Yay Chichen Itza in MacArthur Park!!!

Chichen Itza Yucatan Restaurant

2501 W. 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 380-0051

May 29th, 2007 UPDATE
I went there with co-workers last week on Friday for lunch and lo and behold - LUNCH SPECIALS! For $8.95 you can get reasonably priced cochinita pibil tres tacos with sides and a drink, and a number of other items. I was very pleased to see the change in pricing for the lunch crowd. I hope it helps their cashflow so they can stick around and remain a work lunch option for me (yes. it's all about ME).

Oh! I almost forgot. I had the jicama citrus salad again during that lunch and it was pretty bad. The size of the cuts of jicama and quartered orange slices were rough and larger than I remember. The worst part was that the quartered oranges weren't even done correctly! I had to chew hard on the skin of the orange pieces, even the really tough parts that connect towards the north and south poles of the orange. ick.

Previous Post (January 13th, 2007)
i'm trying hard not to gush here but i can't resist. I AM SO EXCITED TO HAVE CHICHEN ITZA'S RESTAURANT OPEN THREE BLOCKS AWAY FROM MY OFFICE. there. i had to say it. (let's be honest, the only food around my immediate vicinity is a carl's jr.)

i've always enjoyed their catering at meetings i've attended throughout los angeles. for one, i would bathe in their sweet habanero sauce if not for the completely impractical nature of such a task. i was impressed by the fact that their mass produced chicken stayed so perfectly moist and flavorful.

but now, with the restaurant open by macarthur park, i'm practically in heaven. i went for lunch yesterday. i loved the blend of the clean, fresh, sweet and spicy flavors featured in their yucatan palate.

overall: the ambiance is clean and more upscale with chichen itza etched into the tortilla holders and earthy colors of the matte paint wrapping the dining area. the acoustics can get a little "dinny" if people start talking too loud but overall it's very comfortable and spacious.

the food and value: lunch prices are slightly lower than dinner prices. the table setting started with a small glass of water (preserved without a need for a wait or a request), a bowl of thinly sliced crusty baguette like bread used for dipping into the sweet, black bean dip on the side. in addition, there was your usual bowl of tortilla chips - freshly fried with a great! salsa that has a smokiness from using roasted tomatoes (is my guess). good stuff.

my dining buddy and i started with the ceviche de camaron. the shrimp was perfectly tender but meaty...and good but not nearly as acidic or as spicy as we wanted (especially because we were specifically asked if we wanted it spicy and had said, 'yes.')

i had a bite of my buddy's Tikin-Xic, a sauteed sole filet swimming in a gorgeous pool of technicolor red-orange colored sour orange sauce with a bed of rice. plenty of depth in the sauce with a moist and beautifully presented filet. but the fish was almost going to be upstaged by the delicious side (practically a full plate) of Citrus Jicama salad, a fresh combo of sweet, spicy (from red chili flakes) and crunchy. this was a winner.

I had the Cochinita Pibil (pictured above courtesy of the restaurant's own website photos) a hefty chunk of pork "marinated with achiote, sour orange juice and spices, cooked in banana leaves, topped with pickled red onions served with sauted black beans, confetti rice and steamy corn tortillas." i was a little confused by the whole habanero pepper sitting on top of the meat though it looked colorful and attractive. the pork was not as moist as i was hoping but i wouldn't call it dry. upon suggestion by the chef gilberto himself (who was super friendly and checking on us and our food) i shredded the pork and made little corn soft tacos. turns out i was suppose to cut up pieces of the pepper for my little tacos! AH! that's what i was supposed to do! after that, i was in business and it all made sense. the corn tortillas felt handmade and was certainly fresh. overall the pork was definitely delicious and not at all greasy. but if i had a choice between the two dishes, i would pick the fish for its flavors and simple refinement. the pork would be if i wanted to feel that pork full goodness.

overall the value was definitely worth it for the food and ambiance, especially at the lunch prices. my strategy for good value grub will be to come eat here for lunch until i try the whole menu and then i'll know which dishes are worth eating AFTER work.


Is that safe to eat?

My friend Wanda forwarded this GUIDE TO THE FUNKY FOOD IN YOUR KITCHEN.

