Mayan Food on 5th Avenue (Mexico)

I’m here, I’ve eaten, and I have wifi in my room!  We arrived at about 7:30pm last night and rented a car in preparation for a week of exploring.  Once we dropped off our bags in our hotel, we set off to find a quick bite.  We live right off of 5th Avenue, which is the main tourist strip where there are loads of souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars (having come from NYC, funny that 5th Avenue is also a big deal here…).  Most of the little taco stands and such off of 5th Avenue had closed so we were forced to stay on the main strip and eat with all the other tourists – yay.  Prior to coming, I knew this would happen at some point or another, so I looked up some of the better restaurants on the strip.  Yaxche is one of them; it serves traditional Mayan cuisine with a bit of a Disney-fied experience and hiked up prices.  AH weeeellllll… we were starving and it was close and it smelled good.

5th Avenue and 22th Street
Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico


They started us off with a big basket of gleaming chips and dips.  The chips were very oily but were delicious, especially to two hungry travelers.  The dips were interesting and I’m glad I had the options.  One was a tomato paste that tasted oddly like ketchup but had a much thicker texture – that’s homemade ketchup for you right there.  Another was a creamy sauce that was deliciously garlicy and … well, creamy.  The last was an extremely spicy pepper sauce that went really well if you mixed it with the creamy sauce.  I never think twice when eating “extremely spicy” things in NYC because they never are that spicy.  Here, I’m going to have to take caution… one tiny drop of that pepper sauce was enough to burn a hole through my tongue.

We ordered two apps, one of which is called Tsic, a ceviche of shrimp and fish that are marinated in orange juice, xcatic pepper, and coriander, garnished with avocado, tomatoes, and coriander.  The seafood was not completely raw and tasted like they were poached.  I was a little put off at first but decided that I loved the sweet taste of the poached fish and shrimp.  The “fish juice” as LAW called it was deliciously fresh tasting.  I’m pretty sure there was lime juice added though not mentioned on the menu.  They came with, surprise surprise, more chips.  This time round instead of triangular.  Let’s see how many shapes of chips we will find this week…

The next app was called Malix, a cream of chaya soup.  “Malix” apparently is a Mayan word for “a little bit of everything” – it doesn’t seem fitting for this simple soup which attests to the Disney-fied experience.  Nonetheless, I wanted to try chaya and had read good reviews of this soup.  Chaya is a Mayan “miracle” plant that boasts a ton of vitamins and nutrition (apparently ten times more nutritious than most “healthy vegetables”).  It is a leafy spinach-like plant that oozes milky sap when cut.  The soup really tasted just like a cream of spinach soup, almost a little like Indian palak paneer but in soup form.  I look forward to trying a chaya smoothie soon as I hear those are great as well (and hopefully less mild… I felt that this was a watered down version for non-natives).

Our last dish was the Poc-Chuc, an actual traditional Mayan version of barbecued pork.  A thinly sliced slab of pork steak was brought to the table on a sizzling platter.  I imagine the pork must have been marinated in some tangy sauce as there were subtle acidic flavors in the pork.  The dish was served with a basket of homemade corn tortillas that were aggressively corn-tasting, which I loved (though prevented me from eating as many because each was heavily packed like a bagel… very heavy).  Looking online, this traditional dish is served with all kinds of things, such as black beans, grilled cabbages, rice, onions, etc.  We were served with a black bean soup, grilled tomato paste, and pickled onions.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the condiments and found that my little corn tortilla tasted best with that creamy garlic sauce and spicy pepper sauce from the beginning of our meal.

Okaaay!  Time to get offline and OUT.  The sun here is blazing 85 degrees and the ocean is fighting it with a cool breeze.  I must go mingle.  Be back soon with more Mexican/Mayan food!

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