Mexican food is not new to the pages of ClipperBlog Eats – we’ve suggested everything from Baja-style fish tacos to Oaxacan moles to spinning cones of pork and tacos filled with stew – and still we have barely scratched the surface of Mexican cuisine. Here, then, is one more to add to the list: the outstanding Yucatecan specialties from Chichen Itza, located in a stall at the Mercado la Paloma, just across the 110 from Expedition Park.
Yucatecan food is a wonderful and perhaps underappreciated cuisine, with heavy use of habanero, pickled onions, citrus, and achiote. The dishes at Chichen Itza, like the best Yucatecan food, are bright and citrusy and spicy, and play with the perfect balance of richness and bite. The cochinita pibil is a great example of that equilibrium, whether you get it in a taco, a torta, or as a plate with beans and rice. The pork is luxurious and tender, juice running out the side of whichever meat delivery system you choose, but the marinade of achiote, sour orange juice, and spices keeps the flavor firmly on the lighter side. When you scatter a few slices of pickled onions across the top and hit it with a dash of their excellent spicy habanero salsa you have something truly special, equal parts rich and sharp, somehow a little too spicy and a little too fatty and also totally perfect.
Other dishes work more purely with bright acidity and spiciness and smoke, like the Tikin-Xic, fish marinated in lime and achiote, and the Poc Chuc, pork shoulder marinated in sour orange juice and grilled over mesquite. The Panuchos are another excellent Yucatecan specialty, a small fried tortilla filled with black beans then topped with turkey, pickled onions, and avocado. It most closely resembles a miniature tostada or Mexicali Taco’s cachetada, and an order of two makes a great appetizer or little pregame snack. Whatever you get, though, make sure to save room for an order of flan or a fried plantain for the road. 3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007; www.chichenitzarestaurant.com