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Xni-Pec de Yucatán [now in Brookfield]

Xni-Pec de Yucatán [now in Brookfield]
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  • Xni-Pec de Yucatán [now in Brookfield]

    Post #1 - January 30th, 2007, 4:29 pm
    Post #1 - January 30th, 2007, 4:29 pm Post #1 - January 30th, 2007, 4:29 pm
    anyone been to Xnipec in Cicero (around 51st & 25th)...a yucateca restaurant? I can't find anything online anywhere about this place.

    thanks
    sharon
  • Post #2 - January 30th, 2007, 4:56 pm
    Post #2 - January 30th, 2007, 4:56 pm Post #2 - January 30th, 2007, 4:56 pm
    leesh wrote:anyone been to Xnipec in Cicero (around 51st & 25th)...a yucateca restaurant? I can't find anything online anywhere about this place.

    thanks
    sharon


    gleam told me about this place a few weeks ago, but I have not made it down there yet. If you go, would be interested in hearing about it (and, yes, there is very little posted about it anywhere).
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #3 - January 30th, 2007, 5:04 pm
    Post #3 - January 30th, 2007, 5:04 pm Post #3 - January 30th, 2007, 5:04 pm
    David Hammond wrote:If you go, would be interested in hearing about it (and, yes, there is very little posted about it anywhere).


    I won't be making it there anytime soon, but our Chef spied it last week and asked me if I knew anything about it. If he goes soon, I'll get his take on the place and post...
  • Post #4 - February 6th, 2007, 2:29 pm
    Post #4 - February 6th, 2007, 2:29 pm Post #4 - February 6th, 2007, 2:29 pm
    I’m the Manager of Xni-Pec Restaurant, we have receive different patrons, some of them where Chefs, we are a small place but grate in taste, we came from the peninsula, our Family are from Yucatan, our origins are in Cozumel Island. That is our warranty to tell you that what you are going to eat it’s not any invention or customized flavors.
    We been open since last May, and suddenly after a few months and several meetings whit Chef Nieto he realize that Yucatan Food is not in the menu around Chicago and he takes his chance whit Xel-Ha we wish them luck.
    But any time you are interested on deal whit truly Yucatan food we invited to come to our place, we not read recipe from books or ask how to cook because we know how to do it. we cook really Yucatan food we do it from several generation, we respect the traditional way to prepare the condiments, the way to cook, and the passion to prepare it because we know what it’s the meaning of our food, our people our history.

    Xni-Pec Restaurant
    5135 W 25th ST
    Cicero, IL
    (708) 652-8680
    Xni-Pec De Yucatan
    Restaurant
  • Post #5 - February 9th, 2007, 4:41 pm
    Post #5 - February 9th, 2007, 4:41 pm Post #5 - February 9th, 2007, 4:41 pm
    Leesh, after reading your posting, I became very curious about the prospect of Mayan cuisine in Chicago, so last week, after picking up my very tired wife, edeben, from Midway Airport it seemed like the perfect opportunity to travel to Cicero for some regional Mexican. Both edeben and I previously lived in Merida, while she was studying Yucatac Maya, consequently we were particularly intrigued with Xnipec. (“Shnee-pek” It rolls off the tongue better than Humbert’s musings of “Lo-li-ta.”)

    Literally “nose of the dog,” Yucatecan salsa is said to be so fiery that if you eat too much of it your nose will begin to look like man’s best friend’s nose. (At least that is what some guy at Merdia’s market told me, ebeden, the linguist, assures me that no one is sure of the etymology of the salsa.) In any case, at Xnipec, their salsa is so good delivers on this promise. Bright habaneros laced with tomatoes, onions, cilantro and a bit of sour orange juice served with freshly fried tortilla chips makes it difficult not to make a meal out of the botanas. Our server noticed we were still shivering from the cold and brought us two complimentary cups of caldo de pollo, which was good, but what was excellent were the entrees.

