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May 21, 2010 03:32 PM

Haltun - traditional Mayan cuisine [SF]

Six intrepid 'hounds lunched today at the recently opened Halfun on traditional Mayan cuisine. With just twenty-two days since the May First opening, the chef/owner offers an array of flavors in the most comprehensive Mayan menu in the neighborhood. Service is friendly and provides a helpful guide to unfamiliar dishes with well-paced attentions. We dined comfortably in the simply-furnished richly-hued ochre dining room with afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. Easy parking on the street.
Appetites were piqued by two salsas; tingly habanero-jalapeno, a mild tomato salsa and hot thick wedges of tortilla accompanied our refreshing Aguas Frescas ($1.75) of sandia/watermelon and Tamarindo/tamarind, both freshly prepared from watermelon or tamarind pods not too sweetened —and beers on draft - Samual Adams. Anchor Steam and Ranger IPA ($3.50). Bottled beers are available for $3. Soft drinks for $1.75 and other Aguas Frescas are Melon, Jamaica, and Horchata.
The Haltun Platter ($16.50) is a sampler of two each: Tamal, Panucho, Salbut', Empanada, Pol-Can, Dzoto-bi-chay, Kot's-dzito garnished with pickled onions and radishes.
Tamal Colado $3 -steamed banana leaf corn dough dumpling of annatto-flavored stewed chicken
Brazo de Reina $3 - steamed spinach corn dough stuffed with hard-boiled egg, crushed pumpkin seed and tomato with a tomato-onion sauce
Sopa de Lima $$4.95 - shredded chicken in an excellent piquant-tangy lime broth with fried tortilla strips
Pan de Cazon $14.50 - crumbled shark meat in layered corn tortillas in a black bean puree
Cochinita Pibil $10.50 - my favorite dish on the table, one to set standards - pork marinated in annatto seed sauce, roasted wrapped in banana leaf and served with a habanero sauce with freshly handmade tortillas. This is prepared fork-fall-apart-tender and the sauce is spoonable and savored.
Relleno Blanco $11.50 - shredded turkey simmered in white mole sauce with tomato-onion sauce
Relleno Negro $11.50 - shredded turkey and pork meatloaf in black mole sauce served with a side of tomato rice

Manjar Blanco $4 - creamy coconut milk cake
Quesa Napolitano $4.25 - vanilla cheesecake a la Yucatan

$20pp with tax and gratuity and a rousing thank you to Melanie Wong for organizing this forray and for the excellent esprit de corps of our attending chowhounds - resplendent with knife skills, photography, and culinary acumen.

Haltun Mayan Cuisine
2948 21st Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

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  1. "The most comprehensive Mayan menu in the neighborhood" is quite a statement, given the existence of Poc Chuc and the place at 16th and Mission whose name escapes me.

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

    3 Replies
    1. re: vulber

      If you mean El Maya Yucatan the previous reports suggest a quite limited menu.

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

      1. re: wolfe

        Their current menu is much broader. (and yes, that is the one i mean)

        1. re: vulber

          I should mention that I went to El Maya Yucatan this mornign and was very impressed, moreso than Poc Chuc. The menu is indeed a bit limited, atlhough not to the point of the previous posts.

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

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

    2. I am a fan of Poc Chuc, but have not tried El Maya Yucatan. I felt prices at Haltun may be slightly lower than at Poc Chuc. The restaurant is spacious, so could be a very good option for large parties. Haltun has an extensive menu with several interesting appetizers.

      Thumbs up on the tangy thick tortilla served very warm as well as the tamarindo agua fresca which was a little pulpy and not too sweet. Of the appetizer platter, I enjoyed the dzoto-bi-chay (steamed corn dough dumpling stuffed with crushed pumpkin seeds wrapped with chard) and the pol-can (fried corn dumpling stuffed with lima beans and crushed pumpkin seeds). I think I prefer Poc Chuc's renditions of the Panucho and Salbut', although it could just be that I got to that part of the platter late. We ended up with both the tamal and tamal colado, but my memory is blurry as to what the difference between them was.

      Also liked the braso de reina (steamed spinach corn dough stuffed with boiled eggs, crushed pumpkin seeds, and tomatoes). The spinach did give the dough a slightly odd texture, but I thought the spinach combined well with the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds.

      The sliced limes added a nice slightly bitter edge to the sopa de lima, which was quite tart. The Pan de Cazon sounded more exciting than it actually was. The shark was fairly bland and the consensus at the table was that the dish needed some salt. Or something.

      The star of the meal for me was the cochinita pibil. I wish the meat had been a touch more tender, but the sauce was brothy and complex, and I am a sucker for the fragrance of banana leaves with meat. I would definitely go back just for the cochinita pibil.

      Some things that we didn't try that I remember from the menu: Poc chuc, Tikin-xik' (baked tilapia wrapped in banana leaves), and several ceviches.

      Had a great time and thanks to Melanie for organizing and to Cynsa for kicking off the report!

      1. Thanks for kicking this off, Cynsa, let's hear from everyone on the scouting team.

        Cynsa, if you still have the menu handy, could you give us the description for Pol-Can, Dzoto-bi-chay, Kot's-dzito?

