it is pretty exciting that they are not just limiting themselves to Cochinita for example - yet I think they know when it is going overboard. I learned that chef and his mother (!) are the cooks {chef's wife waits).

                                                              I am ready for a chowdown _ and I think this is the place.

                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                I have actually yet to try this tamal - now that I am drooling - its what I am going to order next - many thanks!

                                                                (cultural question -- I know that this tamal is also called "Brazo del Indio" - I wonder if there is a regional inter-peninsula linguistic preference {Merida vs. Valladolid for example}

                                                            2. Quick Report: I swung by for lunch on Wed. I asked what was on special -ordered it.
                                                              Called "Pebre" A smoked turkey in relleno blanco. Delicious with tortillas. Clear-white sauce with peppercorns and oregeno. Any info on this dish?

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: kare_raisu

                                                                Love that you dig this restaurant and post updates about it. Pebre might just mean the peppercorn. However I posted a question on the General Board so maybe more people will know.

                                                                Me ... I keep trying to track down the elusive and maybe mythic San Rafael taco truck. It might be like trying to find Mexican Brigadoon. Did spot a paleta cart though.

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  Its my pleasure rworange to post on what is becoming my favorite restaurant here up north.

                                                                  I guess this dish turned out to be the special -as I learned it from the chef from beto (big guy) who came up to talk to me - was that he was craving it it and his mother the cook made some up for the day. I thought it was awesome to be able to taste something that has to be very authentic and familial considering the circumstance of its appearance

                                                                  Thank you all for getting me interested in the place and thanks rworange for the GT post inquiry.

                                                              2. Mrs. Wineguy and I made the trek across the bridge and had a terrific late lunch yesterday, as she was craving Cochinita Pibil. We started with an order of Salbutes and an order of Codzitos. The Salbutes were melt-in-your-mouth, and softly fried, while the Codzitos were a nice contrast: crisp outside, a little heat inside. Of course Mrs. Wineguy had to have the Cochinita Pibil, which seemed more citrus-y than at previous meals and was great. I had the Poc Chuc, which was well charred, but moist and tender with a nice range of porky flavor. The hand-ground salsa had a nice kick. Excellent meal once again!

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: wineguy7

                                                                  Hey wineguy - what protein did they serve the Salbutes with? Turkey en eschabeche? You can ask for the Xnipec if you like - I did last time - was fantastic in judicious applications.


                                                                    1. re: kare_raisu

                                                                      >You can ask for the Xnipec if you like - I did last time - was fantastic in judicious applications.<

                                                                      What is Xnipec?

                                                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                                        "Dog's Snout" salsa basically pure habs

                                                                        1. re: kare_raisu

                                                                          "Dog's Snout" meaning its so spicy, you will be wise to have a box of kleenex nearby.


                                                                  1. Missed out making the trek down last week, so I was really hurting for some of Rey's food.
                                                                    I realized that I had not had any seafood based dishes from the Yucatan - I opted for the Pescado a la Parilla.
                                                                    What arrived at my table was a pretty dramatic plating of a whole kingfish (I believe) basted in an achiote-based sauce and stuffed with some cilantro for aromatic effect and subtle flavoring of the meat.

                                                                    This was accompnied by a nice arroz a la mexicana and a side of achiote-sauteed veggies ( peppers and onions).

                                                                    The fish was perfectly grilled - I have to say - completely moist and a pleasure to eat with the rice and veggies.
                                                                    A nearby table ordered the Brazo de Reina which looked fantastic with sliced harboiled egg and a nice sauce atop.
                                                                    Once again a nice meal and the favorite part of my week.

                                                                    1. Adding a link with hours of operation.

                                                                      El Rey Pakal
                                                                      227 3rd St, San Rafael, CA 94901

                                                                      1. I went down for lunch today with the postponment of the chowdown.

                                                                        I was suggested the special Papadzules which came with a veggie soup. Papadzules are basically enchiladas with a chopped hard-boiled egg filling topped with two sauces - a green pumpkin-seed and salsa jitomate yucateca.

                                                                        This was my first time having this dish and I instantly liked it. I think this was largely due to the contrasting flavors of the nutty and earthy pumpkin-seed sauce and the chopped hard-boiled egg filling. I dont know how or why but they just work well together. It did not hurt either that those excellent handmade tortillas were used! In each bite you got a little acidity from the tomato sauce, nuttiness from the pepitas, chew from the tortilla, and the soft egg.

                                                                        Being very hungry, I wanted to try the cochinita taco and have one of my new favorite masa based snacks: the polcane.

                                                                        What I liked about the cochinita was that the pork flavor stood up to the orange and achiote sauce- that there was a balance between the two. I think the level of juiciness was perfect and liked the avocado and crisp cebollas encurtidas garnishes. Great tortilla goes without saying

                                                                        The polcane is a fried masa- oval or round filled with ibes- white beans from the Yucatan and crushed pumpkin seeds topped with red onion chopped. I like this for the textural contrast of the two starches - almost similar to my fondness for potato tacos.

                                                                        I ordered the Jamaica agua fresca as well. I appreciated so much the very faint sweetness - angelic almost went placed next to those syrupy meses some places serve.

                                                                        1. El Rey Pakal - Update
                                                                          This place is my new favorite place in San Rafael and it is very hard to find. If they do not get a regular clientele it won't last, which would be a shame. I have been told that the Mexican's/Mayan's do not come in because they make food at home for sale in the canal neighborhood of San Rafael and they are seen as the competition. On Sunday they will start a weekly taco party outside in the plaza.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Sharon S.

                                                                            They have mentioned to me the fact that Yucatec food is being sold at the farmers market on Sunday down there.

                                                                            It would be pretty devastating to me to loose them - I have not been down in the longest time.

                                                                            What makes you so worried - have they mantioned anything directly to you?

                                                                            I am interested to hear a little bit more about the canal neighborhood you mentioned.

                                                                            1. re: Sharon S.


                                                                              -You predicted right: El Rey Pakal is no more.