    I ordered Poc-Chuc and edeben ordered Papadzules. Poc-Chuc is a pork steak, which has been marinated in sour orange juice, lime juice, oregano, thyme, and achiote paste and is garnished with pickled red onions. Papadzules are a concoction of rolled tortillas, stuffed with hard-boiled eggs, and sauced with a green pumpkin sauce. Both dishes were outstanding and served with handmade tortillas. I also noticed that they have many other traditional dishes such as Cochinita Pibil, Panuchos, Salbutes, and Tamal Yucateco. Most of the main dishes are around ten dollars. Did I mention they have a full bar? In short, it was the perfect way to disavow the fourteen degree weather outside, and to dream happily of the warm weather of the Yucatan. I have a feeling my gasoline bill will soon be rising from the frequent trips to Cicero. Thanks for the great tip.
  • Post #6 - February 9th, 2007, 5:38 pm
    Post #6 - February 9th, 2007, 5:38 pm Post #6 - February 9th, 2007, 5:38 pm
    Llewellyn, welcome to LTH and thanks for the great report! Do you know what hours Xni-Pec is open? I think we need to get out there soon...
  • Post #7 - February 9th, 2007, 6:15 pm
    Post #7 - February 9th, 2007, 6:15 pm Post #7 - February 9th, 2007, 6:15 pm
    Hello Amata, Xnepic's hours are 11am-9pm on weekdays and 9am-11pm on weekends. However, I am not sure if they are closed on Mondays.
  • Post #8 - February 9th, 2007, 9:17 pm
    Post #8 - February 9th, 2007, 9:17 pm Post #8 - February 9th, 2007, 9:17 pm
    A few small things to add about Xnipek, which was, as Llewellyn described, amazing.

    When we burst through the door after surviving the arctic blast last Saturday, "Saturday Night Fever" was being projected on a big screen on one side of the restaurant. We were the only people in the restaurant (it was about 1:30 on a VERY cold day), and as soon as we were seated the movie was replaced by a more traditional soundtrack of Mexican canciones. I was immediately intrigued.

    As Llewellyn said, we were offered complimentary Caldo de Pollos, which also contained noodles, making it more like a Fideo soup. I also enjoyed a delicious Mexican hot chocolate.

    Throughout the meal there was an obvious attention to detail. Pieces of friend plantain adorned the rice, salty cotija cheese topped the beans. As he was presenting our entrees, the owner (who also served as our very able waiter and cook) noticed that my entree did not come with a salad like Llewellyn's did, and kindly offered to bring me one (it was clear I already had plenty of food, so I declined, but it was much appreciated).

    He and I had a wonderful conversation about Merida, where he is from, and he was very kind about switching back and forth from Spanish to English when my traveler's fatigued state prevented me from coming up with certain words. He said that he is planning on featuring Yucatecan specialties during the weekends, and if we could think of anything we missed from the Yucatan he would gladly prepare it for us. He was obviously very excited about the restaurant and aimed to please without being pushy or cloying. A very nice guy.

    I look forward to hearing the reactions to this very welcome addition to what had been a very difficult to find type of Mexican/Mayan cuisine.
  • Post #9 - February 9th, 2007, 9:18 pm
    Post #9 - February 9th, 2007, 9:18 pm Post #9 - February 9th, 2007, 9:18 pm
    Oops, FRIED plantain. Sorry for the morbid mistake.
  • Post #10 - February 10th, 2007, 2:02 pm
    Post #10 - February 10th, 2007, 2:02 pm Post #10 - February 10th, 2007, 2:02 pm
    jacontrerasv, edeben and Llewellyn - thanks for the posts! i can't believe it was exactly a year ago that I was in Oaxaca, enjoying the cuisines and the weather! I dined at a Yucateca place (in Mexico City) while I was there and just loved the flavors. I'm excited to make a trip to Xni-pec, as soon as I can get a lift to Cicero - I'm there!
  • Post #11 - February 10th, 2007, 5:43 pm
    Post #11 - February 10th, 2007, 5:43 pm Post #11 - February 10th, 2007, 5:43 pm
    Xni-Pec Restaurant
    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...
    Image
    Since it is made with habaneros, it is spicy but to my mind remarkably restrained in piquancy... But damn, is it delicious...
    Image
    The salbutes are little griddled masa cakes, topped with chicken and vegetables... Doesn't sound like much? You're wrong. Really delicious they are...
    Image
    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...
    Image
    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...
    Image
    As one can see, the panuchos, like all the other items served up here, are dressed quite generously...
    Image
    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...
    Image
    ... 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...
    Image
    Last but not least, Llewellyn ordered for all to taste a tamal yucateco or vaporcito, a chicken tamal wrapped in a banana leaf dressed in tomato sauce... Guess if I thought this was really delicious too!...
    Image
    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.