        I wanted to mention that Haltun took over the space and the walk-up window from El Cachinilla. The to-go tacos continues and there are a couple cafe tables on the sidewalk to take a seat.

        After lunch I went over to thank the chef. I found out that he used to work for the Noe Valley location of Mi Lindo Yucatan, as did the lady helping him in the kitchen and our waitress. I'd only been to the Mission location, not Noe, but would be interested in hearing from anyone who can make a comparison.

        I've gotta run, will post more later after we hear from the others. Here are my photos, S has more to share.

        Slideshow (click on "show options" in upper right corner for captions)

        5 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          excellent pix of deliciousness, Melanie.
          Pol-Can: 2 -Fried corn dumplings stuffed with lima beans and crushed pumpkin seeds topped with pickled red onion. $2.50
          Dzoto-Bi-Chay: 2 -Steamed corn dough dumplings stuffed with crushed pumpkin seeds wrapped with red chard leaves, topped with tomato-onion sauce $3
          Kot's-Dzito: 2 Rolled Tortillas crisp filled with chicken, topped with tomato-onion auce and fresh cheese $3

          1. re: Cynsa

            Thank you, Dzoto-Bi-Chay wrapped with the chard leaves was new to me and an interesting bite from the platter.

          2. re: Melanie Wong

            Great pics Melanie. Thanks for organizing. I enjoyed the lunch and the company. The menu is more extensive than Poc Chuc, though, I'm not sure the food matches the ambition. Still, I think it's worth a repeat visit. There were a few dishes I"d come back for and they've only been open for 22 days so we'll see. I'll post more about the food when I have a chance.

            Photos from Haltun Lunch:

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

            1. re: wanderlust21

              we can "eat with our eyes" on your photos! thanks, S - for being quick and composed

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks Cynsa for writing such detailed notes on the menu. More impressions of the Haltun lunch:

              The sopa de lima is a nice start to a meal, a simple chicken soup punched up with tart lime and some freshly fried tortilla strips.

              I agree with @sfbing on the panuchos and salbutes. I was one of the first to get a bite of both. The panucho wasn't as crispy as I like and the bean puree not as rich and savory. I wonder if making such a large platter meant that some of the items had to sit a while before being served. I also noticed that they use iceburg on the panucho. I prefer the crispness and bite of cabbage that, I believe, is used at other spots.

              As someone pointed out, the turkey used in several of the dishes was on the dry side. Putting that element aside, I enjoyed the Relleno Blanco. The white mole sauce was like a thick turkey soup mild but flavorful and comforting. The thin black broth of the Relleno Negro had a stronger flavor than the blanco and had a few large pieces of sausage mixed in.

              One item that isn't found on the regular menu at Poc Chuc is the Tamal Colado. The filling was indistinguishable from the regular tamal, but I preferred the soft texture and flavor of the masa.

              Overall, nothing stood out to me as a 'must eat again', but the food is good enough to warrant a return visit to further explore the menu.

            3. Sorry for the slightly off topic question. Is there a mailing list for these lunches or are they private? I looked at the yahoo group a month ago or so and it seemed to be mostly spamish (no pun intended) posts.

              1 Reply
              1. re: boris_qd

                I followed this link and it worked. I got an evite to the Hakka chowdown. You do get some interesting spam but stick with the names you know from this board.

              2. contrary to popular opinion, this place just didn't float my boat. Most of the dishes did not
                particularly impress me in any strongly positive way. For me the higher points of the meal were the interesting brazo de reina, the perfectly fine chicken soup,
                the mole negro and the Neapolitan-or-is-it-Yucatecan cheesecake, which was more
                like a panna cotta.

                The turkey in mole blanco reminded me of turkey a la king, with a slightly
                gloppy cornstarch-thickened sauce -- perhaps Yucatecan comfort food.

                The cochinita pibil, which I had high hopes for, tasted a bit overcooked and dried out.
                The point of the banana leaf is to prevent that, but I think it was just decoration. I had this
                same dish last week at Reposada, the upscale Palo Alto Mexican on Hamilton Ave,
                where it was roughly 2.5 times the cost and despite that, more satisfying. I've had it
                some years ago in a very nice place in Merida, Los Almendros. That may be
                the place to go for this food.

                Haltun Mayan Cuisine
                2948 21st Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                3 Replies
                1. re: markseiden

                  Melanie thanks for organizing, it was nice to meet you and the other Chowhounds. I was looking for a new Yucatan resto with the closing of Mi Lindo Yucatan on Valencia. I was surprised the chef at Haltun used to work there, or at least the Noe location. For me the standouts were the sopa de lima for the tartness of the lime, the tamal colado for the textures, the mole negro and blanco for the sauces if not the turkey. The cochinta pibil was a decent version of what was the go to dish at Mi Lindo Yucatan.

                  1. re: BP71

                    Any comparisons to the Cochinita pibil at El Maya Yucatan, which I had the other day and found to be delicious

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

                    1. re: BP71

                      I didn't realize until reading this post that Mi Lindo Yucatan had closed. Though our meal there in Nov 2009 was not stellar, I'm now glad we tried it and very sorry to know that I will never taste their excellent salsa again. I am however chuffed that there is a new Yucatecan resto to go on the list for our next trip :-).