Mercado La Paloma, a local community gathering place, is also home to a fine hodgepodge of quality restaurants--Thai, Ethiopian, American, Mexican, and Yucatecan cuisine can be found here. Chichen Itza, the restaurant that consistently has the longest queue of all the restaurants, specializes in Yucatecan cuisine (southeastern Mexican cuisine)--the menu is filled with unique regional specialties.
After ordering in person at Chichen Itza's counter, one receives a wooden stand with a number (for the employees to keep track of where to bring food to). Prior to the arrival of the food, an employee will bring over beverages as well as Chichen Itza's house Habanero Hot Sauce. It's a potent, fruity, extremely spicy, and slightly acidic hot sauce.
During my first visit, I had the torta de cochinita pibil (7.25 USD), a sandwich made with house-made baguette stuffed with the said cochinita pibil, banana leaf wrapped braised pork marinated with achiote and sour orange, and pickled minced red onion. It came alongside a scoop of potato salad, and some tortilla chips, both of which served as strong accompaniment to the sandwich-- one sweet and creamy, the other crispy and lightly salted. The sandwich itself, more importantly, was also tasty--the crusty and soft bread paired nicely with the tender, tangy, rich pork and bright pickled onion.
What I wished I had more of in the torta though, was the cochinita pibil marinade. Thus, on another visit, I ordered the full cochinita pibil (9.99 USD) entree, which came with a lot more of the pork, a habanero pepper, several corn tortillas for taco making, and a side of white rice and black beans. Here, the flavors of the pork really stood out, given that it was well sauced-- the acidic marinade and rich pork flavors really came out fully. The accompaniments, all hot and warm, served as welcoming canvases for the cochinita pibil.
Chichen Itza offers a wide variety of drinks, from chilled chaya, horchata, guanabana, and jamaica, to hot drinks like coffee, and occasionally, atole de coco. On another visit, we began with a cup of jamaica (1.99 USD), a hibiscus flower tea drink that was pleasantly acidic and lightly sweetened.
We also tried out the papadzules (9.49 USD), which consisted of "four hard boiled egg stuffed corn tortillas topped with pumpkin seed sauce." This dish was quite rich and creamy, with the minced hard boiled eggs and rich pumpkin seed sauce, and balanced by the achiote sauce and salsa that lightly applied on top.
The pescado playa lancheros (16.99 USD, whole grilled branzino), came with a butterflied whole branzino that was served with salsa, avocado, lime wedges, pickled red onions, and rice and black beans. Lightly grilled, the branzino offered a crispy skin, and a very tender, flaky flesh.
To go along our protein heavy meal, we ordered a side of vegetales al carbon (3.50 USD), or wood grilled vegetables. In this case, we got four large spears of grilled asparagus served with a creamy, spicy sauce. The asparagus were nice and tender, and the chefs took care to strip away the fibrous areas near the stem of the asparagus.
On yet another visit, I tried the tikin-xic (10.49 USD), grilled basa fillet served over rice with achiote sauce, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, a side of tortillas, and a side of citrus jicama salad. This was a balanced meal, with carbohydrates, protein, and plenty of vegetables. The basa filet was meaty and tender, although the pieces I got were a bit overcharred. The tangy, slightly spicy achiote sauce served together-- the meaty fish, rice, and bright and crunchy salad.
On one weekend, I happened to bump into a special event of sorts--Chichen Itza set up a special booth outside of their storefront for lechon al horno, or roasted pork. They certainly were not kidding-- they had roasted large sections of pig on the counter, and the chef was individually preparing tacos, tortas, and entree plates of the pork to order.
After I ordered a taco, the chef heated a tortilla, took some shreds of the pork, dressed it with some of the pork's own juices and lime juice, and topped the pork and tortilla with pico de gallo and a large piece of chicharron. For 1.50 USD, this was quite a deal! The pork was extremely rich, porky, and fall off the bone tender, and the pico de gallo nicely balanced the soft tortilla and flavorful pork. Meanwhile, the chicharron, fried pork skin, was an enjoyable crunchy snack.
I had originally wanted a meal with more vegetables, but Chichen Itza also had a chalkboard special of mondongo a la andaluza (9 USD), a soup comprised of tripe, chorizo sausage, vegetables and hominy, and so my meal suddenly became a protein packed one instead. The spicy, deep, and sour broth had plenty of pieces of tender tripe and other ingredients, all in bite-sized pieces. With so much flavor, the soft and crusty bolillo bread served as a chaser between bites of the soup.
Tasty Yucatecan cuisine at a place where different cuisines come together and people are happy-- what's not to like?
Chichen Itza Restaurant
Mercado La Paloma
3655 S Grand Ave #C6,
Los Angeles, CA 90007Tel: (213) 741-1075