    Buen provecho,
    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #12 - February 10th, 2007, 7:55 pm
    Post #12 - February 10th, 2007, 7:55 pm Post #12 - February 10th, 2007, 7:55 pm
    Antonius wrote: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.

    Antonius,

    I have no such problem with restraint, so fasten your seat belts as I am about to go into full-on hyperbole drive. :shock:

    From the moment we walked in the door and were greeted with a heartfelt welcome I started to fall in love with Xni-Pec. I mean how can you not love a place that, when asked why the house-made tortillas are green, answer "because green is festive"

    Salsa and house-made chips, as Antonius mentioned, are terrific. Nice hit of habanero, flavorful fresh made chips. They also serve a table sauce made with habanero that brings tears, in all good ways, to ones eyes.

    Image

    Vaporcitos - Tamal Yucateco (M8 ) was the perfect combination light, yet full flavored masa, tender chicken. Delicious

    Tamal Yucateco (M8 )
    Image

    If I had to pick one absolute killer dish of the evening it would be Tacos de Cochinita Pibil, carne de puerco w/pickled red onion (M5). I'm not making comparisons to other versions around town, but Xni-Pec's is the best I've had.

    Tacos de Cochinita Pibil, carne de puerco w/pickled red onion (M5)
    Image
    Image

    Orden de Panuchos (M7, fried tortilla w/black bean inside, marinated and grilled chicken on top were terrific as well. Crisp masa, black beans adding depth, paring perfectly with grilled chicken and picked red onion.
    Image

    Papadzules (M11, Fried tortilla w/green seed sauce and tomato. Chopped egg inside)
    Image

    Codzitos (M9, Fried tortilla w/tomato sauce and cheese), a seemingly simple dish elevated by care and preparation.
    Image

    Red snapper was thoroughly enjoyable, though I have to say Xin-Pec has a deft hand with vegies and rice as well.

    Pescado Tikin-Xic (P1, Red snapper brushed with achiote sauce, wrapped in banana leaf)
    Image

    Lightly breaded shrimp made for the perfect mid-course for the shrimp lover in our group.

    Tacos de Camaron
    Image

    Huevos Motulenos is another seemingly simple dish elevated by care coupled with a deft hand.

    Huevos Motulenos (D5, fried eggs w/green peas, ham, tomato and black beans)
    Image

    Grilled marinated beef is such a common descriptor and does not do justice to the tender bursting with flavor gems we wrapped in festive green tortillas, anointed with a drizzle of habanero laced house-made sauce and devoured with unbridled gusto.

    Poc-Chuc (C4, grilled marinated beef w/rice beans grilled veg)
    Image
    Image

    Desserts were terrific, though at this point, especially as we had made a stop at Fulton's for oysters first, we were full to bursting. Especially notable was the Arroz con leche with Rompope sauce, a rich mix of rum and egg yoke.

    Arroz con leche w/Rompope sauce
    Image


    I can't emphasize enough the feeling of warmth we felt, from the spirited interchanges with María Luisa to the sheer joyful enthusiasm shown when we rang the ships bell hanging by the door with the sign, Ring if you enjoyed the food*.

    MsWiv (L) María Luisa (R)
    Image

    I liked Xni-Pec to such a degree I wanted to go back for dinner again tonight if not for other plans.

    Thanks for the heads up Leesh and thank you to Llewellyn and Edeben for the deliciously motivating follow up.

    A few additional pictures may be found here

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    *paraphrase, I did not take a picture and don't remember exactly

    Xni-Pec
    5135 W 25th Street
    Cicero, IL 60804
    708-652-8680
    Last edited by G Wiv on February 13th, 2007, 8:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - February 10th, 2007, 10:52 pm
    Post #13 - February 10th, 2007, 10:52 pm Post #13 - February 10th, 2007, 10:52 pm
    Image

    Well, after such raptures I fear that mere pleasant liking is going to come off as negativity... not my intent, I assure you.

