New Chichen Itza on 6th Street
I’d read J Gold’s review, and I’ve read a few posts here about it. I’ve wanted to try it, but didn’t know quite where it was.
So today, when I happened to drive by it, I decided to stop and try it.
It’s new, and it feels new. The walls are freshly painted an off-yellow; the floors are concrete with resin. The ceiling is open and quite high. The windows to the front provide light and entertainment watching the people walk by. There are also tables outside on the sidewalk.
The hostess was charming, and gave me my choice of where to sit. All the furniture is new, and the place is very clean.
The waitress was a treat. She was funny and extremely attentive to me and everyone in the restaurant. She made me feel very welcome, which was nice as I was dining alone.
She brought out a basket of chips, a small bowl of creamy black beans and a small bowl of salsa. The salsa wasn’t hot at all, but it was very tasty. The beans too were good for dipping the chips.
She suggested the kibi appetizer and the bistec Yucatan, both of which I ordered.
In the mean time, she brought the iced tea I ordered. It was a large glass with a unique little wand that held the raspberry herbal tea. It was still steeping. This isn’t really what I wanted, but I figured it was part of the experience.
This place subscribes to the same food timing as many Thai places. Namely, they bring the food when it’s ready. On the menu, it’s separated into appetizers, salads, soups, entrees and desserts. But don’t let that fool you. That’s just for categorization. It all comes at the same time. And thank God it did.
All the different flavors were a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. The kibi, it was explained to me, was brought to Yucatan by Lebanese immigrants in the 1800’s. They settled in Merida, the state capital, and started a textile trade. Now they are the rich people in the state. If you walk the streets of Yucatan you will find little stands selling pita bread, hummus, falafels, stuffed grape leaves and other Middle Eastern foods.
…...like kibi. It looks like a slightly flattened falafel, and it tastes kind of like a falafel. But it’s made with meat, so it’s a little denser, and it’s spicier. It’s not served with tahini sauce, but rather marinated onions and a nice cabbage and onion slaw. It was very good.
The bistec Yucatan was quite simply outstanding. It’s not a big hunk of meat, but rather a series of thick-sliced, extremely tender marinated steak. The marinade gives it a tangy flavor. It’s cooked perfectly. You can cut it with your fork or even a spoon if you wish. It’s covered with a nice onion slaw, and served with rice, plantains and potatoes.
Now here’s an excellent pairing. They cut the plantains and potatoes into same-size pieces, and alternate plantain, potato, plantain, potato… so you eat a bite of plantain WITH a bite of potato. It’s genius, but I don’t know of anyone else doing it. The saltiness of the potato offsets the sweetness of the plantain, and it’s just perfect.
Oh, and I can’t forget. Every report I’d read about this place goes on and on about the habanero salsa. The waitress brought it out, and suggested I try it. Knowing it could take paint off a car, I literally dipped part of a corner of a chip into the bowl and got a drop.
And it was hot. That little tiny drop woke up my taste buds. I could feel it sizzling in the back of my mouth, and down my throat. But to my surprise, it wasn’t just heat with no flavor. It has a nice earthy flavor that I actually enjoyed. By the end of the meal, I was spooning it onto my meat and rice, and the putting the whole thing into a tortilla. Yum.
What I like about this place is that you get a lot of different flavors on the plate, and it’s all very fresh and different tasting. It’s not the same old thing. (Although as an aside, I did overhear another customer just ordering some tacos. I wonder if those are different, too.)
The owner or manager, or some guy with a suit came over and explained about Yucatan cooking, and about how they want it to be authentic, etc. Both he and the waitress were quite interested to hear how I found out about the place. I guess they’re trying to figure out how to get more business.
I had a very nice meal, and I will definitely be back. I just hope it’s still as good once more people start going there.
2501 W. 6th Street (about 4 blocks west of Alvarado)