I found it very educational. I hope it can assist you also.

Q: I went spelunking in my freezer and unearthed a burger patty from 2004. Should I toss it?

A: In a freezer set at 0° F (check using a refrigerator thermometer), frozen foods remain safe indefinitely. How long taste and texture stay OK depends on the meat. Frozen bacon and sausage retain their quality for a month or two; uncooked burgers, three to four months; uncooked steaks and roasts, four months to a year. Date food labels with an indelible marker as they go into the freezer.

Q: How long do refrigerated eggs last?

A: Federally graded fresh eggs in their shells are safe for three to five weeks after the expiration date on the carton; raw yolks and whites, for two to four days; hardcooked eggs, for one week. Try to keep the refrigerator temperature lower than 38° F.

Q: My refrigerated ground meat is gray. Wili turn green if I eat it?

A: A change in color does not necessarily mean the product is spoiled or will make you sick. Spoiled meat is likely to have an off odor or be sticky or slimy.

Q: Must peanut butter be refrigerated after it's opened?

A: That depends on the type. Regular peanut butter does not need refrigeration, though that might help retain its flavor. Refrigeration will keep natural peanut butter fresh and slow the process of separation but will make it hard to spread.

Q: If I cut those tiny bits of mold off the cheddar, will it be OK?

A: Maybe not, because spoilage (and sometimes toxins) could go beyond the visible mold. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that if you cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot, hard cheeses can still be safely consumed. (Intentional mold, such as that found on Stilton, is safe because it has purposely been introduced during the cheese-making process and is "good" mold.)

Q: I left pizza on the counter overnight. Can I eat It?

A: No. Perishable food, including any leftovers, should neyer be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. This is true even if there are no meat products on the pizza. Bacteria that might be present on foods grow fastest at temperatures between 40° F and 140° F and can double in number every 20 minutes. Use cooked, refrigerated leftovers within four days.

Q: I repeatedly refill a plastic spring-water bottle with tap water. Good Idea?

A: Probably not. It may be OK to reuse a botte a few times, but handwash it with hot soapy water between uses, or bacteria could grow. (Don't use a dishwasher: Its super-hot water could affect the plastic, and narrow bottlenecks might not let in enough water.)

Q: How long can I keep herbs and spices?

A: Ground spices can be kept for two or three years; whole spices for three or four years; herbs for one to three years. Air, light, moisture, and heat are enemies, so store spice.s and herbs tightly sealed in a cool, dry place. Red spices retain their color better and are best protected from
insects if refrigerated. If you don't use an item often, buy it in small amounts.

Q: How effective Is the "sniff" test?

A: Food that doesn't smell bad can still make you sick, and food that smells bad might not make you sick. Whatever you do, don't taste food to see whether it's spoiled. When in doubt. throw it out.

For more information about food storage, go to wwwJsis.usda.gov, www.cfsanJda.gov, or www.cdc.gov.


Citizen Smith: Sex and Inebriation Preferred

Citizen Smith
1600 N Cahuenga Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 461-5001

Category: American (Traditional)
District: Hollywood

Just came back from Citizen Smith (Sunday night with reservations).

Overall: Go here for the drinks and the Sunday night band and burlesque show. Great band and talented dancers. Get beers and the fried green tomatoes. Don't go for the food. If you inSIST on dinner, reservations make it easier to be seated. I'll be back only if I wanted the darker ambiance for a drinks only date.

The Scene: Mix of actor/actress/model wannabes with producer looking salt-and-pepper hair men at the bar. Lance Bass was there with his boyfriend and their party. But you know, since we LA people see "celebrities" all the time, no one harassed him. We focused on the semi-naked dancing ladies instead. So Hollywood.

The Show: The Sunday night burlesque show came with dining and drinking there (with no cover charge) and that was definitely worth the show. The ladies were fit, trained and sexily tasteful dancers in skimpy lingerie. The Miles something or other band was actually really professional, tight and good. Their music made for a creative show of burlesque dancing (up on the bar too!) The band was good enough to have been pleasing entertainment even without the dancing.