    On the wall at Taqueria la Oaxaquena you can read a piece from the Tribune from 3-4 years ago highlighting regional Mexican dishes around town. (Guess who represented Oaxaca.) I was excited that they listed a dish and a restaurant for the Yucatan... until I saw that it was Frontera Grill. Nothing against it, just that it was disappointing that they hadn't found a Yucatan hole-in-the-wall somewhere in the Chicago area.

    Well, now there is one. So I'm pleased that such a thing exists at all, even if I'm not convinced it's a great Yucatecan restaurant. They have a nice, solid hand with some of the regional dishes, and it's a worthy place to go to experience them. But to give you an example-- there are several places around town you can have cochinita pibil, the achiote and orange flavored braised pork that is one of the most common dishes in the Yucatan (especially as street food, to which, as noted in another thread recently, it's much better suited than the other signature dish of the region, poc-chuc). Some of the other places you find it-- Chuck's, Sol de Mexico-- do what seems like a little bit of a yuppified or fine dining version. Not really altered but brought to a bright, citrusy point. You can tell the chef has been in an upscale kitchen and knows how to finish a dish for the table. Where this was more like the Pilsen-carnitas-joint version-- more rustic and homey, definitely more porky-funky (including visible pieces of scored chicharron). Is that better or worse? Depends what you're looking for. In Mexico I loved this kind of real deal pibil, somehow here I came away thinking I need to go have Chuck's cochinita again. But you could very well feel the opposite.

    Anyway, I certainly enjoyed the vinegary, white-hot salsa-- that right there is something you don't get at the other one trillion Mexican restaurants in town. And the sopa de lima was nice, and the tamal (or vaporcito) had really nice banana leaf flavor (though the stringy chicken and canned stewed tomatoes on top didn't add much).

    Image

    Both boys had sope-like dishes, one the panuchos much described and photographed above, while the other invented his own dish of black beans and cheese. I liked the fresh, handmade tortillas.

    Image

    I had the red snapper, pescado tikin-xic, also and I did enjoy the tenderness and subtle infusion with spices of the fish wrapped and steamed inside the banana leaf. (Although it too made me think of a dish, and a fish, I'm overdue in having again-- the red snapper with the garlic dipping sauce at Rudy's Taste.)

    As noted, service was friendly and very welcoming, as well as accommodating (we requested a change in what was on the big TV and got it), though we didn't see or meet the chef like the folks last night. Anyway, even if I find Xni-Pec (based on one meal) somewhere in the middle of the pack of Yucatecan meals I've eaten, I am glad that a place of its kind exists at all in Chicago now and it's worth an adventurous diner making the trek. I'd go back to try the poc-chuc and the papadzules... and the bowling alley down the street.
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  • Post #14 - February 11th, 2007, 6:58 am
    Post #14 - February 11th, 2007, 6:58 am Post #14 - February 11th, 2007, 6:58 am
    Mike G wrote:Where this was more like the Pilsen-carnitas-joint version-- more rustic and homey, definitely more porky-funky (including visible pieces of scored chicharron). Is that better or worse? Depends what you're looking for. In Mexico I loved this kind of real deal pibil, somehow here I came away thinking I need to go have Chuck's cochinita again. But you could very well feel the opposite.

    Mike,

    Funny, the porky-funky piggy pibil with a few scattered pieces of chicharron, with rich inter-muscular fat lending flavorful liquid gold in perfect contrast to tart pickled red onions was exactly what I loved about Xni-Pec's version.

    This is not to say I'm not a fan of both Chuck's and Sol de Mexico cochinita pibil, just that, in particular with a drizzle of the house-made habanero sauce, Xni-Pec pibil was an absolute knock-out*.

    Xni-Pec's cochinita pibil is also the dish I pick to make Steve Z's best of 2007 top ten list.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    *Must resist, must resist, must resist. ;)
    Emoticon is a hyperlink
    Hold my beer . . .

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  • Post #15 - February 11th, 2007, 8:59 am
    Post #15 - February 11th, 2007, 8:59 am Post #15 - February 11th, 2007, 8:59 am
    Gary,

    I haven't posted many long restaurant reviews in quite some time but, like you, I had immediately a very strong and obviously very positive reaction to this place and so was moved to write. Even though I was just there, I can't wait to go back.

