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Yucatecan Crawl in three parts

Today the ever-changing cast of chowhounds who joined “kare raisu” for an all-day chowdown touring San Francisco’s Yucatan eateries. I’ll post the list of things we tried and ask the participants to add their comments. Here’s the itinerary -

11:30am - Comida Yucatan y City Pizza (Turk St @ Leavenworth)

12:55pm - Mi Lindo Yucatan (Valencia and 15th), www.lindoyucatan.com

2:30pm - Yucatasia (Mission & 18th) & El Maya Yucatan (Mission & 16th

)

4:30-6pm - Happy hour at Tommy's Mexican (Geary @ 24th) http://www.tommystequila.com/

7pm – Dinner party and finale at Chichén Itzá, (16th @ So Van Ness

)

Part 1 – Progressive Lunch:

For me, the most pleasant surprise of the day was Comida Yucatan y City Pizza in the Tenderloin. The owner is Pakistani and the sweet woman who does the cooking hails from a small town near Merida. Four of us tried Thursday’s special, entomatado accompanied by handmade-to-order tortillas, and pureed black beans, $8; panucho de cochinita pibil; and a trio of tamales: colado, $2.25, torteado, $2, and orneado, $2. A very spicy-hot green salsa made from serrano and habanero chiles and a mild red tomato sauce were provided as accompaniments.

At Mi Lindo Yucatan’s Valencia Street location, lunch for eight included the large antojito platter, escabeche de pavo, cochinita pibil, poc chuc, relleno negro de pavo, sopa de dia, and puerco adobado.

Then three of us staggered over to Yucatasia where we were joined by one new recruit. And, despite the photos of Vietnamese sandwiches still posted near the entrance, the menu here is now strictly Yucatec. Here we had a panucho de pollo pibil, $1.50, papazul, $7.50, and salbute de cochinita pibil, $1.50.
Our last lunch stop was El Maya Yucatan where we gamely tasted a panucho de cochinita pibil, $2, and queso flan Napolitano, $2.

Part 2 – Happy Hour:

After a Christmas shopping break, “kare raisu” and I met at the bar at Tommy’s Mexican for margaritas. He picked Frida Kahlo reposado, and me, Chinaco reposado. And despite feeling too full to eat another bite, the tortilla chips are quite good here and we liked both the salsas, especially the roasted tomato one.

The Yucatan part of this stop was a couple shots of anise-flavored Xtabentun licor.

Part 3 – Dinner:

To wrap up the day, we headed back to the Mission for dinner at Chichen Itza. Eight of us sampled

Platillo Chichen Itza, $10 – panucho, salbute, empanada, tostada, and kotzito
Pato a la naranja, $18
Poc chuc, $14
Estofado de borrego, $16
Chicken mole
Tamales colados, 3 for $9.75
Escabeche de pavo
Roasted bananas with caramel, strawberry puree and ice cream
Bread budim with ice cream

We brought out own wines: 2005 Aveleda “Charamba” Douro Vinho Tinto, 1999 Husch “Apple Hill” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and 1995 Turley “Hayne Vineyard” Napa Valley Petite Syrah.

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

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

Yucatasia
2164 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Tommy's Mexican Restaurant
5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

Comida Yucatan y City Pizza
294 Turk St, San Francisco, CA 94102

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

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  1. I am so sorry & envious that I couldn't make it.... all of a sudden I got swamped with deals going on in Thousand Oaks, Chicago & Florida... (I guess the silver lining is I get to try a number of new recommended chow spots) but I really would have prefered to participate today.

    I am waiting impatiently for posts on how the Yucaorgies turned out!

    1. Tamales colados at Chichen Itza are the perfect comfort food. Silky, mushy, flavorful (whatever was in it).

      I still love the mild escabeche de pavo here, as well as the panuchos and salbutes. Mashed potatoes were amazing, leading us to speculate how much whipping cream or butter went into them. The roasted meats were fine, but what really shines is the homemade tortillas and refried black beans.

      I'll repeat my impression from past lunches at Popol Vuh and now Chichen Itza. If Mexican food can be light and airy, this is the spot. Hope life south of the border (or nearly) is good to Kare Raise.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Windy

        Thanks much for bringing the Charamba. How do you feel about lunch vs. dinner at Chichen Itza?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          The lunch prices are definitely a deal, and my favorite items (all the turkeys from salbute to panuchos to escabeche) are on both menus. If I were Chichen Itza, I'd probably change the evening menu to more tapas--smaller servings for $12 instead of entrees for $18--and charge for rice and beans.

          I do agree the ambiance at night is superior, and the gracious service is a plus.

          The Charamba was one of Weimax's bargain wines. <$5.

          1. re: Windy

            We're on the same wavelength on lunch vs. dinner. I liked the variety of small servings at lunch better, though I'd miss the mashed potatoes served at dinner time.

      2. Thanks for organizing the dinner at Chichen Itza. The overall quality of the food was high and a great value. There are few places in the City, if any, that eight people could eat that well for a food bill of $16 per person.

