Chichen Itza opening new location
We had our employee holiday party there in late Dec. The paint was still drying and we got to be the first to try out the new space. The food is as good as ever, with a more upscale presentation (not sure if the prices are the same, as we didn't order off the menu...). It's in the space of the old vegan cafe, but they've really renovated it nicely. Mama's and Racha are great, but I look forward to having a new lunch place in the MacPark area.
okay, i finally went!
i'm trying hard not to gush here but i can't resist. I AM SO EXCITED TO HAVE CHICHEN ITZA'S RESTAURANT OPEN THREE BLOCKS AWAY FROM MY OFFICE. there. i had to say it. (let's be honest, the only food around my immediate vicinity is a carl's jr.)
i've always enjoyed their catering at meetings i've attended throughout los angeles. for one, i would bathe in their sweet habanero sauce if not for the completely impractical nature of such a task. i was impressed by the fact that their mass produced chicken stayed so perfectly moist and flavorful.
but now, with the restaurant open by macarthur park, i'm practically in heaven. i went for lunch yesterday. i loved the blend of the clean, fresh, sweet and spicy flavors featured in their yucatan palate.
overall: the ambiance is clean and more upscale with chichen itza etched into the tortilla holders and earthy colors of the matte paint wrapping the dining area. the acoustics can get a little "dinny" if people start talking too loud but overall it's very comfortable and spacious.
the food and value: lunch prices are slightly lower than dinner prices. the table setting started with a small glass of water (preserved without a need for a wait or a request), a bowl of thinly sliced crusty baguette like bread used for dipping into the sweet, black bean dip on the side. in addition, there was your usual bowl of tortilla chips - freshly fried with a great! salsa that has a smokiness from using roasted tomatoes (is my guess). good stuff.
my dining buddy and i started with the ceviche de camaron. the shrimp was perfectly tender but meaty...and good but not nearly as acidic or as spicy as we wanted (especially because we were specifically asked if we wanted it spicy and had said, 'yes.')
i had a bite of my buddy's Tikin-Xic, a sauteed sole filet swimming in a gorgeous pool of technicolor red-orange colored sour orange sauce with a bed of rice. plenty of depth in the sauce with a moist and beautifully presented filet. but the fish was almost going to be upstaged by the delicious side (practically a full plate) of Citrus Jicama salad, a fresh combo of sweet, spicy (from red chili flakes) and crunchy. this was a winner.
I had the Cochinita Pibil a hefty chunk of pork "marinated with achiote, sour orange juice and spices, cooked in banana leaves, topped with pickled red onions served with sauted black beans, confetti rice and steamy corn tortillas." i was a little confused by the whole habanero pepper sitting on top of the meat though it looked colorful and attractive. the pork was not as moist as i was hoping but i wouldn't call it dry. upon suggestion by the chef gilberto himself (who was super friendly and checking on us and our food) i shredded the pork and made little corn soft tacos. turns out i was suppose to cut up pieces of the pepper for my little tacos! AH! that's what i was supposed to do! after that, i was in business and it all made sense. the corn tortillas felt handmade and was certainly fresh. overall the pork was definitely delicious and not at all greasy. but if i had a choice between the two dishes, i would pick the fish for its flavors and simple refinement. the pork would be if i wanted to feel that pork full goodness.
overall the value was definitely worth it for the food and ambiance, especially at the lunch prices. my strategy for good value grub will be to come eat here for lunch until i try the whole menu and then i'll know which dishes are worth eating AFTER work.
I was there too last night and I agree the pork plate is a little dry as is. Next time I'll just get the tacos, which are much juicier. And I think they're going to have to give up on that whole raw habenero idea the minute some clueless person pops the whole thing in his mouth and has a meltdown.
I'll post a full review soon but overall, nice place but trying a little too hard to cater to the gringos, IMO.