    Regarding the cochinita pibil, the version at Xni-Pec really is excellent all on its own, though addition of the salsa is highly recommended. The other new restaurant I visited over the past year that stands out in my mind is Sol de México and I really love that place BUT, of all the dishes I sampled there, I thought the weakest was their 'refined' version of cochinita pibil, which involved a serving of a single piece of inoffensive muscle meat but not sufficiently fatty meat at that; at least on the occasion when we tasted it, Amata and I both thought it was disappointingly dry and flat in flavour. And in comparison with a different but vaguely similar pork product that is more widely available in this part of the world, carnitas, the cochinita pibil at Xni-Pec had for me the distinct advantage of being not so heavily salted. Again, in the serving we had, the flavour and texture of the pork at Xni-Pec was absolutely delightful and it seems clear, Gary, that your experience and ours was much the same.

    In general, I dislike the shredded chicken preparations one encounters at most Mexican restaurants (including some places I otherwise really like) - the chicken typically has an unpleasant reheated flavour. I was inclined to order chicken at Xni-Pec in part because chicken and turkey are really quite prominent elements of Yucatecan cuisine (and in part because the preparations with hand made little masa cakes sounded so great) and I figured that if anyone were likely to do chicken (or turkey) well, they would. I was well rewarded, for the meat, cooked in the intensely flavoured broth, was absolutely delicious and wholly absent was that depressing reheated flavour.

    The sauces here were all excellent and clearly freshly prepared in house. Of course, the relatively exotic pepita sauce for the papadzules is something special, as well as delicious, and the not too spicy but very addictive xni'pec' was great. The tomato sauce, which I singled out as a nice and tasty element of the papadzules presentation but which was explicitly dismissed as mere canned stewed tomatoes above, was in my view spot-on. The fact is, if one knows someting about Yucatecan cuisine, one knows that such simple tomato sauces -- essentially just onion and tomato, with some additions (chiles, garlic) for application in specific dishes -- is a basic element; that simple flavour of onion and tomato is what is right and proper here.

    All in all, I loved this place and am really happy that this year, there are now two new Mexican restaurants to have opened which I really love -- Sol de México and now too Xni-Pec. The bottom line in these matters is ultimately just whether the food was well prepared and delicious and at Xni-Pec, it most definitely was. That the food also appealed so much to my three dining companions who know the Yucatan and its food first hand -- that the food is 'authentic' --is an added bonus.

    It seems clear, Gary, we agree about this place; so far, Xni-Pec looks to be a real gem.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #16 - February 11th, 2007, 9:42 am
    Post #16 - February 11th, 2007, 9:42 am Post #16 - February 11th, 2007, 9:42 am
    Gary,

    "Reheated" is in fact a word that I chose to be too discreet to use in my review, but it is the one that one would be tempted to apply to the chicken in both of the dishes under discussion.

    Likewise, by a remarkable coincidence I too dined with people who have first-hand experience of 'authentic' Yucatecan food, two of whom (besides myself) tried the cochinita pibil last night; none of whom felt it ranked at the top of versions they have tried, whether in Chicago, Los Angeles (it was probably about on par with Loteria's) or, most significantly of course, the Yucatan (where, of course, there is nothing "refined" about it).

    None of this is, of course, surprising-- restaurants are different every night (as a-- quite unfathomable in my experience, but no doubt accurate-- description of cochinita pibil at Sol de Mexico* above suggests) and ultimately our perceptions are always unique and beyond any others' ability to argue with (though one can certainly discuss issues of expectations and cultural authenticity). I certainly accept that you, Gary, and others are sincere in their appreciation of the meals you had yesterday, and what I have admired about you (and of course, many others here) is returning that respect toward the opinions of every poster here, whether they have first-hand knowledge of the area in which a cuisine originates or not.

    * Though one really ought to try Chuck's to know why "refined" is not in any way a slur, or a suggestion that the dish has lost touch with its roots in any way.
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  • Post #17 - February 11th, 2007, 12:09 pm
    Post #17 - February 11th, 2007, 12:09 pm Post #17 - February 11th, 2007, 12:09 pm
    Just a few notes to amplify Antonius’s report above.

