Wednesday, March 25, 2009

maya excels at modern mexican cuisine

Well reader, if you are looking for the more elegant side of Mexican cuisine, Maya is the place for you. Maya is a destination restaurant. What I mean by that is that you have the feeling as you enter and look around the reserved, warm room that everyone has a celebration--a birthday or anniversary--there is an air of anticipation. You do feel special. You are greeted warmly by either the hostess or the manager, Eric Flores. Service is quiet and quick and the manager is very hands on, either pouring water, making recommendations or delivering food.

You must try the guacamole and chips. It is probably the best I have ever had. Brendan approves--the salt, garlic and cilantro level are perfect. The chips are flour tortilla fried to order. We next share their take on a chili relleno, a seafood stuffed pablano accompanied with creamy black beans and manchego cheese, roasted to creamy deliciousness. Entrees are no less interesting. I had the Langosta Y Camarones, a lovely almost broth like combination of lobster, shrimp, roasted corn, habanero chili and chive rouille. How does that sound?! Brendan's entree is what I am going to order next time--Tampiquena, a butterflied filet mignon that turned into an outrageous large steak so tender you could eat it with a fork. Add to it a melt in the mouth potato gratin with a petite mole and cheese enchilada on the side....all this plus fresh muddled fruit margaritas. The house special, the Mayapolitan, is an up drink of pineapple infused silver tequila and cranberry juice. I know I had a great dessert, but by this time I was in such a food coma I can't remember--Ha ha.

Thank you Richard Sandoval, chef/owner of Maya and the concept of Modern Mexican.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

unique round tamales at the roosevelt tamale parlor in san francisco

This is a new venture for me. Not that I haven't considered it before--its just that you must BEGIN! I'm a foodie who loves to eat, cook and restaurant hop. This may be my 1st post but I reserve the right to talk about restaurant experiences from the past--flashbacks if you will of the good , the bad and the ugly. I get on kicks, where I am obsessed with a certain food, type of restaurant or all things braised. You never know what will set it off. So what is my lastest? The search for that down and dirty, oohey-goohey cheesey mexican food like I have enjoyed in LA. It must also include the right atmosphere--a sitdown experience, no counter ordering, a certain ambience, like cozy red or black pleather booths and christmas lights. It needs a certain camp. The tequila must be plentiful. I am inspired by one of my best friends (you will hear of him often because he is my partner in crime in restaurant hopping) Brendan, who truly loves mexican food. All kinds, casual to novelle. We have tried it all, from Eureka, Alameda, SF, LA, NYC, Vegas and Cabo and all points in between.

Okay, I have tried several restaurants in San Francisco and I will get to them. But 1st, I will tell you about yesterday's adventure. I selected 2 choices from a few yelp posts--Don Ramon's at 225 11st and Roosevelt Tamale Parlor at 2817 24th. Turns out, Don Ramon's doesn't do lunch on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, so Tamale Parlor it is! Great day too, I wanted to take the 27 bus to 24th on the day Market was closed for St Patrick's Day Parade. No problem--only waited an hour--and a 45 minute detour and voila, I am at the Tamale Parlor. Established in 1919, great funky signage and warm interior, so far so good. Okay, no booths but still cozy. I am seated at a table for 4 so I can see the other diners. Hey, I may not be able to order everything on the menu, but I can still get a visual. I know what I want to order--guacamole for sure (always a good judge of the food to come) and the house specialty, the round tamale. The waiter suggests a half order of guacamole and this great because it is not listed on the menu. I also order the round tamale with pork (it is also available with chicken, cheese, or beef) with a cheese enchilada and a side of flour tortillas. The tamale is described well--"original recipe" and "house made gravy". You want to like it, you really do. I have visions of intense flavor, slow cooking, warmth and comfort. Can't wait. The guacamole arrives and it is a nice portion size for a half order. It's OK, but not great. Too much citrus. I mean too much lime. For me, a little or no lime is fine. As Brendan says, it is all about the garlic and salt and believe me, his is great.

My tamale/enchilada arrives with perfect timing, a very hot and ooey, gooey plate. Looks good!
Alright, first bite. Hmmm, masa and pork, very tender. Rice and beans seasoned well and delicate. But the sauce, it's heavy, even overpowering. What's that flavor? Perhaps coffee? Not sure. The enchilada is covered with the same sauce where a different sauce would have been nice. The result--it all tasted the same.

My waiter never checked to see if I liked the tamale and the tortillas never arrived. I will say the price was very reasonable and I saw a killer looking chimichanga at the next table.

Well dear food lover and reader, the hunt for perfect Mexican continues. I will keep you posted.