Experiences at Xel-ha?
I was just cruising thru the Reader's restaurant listings and saw this one. No hits on a search of the Chicago board, so I was wondering if anyone has made it here.
I have; went last night in fact. The atmosphere is similar to that of Salpicon, but there is a larger bar (which is where I ate). The menu is divided between Yucatan specialties and other choices. I chose two appetizers from the Yucatan side: the shredded duck sopes and the tamales, one of which was stuffed with pork and the other with queso fresco and epazote. When my order arrived, I found that both tamales were stuffed with pork, but the bartender insisted (in a nice way) that I have what I had ordered, so immediately delivered the queso tamale. The tamales were good, but I loved the duck appetizer. Xel-ha has a nice choice of wines by the glass, carefully chosen to match the food. The menu was quite large, so I will certainly return to try some of the other dishes.
I tried Xel Ha last night. It was very busy, which is a good thing. Just about every able taken, so I would recommend reservations if you go on a weekend night.
I had the duck taco appetizer which I thought was good. I liked the mix of savory meat over the crispy taco with an occasional bit of habanero, but next time I would order something else. Guacamole was good, nothing special, but well prepared. The tortilla chips were a mixture of some stale ones, some that were limp from not being cooked enough, and some crispy. Seems like someone in the back wasn't really paying attention.
For an entrees we both ordered off of the Yucatan menu. (The menu is split into generic Mexican and regional Yucatan sections) I had the mahi mahi, Mrs. wak had the turkey in a dark chile/tequila sauce. I thought both were quite good, but what really made the meal for me were the tacos they served on the side - soft, warm, home made tacos in which you could wrap the meat and vegetable/salsa sides. Eating the mahi mahi alone was OK, but combined with the other sides and wrapped in the tacos, it was excellent.
A good seleciton of mid-priced wines and very large tequila selection either served as shots or in margaritas. We ordered a mid priced Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc which went well with the entrees.
Total meal was just over $100 for two, which was incidentally what we ended up paying for each person at De La Costa for a similar meal last week.
In the grand scheme of Chicago Mexican/Nuevo Latino dining, I'd put this in the upper half. Not as endowed with atmosphere and over the top decor as some others (aka De La Costa), but the food was worth it. Definitely a place I would return to in the future.