    I thought Xni-Pec was fabulous. Everything I tried was delicious, with good-quality, fresh ingredients. A lot of Yucatecan cooking is extremely labor intensive: for example, to make the panuchos you heat a tortilla on a griddle until it puffs, then cut a slit in the edge of the puffed part, spread pureed black beans inside, and then fry the filled tortilla till crispy, finally topping it with shredded chicken and the lightly pickled onions. I loved the contrast of textures between the crispy tortilla and the creamy beans inside, and the chicken had a wonderful flavor.

    Moreover, it was clear that our food was made to order – there was a bit of a wait before our food came out, during which we could hear lots of vigorous chopping going on.

    Many times in Mexican restaurants I’m seized with a desire to order the most unusual sounding beverage on the list. Yesterday I ordered an atole de galletas maría, which was very sweet, very smooth (no grainy texture from the masa at all), and did indeed taste exactly like the María cookies packaged by Goya or by Mexican companies. The hot beverage was welcome in yesterday’s cold!

    We had a great time talking with our waitress (daughter of the owners) about Merida and Cozumel and about the food. (Her mother came out to meet us, too.) She was obviously gratified by our interest and brought out ingredients to show us when she wasn’t sure how to explain something. I asked how easy it is for them to obtain what they need here in Chicago and she replied that they in fact can’t get certain key ingredients here so she regularly flies home to Merida to bring back supplies. That's a remarkable level of commitment on their part to preparing their dishes in the proper manner.

    I hope lots of LTH-ers find their way to Cicero to check this place out. It’s a wonderful spot. (And yes, we too rung the bell to show we loved the food!)
  • Post #18 - February 11th, 2007, 12:59 pm
    Post #18 - February 11th, 2007, 12:59 pm Post #18 - February 11th, 2007, 12:59 pm
    Image

    I'm glad GWiv posted this pic of the Huevos Motulenos, which was my favorite dish, so far, from Xni-pec. It' so stunningly simple, but such an excellent balance of crispy corn flavor and rich egg moderated by tart tomato, perked up with peas (adding more visual interest than actual flavor, but it just would not be HM without 'em).

    There are so many excellent dishes to be had here, though this relatively simple breakfast food (something one feels could definitely be whipped up at home) was what I can't stop thinking about.

    Hammond
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #19 - February 11th, 2007, 11:55 pm
    Post #19 - February 11th, 2007, 11:55 pm Post #19 - February 11th, 2007, 11:55 pm
    I've not visited Yucatan, nor can I make any claim whatsoever as to the quality of Xni-Pec's execution relative to others proposing to offer Yucatecan dishes.

    With that out of the way, :wink: I thought this was one of the best meals I'd had in quite some time, in a number of respects.

    Thanks to leesh and jacontrerasv, I was intrigued enough by this out of the way place, that I arranged to visit on a recent trip even before reading any actual accounts of the food. I'm terrifically happy I did.

    On the cochinita pibil, I think the above posts, despite differences of preference, pretty much nail the flavor. I loved the porky, carnitas-esque quality.

    The habanero table salsa was much as Antonius has described...quite a nice kick of heat, but with a noticeable restraint that makes it easy to keep eating.

    The grilled marinated beef/poc-chuc was another standout, and I was really enamored with the side of vegetables. This is the kind of attention to detail that really set this aside as a special restaurant. This space on the plate is so often and easily wasted on throwaway veggies...maybe some iceberg lettuce and a tired slice of out-of-season tomato. These were really delicious, and a nice, small counterpoint to a wide array of masa-based dishes.

    The simple tomato sauce dishes were new to me in Mexican cuisine, and I enjoyed them. When I am introduced to new (to me) Mexican dishes, I expect (and enjoy) bold flavors or deep, multi-layered concoctions. With these couple dishes, again as noted above, I was struck by the simplicity, and it was very good.

    The only noticeable downside to me were the two seafood dishes we tried, both the whole snapper and the shrimp tacos. It is interesting to me that two dishes here called to my mind the same two dishes as Mike G above; I preferred the cochinita pibil here to that at Chuck's (which I also very much enjoy), but the snapper similarly left me pining (uh, except for the remaining feast on the table) for a whole snapper from Rudy's Taste.

