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Chichen Itza

Mercado Paloma
3655 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90007 | Map
(213) 741-1075

Chichen Itza, named for the 1500-year-old Mayan pyramids in the Yucatan, is chef-owner Gilberto Cetsina’s homage to the land of his birth, where the food shows Spanish, Lebanese (!) and Mayan influences, with an emphasis on the latter.

Cetsina marinates meats in a sour orange juice and spice mixture, which imparts a distinctive and delicious flavor. The Cochinita Pibil is pork, marinated in that juice, with annatto seed, baked while wrapped in a banana leaf, a mound of it topped with pickled red onions and served with black beans, rice and tortillas.

Don’t miss the papadzules, especially if you’re a vegetarian - four rolled corn tortillas that have been moistened with ground roasted pumpkin seed and epazote sauce.

I looked it up: epazote is a Mexican herb which, in small quantities, relieves gassiness. The tortillas are stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and topped with a tomato sauce. One order will satisfy a table of four.

Occasionally Cetsina gets some venison. If it’s on the specials board, try at least a taco; it’s pricy as a main course. Cetsina makes and bottles his own habanero salsa in two strengths, hot and very hot. You only need a couple of drops of either. Both are flavorful and marvelously spicy.

Cetsina occasionally has an evening devoted to a tasting menu, $35 for six or so courses. These are remarkable evenings and not to be missed.

Like Mo-Chica, the brilliant Peruvian place in the same Mercado Paloma building, there is no alcohol served, and little in the way of atmosphere, but if the surroundings are pedestrian, the food is wonderful.



Related: Mexican | Los Angeles Downtown | Larry Dietz

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Larry Dietz