        The restaurant was kind enough to share two traditional Yucatecan dishes that are not on their menu. (Thank you Melanie for arranging this.) The roast chicken leg in mole and the tamales culado. The roast chicken was fork tender, though I felt that the mole was somewhat thick and lacked depth. The tamales culado, on the other hand, had the texture of soft, creamy and very fine polenta -- so comforting. The filling was shredded chicken in a savory yellow sauce that had a light cheese flavor. The flavors blended well with the creamy out layer and was my favorite dish -- so much so that I ordered some to go. It's too bad this isn't on their menu.

        The other stand out for me were the handmade tortillas. Almost too good to fill with lots of things, just a bit of pork or a smear of bean puree was enough to highlight the fresh handmade goodness.

        Also good were escabeche de pavo, panucho, poc chuc and the extra creamy mashed potatoes that accompanied several dishes. I enjoyed meeting and dining with everyone. Good luck down south Kare Raisu!

        Photos as a slideshow here:

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/porkbell...

        18 Replies
        1. re: wanderlust21

          A few comments if I may.... its Colado... Culado will get a quite a giggle from pre-teen boys.

          With respects to Yucatecan "Mole"... do they call it a Mole (a word of Nahuatl origin)? I think in the peninsula they refer to its as Pipian... and I have yet to have a Yucatecan Pipian with much flavor depth (at least if you are comparing to a Central / Southern Mole). In the Yucatecan, the pumpkin seed is practically a staple (and a major part of their Squash crop)... and they regularly have without all the blow out, celebratory spices, dried chiles & fruits that Moles have. At its best its more like Japanese Curry (in texture, roundness of flavor & subtle nuances) than a Mole.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I'm told that the word "panucho" will also elicit giggles in certain parts of Central America. (Hint: they will sound like the giggles elicited by the word "snapper" in some parts of the US).

            At least I no longer confuse panuchos with salbutes....

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              I haven't heard about the association with Panucho... but Panocha (the alternate name for the triangle shaped sweetness peddled in form of brown sugar *wink) will certainly get some riled up in Mexico.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                I thought panuchos were street food snacks made from corn dough no? I never tried these but have seen them outside the markets and in the squares in Merida. Like open faced tacos if you woud.

                1. re: Lori SF

                  Yes Panuchos are open faced tacos (with part of the "tortilla" sliced off for pliability)... Panocha (see the subtle spelling differences) is basically the same thing as Piloncillo. Technically... Piloncillo is the substance... whearas Panocha is the actual cone shape (the syrup for example would be called Almibar de Piloncillo or simply Piloncillo and never Panocha which would only refer to the cone).

              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                I have heard it called pipian mole when referring to the ancient Yucatecan sauce made of pumpkin seeds when I was in that area. Also, Guatemalan' s make many varities of the same dish and they call pepian, which I have had as well very similar to the Mexican pipian just more heat because of the blending of the chiles makes it hotter.

                1. re: Lori SF

                  In Chiapas they also call it Pepian... are you saying its spicier in Mexico or Guatemala? My experience with Guatemalan cusine (at least among those from Guatemala City is that use chiles vary sparingly) on the other hand a Pipian in Puebla or Mexico State would typically be much spicier than most Moles.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    I found the Pepian in Antigua was more complexed and hotter than the Pipian Yacatan version in Uxmal and Merida. I believe the Guatemalans do more toasting with the dried chiles and pumpkin seeds, nuts and before blending. The Guatemalan woman that took care of me when I was a child would take hours to make this sauce, this is where i developed by love for hot hot. Then the Pipian I had in Puebla was spicer by the use of different spices not by the use of chiles.

                    This is making me so hungry.

                    1. re: Lori SF

                      I think in terms of generalizations... the Yucatec Pipian is unique in that its the lightest, least complex... really like a Pumpkin Seed "soup"... other Pipianes or Pepian are definitely more complex, nuanced & heavier (I think this goes back to the climitalogical differences between low lying, scrubby Yucatan State versus the cooler highland, forest areas of Chiapas, Puebla & Antigua). The other thing is that Pipian / Pepian is more of a special, celebration food in those areas... whereas in the Yucatan its actually part of the daily nourishment schemes.

                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Interesting. As far as the mole, it would be good to find out what part of the Yucatan the owner hails from. Colado refers to the corn meal being strained, so I guess they just misspelled it on the check.

                  http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?...

                  1. re: wanderlust21

                    the flavors do vary from villages, countryside to Merida then to the peninsula As for Pipian it also depends if they are using squash seeds or toasted pumpkin which can really change the flavor.

                    Looks like you guys had a great time.

                    1. re: Lori SF

                      To me the mole was the least impressive dish of the evening. The sauce was thick and bland; I couldn't have said whether it had pumpkin seeds in it or not.

                      I did like the poc chuc.

                    2. re: wanderlust21

                      Most Bay Area Yucatecs seem to come from the town of Peto... which is a relatively poor & remote area in the jungle, off the road that runs between the Puuc Route & Felipe Carillo Puerto.