Food and Value: Entrees were just "meh." (Burger was big but uneventful, chicken alright as well). We paid too much for just "meh." (12 dollars base price for the tomatoes with micro greens, 21 dollars!! to split the burgur with fries...fries were nice and crispy though) The tomato basil soup with gruyere toasts was also mediocre for the 12 dollars paid...stick with drinking it out of a Trader Joe's Tomato & Red Pepper Soup carton.

Spirits: The Pinot Noir was suggested for me by the eye-candy waiter to pair with the burger. Not a good choice. Nearly 10 bucks for a glass...pass me the Newcastle.

Service: The hostess was snooty. The bouncer harassed me for no good reason and capriciously decided to let me in because I stated I had reservations with a party that was already seated. Weird. The secondary waiter/busboy that poured our waters went off about how he has had such a bad night because he had dropped a trayful of glasses and it was the woman's fault for bumping into him and he just wanted to go home. Yeah. Too Much Information.

Parking and Transport: I opted out of the pricey valet parking by hitching a bus on Sunset Blvd to Ivar. Convenient.

Total Cost: I paid $40 for the split burger, fried green tomatoes, glass of pinot noir, tax and tip with some bucks for the birthday girl whose dinner and drink we split among three ladies.


Fish Heads, Fish Heads...

At the recommendation of fellow GrubClubber, Divinestyler, I dragged two of my friends to try out the Hunan Restaurant (don't know the exact name) in the shadow of the Shun Fat supermarket on Atlantic Blvd. just south of the 10 in Monterey Park. It had all the signs of a good Chinese restaurant: a nondescript location in a strip mall, a constant line of very Chinese-looking people waiting on the sidewalk outside, and... the ubiquitous feared-by-white-people-but-scoffed-at-by-Chinese-people "C" rating. I've peered in on many prior occasions, but since I'd never felt like waiting for a table, I always opted to go to Dumpling Master, just a few doors down (and one of my favorite grub spots).

But on this particular night, there was one table open, seemingly waiting for us. None of the items on the menu looked familiar to me, so we ordered by looking at what other people were eating and pointing at their food -- and threw in an order of "Hunan style fried rice" for good measure, thinking "When in Hunan... " Turns out, the fried rice was a loser dish. Oh well. The other dishes were ok: Chinese celery with shredded pork & dried chilis and the puzzlingly named "A" vegetable sauteed with loads of garlic. But the real standout item was the "house specialty:" a steamed fish head loaded down with mounds of sliced yellow chili peppers and sitting in a pool of molten yellow pepper lava. We saw this on just about every table in the place, and when we ordered it, the waiter said that this was what everyone comes there for.

However, when he brought out our fish head, I felt every single person in the restaurant turning to see who the suckers were who ordered this behemoth. The first thing I thought when he set it down on our table was that they must be trying to gouge the non-Chinese speaking food tourists by giving us this gigantic order and then charging us triple what the real Chinese people paid. So I made my semi-Chinese speaking friend ask the waiter if he made a mistake in bringing out such a big order (since there were only 3 of us), but he assured us that was what we ordered. He then must have read my mind, because he volunteered the info that they were all the same price, no matter what size. This then caused the people next to us to complain to the waiter, asking why their fish head was so small compared to ours (!!!).

As we were a little unsure about how to proceed eating the fish head, we ended up poking gingerly around it with our chopsticks and found quite a few meat nugget pockets this way, including the very tasty and tender chunk under the fish collar. My first mistake was to pour the sauce over my fish; my lips felt like they were on fire the rest of the night. After that, we were careful not to let the fish meat fall into the moat of oily pepper sauce. We also got a little grossed out by the gelatinous pockets, unsure if we were supposed to eat those, too. Apparently you are; as we left, we surveyed the other tables and wondered what those people did because they had NOTHING left on their plates! They must have eaten the bones, eyeballs, gills, and everything in between because their fish head plates were totally empty.

All in all... it was a very authentic eating experience. You could totally feel like you're actually in China, which is probably a good thing for some people. But it all just reminded of how un-Chinese I felt when I was in China. And how glad I was to be back home, where I could eat tacos and spaghetti whenever I felt like it.

Next time, I think I'll go to Dumpling Master.