    No one has yet mentioned the Xtabentun, an anise-flavored liquor fermented from honey drawn from the eponymous flower native to the Yucatan peninsula. There was only about 3 oz left in the bottle, split perhaps 5 ways. It was really quite a lovely liqueur, with the anise more muted and a sweeter, um, more honeyed? profile. (It's also the second liquor in as many days that someone offered who had brought it back from Mexico and I'm unlikely to try again here anytime soon. Today, I enjoyed some mezcal brought back from Jalisco while eating some birria de borrego tacos at a local (to me in KC) carniceria.)

    In addition to the food, I found the service incredibly warm and friendly, which are perhaps cliched descriptors, but also joyous, which I find far more rare. These people clearly enjoy what they are doing a great deal. I certainly expect this to be easier when you have a large, partially inebriated group of food-crazed LTHers ordering half your menu, raving about your food, and more or less the only party late on a Friday night.

    Still, the quick and lively wit of our waitress, especially in her repartee with the gregarious G Wiv, was clearly borne of more than simply humoring a large, well-served party.

    This place is a real gem.
  • Post #20 - February 12th, 2007, 12:52 pm
    Post #20 - February 12th, 2007, 12:52 pm Post #20 - February 12th, 2007, 12:52 pm
    Wow. Mapquest says it is 30 minutes from my office, and this coincides with my less than wonderful cruise stops in the Yucatan, my brother's glowing report on his Christmas in Merida and a related yearning on my part to go back to Merida and soon.

    So I would be up for meeting as many LTH'ers as wanted to come along for lunch any day this week. (Mods, feel free to move this to Events, but I wanted to start here and see if we can find a possible date). Only Wednesday is out for me. Anyone interested? Hammy, what day would work for you?
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #21 - February 12th, 2007, 12:55 pm
    Post #21 - February 12th, 2007, 12:55 pm Post #21 - February 12th, 2007, 12:55 pm
    dicksond wrote:So I would be up for meeting as many LTH'ers as wanted to come along for lunch any day this week. (Mods, feel free to move this to Events, but I wanted to start here and see if we can find a possible date). Only Wednesday is out for me. Anyone interested? Hammy, what day would work for you?


    Well, tomorrow is too soon, and Wednesday's out, so that leaves Thursday or Friday, and of the two, I'd prefer Friday (might be easier for others, as well). If that works for you, let's post something on events.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #22 - February 12th, 2007, 1:40 pm
    Post #22 - February 12th, 2007, 1:40 pm Post #22 - February 12th, 2007, 1:40 pm
    David Hammond wrote:
    dicksond wrote:So I would be up for meeting as many LTH'ers as wanted to come along for lunch any day this week. (Mods, feel free to move this to Events, but I wanted to start here and see if we can find a possible date). Only Wednesday is out for me. Anyone interested? Hammy, what day would work for you?


    Well, tomorrow is too soon, and Wednesday's out, so that leaves Thursday or Friday, and of the two, I'd prefer Friday (might be easier for others, as well). If that works for you, let's post something on events.


    Okay - will do.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #23 - February 15th, 2007, 5:04 pm
    Post #23 - February 15th, 2007, 5:04 pm Post #23 - February 15th, 2007, 5:04 pm
    Two New Things I Ate at Xni-Pec

    I had seen Queso Relleno discussed on Rick Bayless’ PBS show, but had never found it in Chicago restaurants. It was a special at Xni-Pec today. Semisoft hunks of Edam -- filled with a mixture of spiced ground beef, raisins and pinenuts -- float in a red sauce. In the red sauce is swirled a translucent cloudy sauce that’s a combination of corn and wheat flour (it has a gelatinous texture). I had three helpings and took some home:

    Image

    We also had what was listed as a Relleno Negro, which was chicken with a stewed consistency in a dark, carbon-y sauce with several peppers (a fire-roasted guajillo is, I believe, what gives the dish its dark color). There were also some hardboiled eggs in there, and someone thought they tasted cheese.