                    3. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Yes, it was called a mole. Previously, I've also had chimole with turkey at Chichen Itza.

                      As background, when I called to make the res, I passed on a few special requests from kare raisu. I figured that the kitchen would be open to it since part of the menu changes every day. He requested papadzul or something with pipian sauce, vaporcitos, tamales colados, and escabeche de pavo. A couple days later I got a call back saying that they would make the tamales colados but not vaporcitos, escabeche de pavo was no problem, and that one of the day's specials would be mole instead of pipian because it was the wrong season (!) for the right kind of pumpkin. This was quite puzzling to me, as this would seem to be the time of year for pumpkin, but maybe I misunderstood.

                      I like your description of it as similar to Japanese curry, fitting for our friend kare raisu, and he did wipe up the last of that plate and cleaned every bit off the bones. Myself, not crazy about the dish, but did notice some fruity notes that I thought might be banana or pumpkin. But it didn't seem to have any ground pumpkin seeds in it from the flavor.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Melanie... I think in that version they use the seeds from a summer squash which I believe would be the little white ones with thin skins you sometimes see dried in the Mexican markets. Also... I am pretty sure the Yucatecans like to use the seeds fairly fresh... like I mentioned they see them as a nutritious staple not a condiment.

                    4. re: wanderlust21

                      Susy, thanks a bunch for these great photos at Chichen Itza. I have to say that the one of the chicken mole after the first cut looks like something out of a hepatology textbook. (g) But it did remind me of how wonderful the rice is here with well-toasted, separate grains infused with bouillon.

                      I'm glad you purchased some of the tamales colados to go, as I noticed the staff meal in the back was the same. I'm sure they made quite a few of them anticipating a bigger order than we gave them. How were they when reheated? CI's were my favorite of the day, barely beating out CYyCP's which had a meatier taste but not quite as smoothly textured masa. I thought the difference might be the timing of the steaming with CI's being a little fresher. We also had mini tamales colados on the antojitos plate at Mi Lindo Yucatan, but they weren't even close in texture though they tasted fine.

                      It was also good to have you at the table because you'd been to Popol Vuh a few times as well. Things seem the same to me. This was my first time at night, and I like the uplighting in the room much better at dinner time.

                      Popol Vuh is now Chichen Itza thread -
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/454130

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        The tamales were excellent when reheated the next morning, very moist and the outer corn meal was still soft and creamy. They also included a generous container of the tomato salsa to top it off and a small container of the spicy habanero salsa.

                        Yes, it was nice to find that the escabeche de pavo and panucho were the same as those I had at lunch, when the restaurant was called Popol Vuh. Glad you brought up the rice. I thought the rice was really good, very toasty and savory. The rice, beans and tortillas show a lot of care and effort to be better than just another side dish. I appreciate their consistency, putting care into basic side dishes, and maintaining quality at lunch as high as they do for a large party at dinner. I agree about the the lighting at dinner time, much better than the darker cavernous feel at lunch. Funny because you'd think they'd do just the opposite -- mood lighting at dinner and brighter lighting at lunch.

                    5. How did the group feel about MLY's poc chuc vs. Chichen Itza's? I made it to Chichen Itza a couple days ago. Don't know which is truly "authentic", but I crave MLY's poc chuc on a regular basis, and don't think that will be the case with Chichen Itza's poc chu (the strips of pork vs. the pork chop).

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Fig Newton

                        Personally, I prefer the poc chuc at Mi Lindo Yucatan. Our order of poc chuc at Chichen Itza was cut more thinly than MLY so each piece had a lot of char flavor, but overall it was less juicy than the one at MLY.

                        1. re: wanderlust21

                          Most Poc Chuc in the Yucatan seems to be very thinly sliced.... each town has its Poc Chuc masters that get 80% of the business by delivering an illogical combination of juicyness, smoke, char, citrus & earthy achiote.... needless to say it is quite exceptional versus the 80% of vendors that get 20% of the business.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            At Mi Lindo Yucatan, a whole pork chop is grilled and then cut into thin slices for service. MLY's seemed smokier to me, maybe from a longer time at not as high a temp as the thin slices at CI.

                            Here's a link to the chowdown report at Mi Lindo Yucatan from nearly 4 years ago,
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/27909

                      2. My favorites at Comida Yucatan y City Pizza
                        294 Turk St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA.....were the homemade fresh tortillas, the custardy...colado, and the homey and perfectly stewed entomatado! They got a 96 cleanliness rating...wish I could say the same about the neighborhood! But I held my breath a lot, looked straight ahead of me and walked swiftly "NY Style" that being said, I would really like a return visit!
                        Here's to Melanie for creating this Chowdown and Kare Raisu for his new life in San Diego!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                          Thanks, Derek! Since you also made your way to Mi Lindo Yucatan afterwards, maybe you could compare the two places.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            The only dish I could compare was the Tamale Colado (strained masa creating a custard like exterior)...the one at CYyCP was much more custardy than Mi Lindo Yucatan, which I much preferred...you say the one at Chichen Itza is even better...so I must get over there and pig out!