So Friday night had finally come, one of the rare moments in my life where I actually get the urge to go out and be young. Meaning, just hanging with old high school friends (people my age in other words) and catching each others facetious gay bluffs, usually involving a local backyard punk gig, a pint or two of cheap beer, and the ever high hopes of suddenly “getting lucky”. NOT thinking about writing or food but instead just living the moment…
This last Friday though was and exception. My food world had cut into my leisure time through a dinner invite from a Roosevelt High School teacher who I had given a guest lecture on the concept of Foodblogging. He had told me about a “Mayan Tasting” dinner that was happening at Chichen Itza that night and asked if I was interested. I said yes, but only to find out that one of my o.g homie’s two-tone reggae band was playing at the San Pedro Brewery that same night, meaning FREE craft beer and not-typical-scene chicks.
But anything for the sake of expanding my palate right?
We had barely made it too, half an hour late, meaning half an hour beyond their closing time and being the last customers of the night. A huge thank you for still feeding us!
It was to be an eight course dinner highlighting tribal Food from the South of Mexico before Spanish Rule–
An Agua Fresca De Chaya was included in the dinner, a “medicinal herb” kinda like Spinach but with a heftier bite was apparent through out the meal. Here, it was blended with sugar and acted as a refresher.
Shaved, Green Plantain pieces were fried and served as chips to go with our black and white bean purees, both smooth and creamy. The table favorite was the Sikil Pac (middle) though, a chunky puree of toasted pumpkin seeds and tomatoes.
No cheese to be found in here as there were no domesticated cows back then, instead a small amount of filling consisted of seasoned squash melded with starchier than thou corn. Liked the fried little edges of Masa the best of course…
Up next was a dainty, composed salad of cutely shaped Jicama, Mango and Piña (Pineapple). Nothing much to be said here, tasted like a portion controlled, Fruta Mixta order you would get from a Mexican fruit vendor from any given East L.A corner…that’s all here.
These duo of dense, Tamales were served just a couple of degrees above stone cold, not sure if that was on purpose. Espelon was described as a “traditional Mayan Bean” and had very similar qualities to a dried out Japanese Adzuki bean. Chaya prevailed as always with its faint, herbaceous notes.
The soup course was also Chaya centered, along with a couple of properly cooked Chayote, the leaf’s meatier qualities were more noticeable here, the teacher compared it to Wakame seaweed actually. The broth packed a fiercely savory punch, didn’t know whether to classify it as salty or just umami.
We were given an option from choosing two from four options as our mains. Seeing Venison on the menu made me full of glee as I love game but don’t get to eat it often. Although it was kind of hard to treasure it here, cooked to a point where it tasted portrayed a liver-like flavor and mealy texture. Good thing the delicate sauce was there to rescue it a bit.
Excited to see the Pibil preparation applied on other meats, I jumped at getting the Duck version of the Yucatan infamous Cochinita Pibil. Wrapped in Banana leaves and baked, this protein also seemed to be cooked beyond recognition, including the bland black bean/rice mash up underneath. Albeit, that glorious, zippy sauce salvaged this dish yet again!
The one thing that truly did blow me away was something that I–of course–didn’t get: Tikin Xic (Fire Grilled Grouper Fish).
The last course was a dessert of Buñuelos De Yuca, Fritters made from the starchy Cassava root vegetable, drizzled with Honey and served with a shot of Milk-less Hot Chocolate.
Dense, heavy and ever chewy, these were definitely no Beignets. Reminded me of dessert version of the Brazilian pão de queijo. The milk-less Hot Chocolate shot over-compensated with more sweetener in it, tasted a little to single note to be just sugar though, maybe Agave? Nonetheless, I dunked and enjoyed.
I really appreciate the concept that they are aim
ing for with this tasting, as I recently went back to my parents Zacatecano hometown and discovered my food roots.
But next time, I think I’ll rather go skank it up in the pit with the homies while drinking a double chocolate Porter…
*Price $35 per person. Tax and gratuity not included.
*Tasting will take place again in the next couple of weeks sometime, give them a call if interested
3655 S Grand Ave #C6
Los Angeles, CA 90007