Yucatecan in Cicero
Since reading Leesh' mention of this place, Amata and I have been really looking forward to stopping by to try out this restaurant and then, after reading the great and also very positive reports of Llewellyn and edeben, our enthusiasm was doubled. Today, we had the chance to go thither for lunch and, in addition, to do so in the company of Llewellyn and edeben. Without any doubt, we agree whole-heartedly with their very positive reviews above and I would go so far as to say that, assuming the food we were served today will be matched consistently in the future, this is one of my favourite restaurants in Chicagoland; I thought everything was outstanding.
Though I've read a lot about the history and culture and cuisine of the Yucatan, I've never been there, so it was a real treat to go to Xni-Pec in the company of Amata, who has travelled there, and Llewellyn and edeben, who lived there for some time. It was also a pleasure having such genuinely warm hosts at the restaurant, who are clearly very proud of their homeland and its cuisine and very willing to spend time answering questions.
The only problem for me was the sense of frustration at not being able to sample even more dishes, though between us, we ordered quite a few different Yucatecan specialties and shared them all. Again, every single item we had I thought was delicious -- clearly made with excellent ingredients and clearly well prepared.
First off, the house-made chips are excellent and the xni-pec salsa, as Llewellyn mentioned above, is addictive...
Since it is made with habaneros, it is spicy but to my mind remarkably restrained in piquancy... But damn, is it delicious...
are little griddled masa cakes, topped with chicken and vegetables... Doesn't sound like much? You're wrong. Really delicious they are...
Another species of Yucatecan masa-cake, the panucho
, is stuffed with bean-paste and fried crispy, then topped with chicken and some of the almost ubiquitous and very delicious cebollas moradas en escabeche
(pickled red onions)... Simple and excellent...
Along with the panuchos
came a cup of consomé
, the cooking medium for the chicken which is flavoured with a recado rojo
... No wonder the chicken is so delicious...
As one can see, the panuchos
, like all the other items served up here, are dressed quite generously...
I couldn't leave this place today without at least trying a pork dish and cochinita pibil
is, of course, a particularly tasty member of that class. So then, I ordered a couple of tacos with the slow-cooked pork and, well, I'm running out of superlatives... Beautiful texture, rich flavour... I must return soon and order cochinita pibil
as my main dish...
... Though, on the other hand, on my next visit I shall also be sorely tempted to order the papadzules
, corn tortillas stuffed with chopped hard-boiled eggs and dipped in a rich, almost creamy pumpkin seed sauce... all of that dressed in the basic and very simple and tasty Yucatecan tomato sauce... The papadzules
come accompanied by rice and black beans...
Last but not least, Llewellyn ordered for all to taste a tamal yucateco
, a chicken tamal wrapped in a banana leaf dressed in tomato sauce... Guess if I thought this was really delicious too!...
Those of you who know my writing may have noted that I tend to be restrained in my praise but on this occasion, I find restraint hard to achieve. As I said above, all of the many dishes we were served today were really delicious and assuming they produce this level of quality regularly (especially at the very modest prices -- ca. $60 for all the above plus complimentary cups of chicken noodle soup, plus a steak taco for Lucantonius and various drinks including beer for me) Xni-pec is an excellent restaurant and my current favourite.
Again, thanks to Leesh for the alert and especially to Llewellyn and edeben for their reports and company today.