    Image
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #24 - February 16th, 2007, 12:31 pm
    Post #24 - February 16th, 2007, 12:31 pm Post #24 - February 16th, 2007, 12:31 pm
    i had a thoroughly enjoyable time at lunch yesterday with other LTH'ers at xni-pec, but i wasnt nearly as enamored with the food as some. i loved the orangy hot habanero sauce, i liked the cochinita pibil and the sweet potato/squash combo baked with pinconcillo sugar which was dessert. but that was it for me. the potato soup was a thin, tasteless broth with way too much celery; the sopa limon was only a little more flavorful. the rellenos negros, pictured in hammond's photo above was different, yes, but not particularly tasty. it had nothing to offer except that strange quality described by others as carbony. the worst part of the meal was the queso rellenos. hammond's picture doesnt clearly show the mucus-like white 'gravy' that floated through the bland tex-mex like ground meat. this ranked as one of the worst dishes i've had in years. the texture was aesthetically unappealing to the max.
    the chef and waiter couldnt have been nicer. i wish this place well. but i doubt if i'll be back. justjoan
  • Post #25 - February 16th, 2007, 12:40 pm
    Post #25 - February 16th, 2007, 12:40 pm Post #25 - February 16th, 2007, 12:40 pm
    justjoan wrote:hammond's picture doesnt clearly show the mucus-like white 'gravy' that floated through the bland tex-mex like ground meat. this ranked as one of the worst dishes i've had in years. the texture was aesthetically unappealing to the max.
    the chef and waiter couldnt have been nicer. i wish this place well. but i doubt if i'll be back. justjoan


    justjoan, thanks for providing an opposing view -- really, it's helpful to get a rounded picture of the place.

    FWIW, The Wife really liked the stuffed Edam, and the white gravy is, I believe, the "salsa blanca" that Chef Nieto told VI and I about when we had dinner at Xel-Ha. It is, according to Nieto, a Yucatecan standard. I must admit, too, that I'm intrigued by some of the culinary iconography involved in this dish: Edam from Holland, beef from Spain, pine nuts and raisins from maybe the Middle East (Merida has a large Lebanese population).

    Another thing I liked was the cantalope water, which was basically just liquid melon -- again, not to everyone's taste, but I thought it provided a fine sweet and full-bodied beverage.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #26 - February 16th, 2007, 2:36 pm
    Post #26 - February 16th, 2007, 2:36 pm Post #26 - February 16th, 2007, 2:36 pm
    Aaron Deacon wrote:No one has yet mentioned the Xtabentun, an anise-flavored liquor fermented from honey drawn from the eponymous flower native to the Yucatan peninsula.
    I bought a bottle of this about a year ago
    and found that it is very good in eggnog.
    I thought it would make a great
    hostess gift around the holidays,
    so I went to the liquor store where
    I originally bought it, and they acted
    like I couldn’t have possibly purchased
    it there. Trying to track down another
    bottle of it has been near impossible.
    So I, too, have to savor the last few
    drops I have left in my bottle.
  • Post #27 - February 17th, 2007, 9:21 am
    Post #27 - February 17th, 2007, 9:21 am Post #27 - February 17th, 2007, 9:21 am
    Did anyone else happen to catch Bayless' show last night? It was about Yucatecan food.
  • Post #28 - February 17th, 2007, 10:03 am
    Post #28 - February 17th, 2007, 10:03 am Post #28 - February 17th, 2007, 10:03 am
    aschie30 wrote:Did anyone else happen to catch Bayless' show last night? It was about Yucatecan food.


    I believe this may be a re-run, but it is an excellent show (available OnDemand), and he does discuss some of the dishes you'll find at Xni-Pec and, now, Xel-Ha, like queso relleno (pictured above).
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #29 - February 17th, 2007, 10:23 am
    Post #29 - February 17th, 2007, 10:23 am Post #29 - February 17th, 2007, 10:23 am
    I don't think that was the one. It was about citrus (limas) and featured poc chuc.
  • Post #30 - February 17th, 2007, 10:39 am
    Post #30 - February 17th, 2007, 10:39 am Post #30 - February 17th, 2007, 10:39 am
    aschie30 wrote:I don't think that was the one. It was about citrus (limas) and featured poc chuc.


    Hey thanks for the heads-up....just found it OnDemand and watching it right now. For those who want to access it, Savoring Citrus is the name of the episode.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins

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